A big part of the question, should I buy a tablet instead of a laptop for my travels, is whether or not an iPad, Windows Surface, Google Nexus or other device can hold and manage all of the pictures you’re bound to be snapping. As one commenter asks,
I’m on the fence about getting a computer for my travels. I love using my iPad but worried that it may not be able to handle all the pictures all I’ll be taking.
What’s the best way to manage pictures if you don’t have a computer?
For those of you you committed to putting your backpack on a diet and ditching a laptop altogether, there are ways to expand and optimize most tablets for some fairly serious shutterbugging.
Start With Storage
Although many manufacturers are releasing 128GB models of their tablets (with varying useable space) the majority of us are buying smaller 16 and 64 GB capacity devices. Considering a common digital picture can be anywhere from 3-15MB, that gives most users a theoretical maximum of holding roughly 5,800 pictures on a 64GB iPad – if you save nothing else. Either way, your primary battle is with storage, limiting how many pictures your tablet can store. Most Android and Windows tablets however have Secure Digital (SD) or microSD card slots, giving you the option of adding up to 256GB or 64GB; about 26,000-6,500 pictures respectively.
- iPads don’t have expandable storage built-in, but external drives like the Kingston Wi-Drive (32-128 GB versions available), can give you added space with the bonus of being able to sync your pictures over a wireless connection.
Additionally, assuming you’re not using an iPad as your primary camera (like this guy), it’s possible to bypass your tablet altogether saving photos from your camera SD card directly to a digital picture storage device, like the 500GB Digital Foci Photo Safe II.
Send Your Pictures To The Cloud
Instead of using additional physical storage, you can automatically send your photos to free online storage when a solid wireless connection is available. There are a number of such services but two of the most common are Google+ Photos (15GB limit) and Flickr (1 terabyte). Using the free G+ (Android, iOS) or Flickr app (Android, iOS) you can automatically upload pictures you’ve taken from your tablet to private folders online.
Both methods eliminate your need for any additional hardware but if you take hundreds of pictures or won’t have access to a strong wireless connection on your trip, this probably shouldn’t be your only backup method.
Don’t Shoot Pictures At Maximum, Absolute-Mega-Gigantic, Sizes
Finally, unless you’re going to be printing posters of all your travel pictures, you don’t need to shoot at the highest resolution your camera will allow. Even the Hubble Telescope only has a maximum resolution of 16.7 megapixels and unless you’re photographing the Crab Nebula, use this handy chart to figure out ideal the pixel-size for you. A good general resolution to use for most people is 2,590 x 1,920 pixels (~5 megapixels) and smaller photos means less to store, which is what to shoot for whether you’re using a laptop or tablet to manage your pictures on the road.
What if we shoot in RAW?
In terms of storage space?
Yeah.. If I leave the laptop at home and just edit when I come back, where can I upload my RAW files safely and quickly? Do flickr allow for that?
Flickr doesn’t but Google+ does, although it’s got much less storage space. You can add 5 more free GB using Amazon Cloud Drive (iOS/Android) or for $100/year increase that to 200GB. Something like that, with expandable paid cloud storage, might be ideal for your situation.
Great info! I’m pondering this now as I plan my indefinite Asia travels!
Hey Anil! Have you tried using Dropbox at all for cloud storage? Flickr’s storage limit is pretty crazy, so I guess if you do use it you wouldn’t have many issues. I’m just a fan of Dropbox’s interface although I use it for files and not pictures.
Hi Brian, I have and am a big fan of Dropbox, especially for sharing large files:
But in the case where you’re only looking to backup photos, the free 2GB might not be enough and the paid 200GB plan is about double that of Amazon’s Cloud Drive. However you can, through referring friends, increase your Dropbox free storage up to 18GB total, and if that’s enough space for your needs, a perfectly good solution.
Very true…I think you make a good point about sharing vs. backing up. Thanks mate.
FYI Shutterfly offers unlimited photo storage online. Though they focus on prints and may not have all the feature that other photo sites have, it’s a nice place to stash and organize pics.
Nice post Anil!
Thanks for the tip Heather!
I love all the tech information you give on your site. I am definitely NOT tech savvy but I find your articles helpful and understandable. I also really like Dropbox for storage, especially if there is anyone or any source you need to share them with.
Thank you very much and appreciate the compliment 🙂 I too like Dropbox for its ease of use, especially for sharing large files.
also i use box.com, it gives users automatic 50GB of free storage, and has an IOS app for direct upload, i now have an iPad 64gb wifi, 50 dropbox and 50gb box, and as long as there is wifi i could almost do away with my laptop, i probably would have a physical keyboard for ease when typing longer work, but they are so nice and small they take up no space at all.
To be honest, technology these days allows everything to be so compact! Just that quality is lowered, e.g. typing speed, picture quality etc..
Great article!!! I will use your tips and now I hopefully wont max out the memory on my iPad
…and if you do, you’ve got a few free online backup solutions 😉
I’ve never understood people who take super high resolution photos. If you’re going to print them out or make a massive slideshow on a giant screen, well then okay. But 99% of people just want memories from their trip that they can view on the computer, and all you need is a megapixel or two and it’ll work out just fine. My new plan for the next trip is to take an iPhone, use a 99 cent app that reduces all photos to 1 megapixel, and use the automatic upload to iCloud over Wi-Fi and I’ll upload teeny pictures even when I’m sleeping. I’ll never use a real camera ever again. My laziness is going to win out over photo quality for sure.
Good advice, thank you.
It’s like this post read my mind! I’d been debating getting a tablet for travelling but ended up going for a MacBook Air and couldn’t be happier – except for the fact there is barely any storage space for photos. Bought an external hard drive that I thought would do the trick but crapped out on me in the first few weeks – to the Cloud I go!
I used my telepathy app for that.
Great tips! I don’t think I could travel without my laptop and only a tablet, but who knows? Maybe in a few years we’ll be laughing about the bulky laptops we were all carrying around back in 2013 – in fact I bet some people are laughing already 😉
I’m sure they are! And think you make a very insightful observation as to where we’re headed with our tablets…
We have sorted out the photo backup problem so that we upload all photos maximum size to Picasa and let everyone to use them anyway they want. Currently we travel with 2 laptops but hope to get rid of one of them and replace it with a tablet + external keyboard. Laptops can usually take 1.5-2 years road life and hopefully a tablet could last a bit longer if there is no cooling fan that gets stuck with sand and dust. Have you tried to write with your tablet? Are they more resilient than laptops on the road?
I was actually in the same position as you about a year ago. Traveling with two laptops and then opting to use the tablet to replace one of them. I’ve now got the iPad and actually find it quite easy to type on it – although I know many people prefer the external keyboard. Tablets are likely to last longer due to the lack of moving parts and while they can’t be upgraded (for the most part) should live longer than a typical laptop hard drive.
Thanks! We will try that tablet and external keyboard combination.
Interesting ideas about photo management. I usually use Dropbox or G+ photo or Flickr for my photos.
Interesting blog thanks for sharing. I’d been considering beginning a tablet for moving but ended up going for a Mac Book Air and couldn’t be happier – exclude for the fact there is scarcely any storage space for photos.
Anil, this is a great post! I have been pondering this question since my wife and I blogged our Portland-San Francisco bike trip last year. Now with my travel site I’ll be blogging consistently (backpacking Patagonia this winter) and was looking for a lightweight solution to Internet cafes and semi-functional hotel computers. I think I will get the Surface since it has the memory ports, easier use of office, and gotta love the new price point.
You’re welcome and enjoy the gadget shopping, one of the fun parts of travel planning 🙂