There are many options for backing up your digital photos, but no matter what method you choose, the first step is to get your photos off of the camera and onto your working digital photo storage location.

"Working storage" is the place where you store, edit and manage your photo collection - usually your home computer hard drive. This is different from your backup storage.

"Backup storage" is the place where you keep an extra copy of all your photos in case your working storage fails, or you accidentally erase some of your photos. You should never edit your photos directly on the backup storage, and instead do all of your work on your "working storage". For greater safety, you may even have several sets of backup storage, each containing a copy of your complete photo collection.

How often should you transfer your photos from your camera to your computer?

The obvious answer may be “when the camera card is full.” While this seems logical, it may not actually be the best answer. If your camera card can store hundreds of photos at a time, and anything goes wrong with the card or you lose it, you run the risk of losing a lot of good photos that you intended to keep. We recommend transferring digital photos to your computer:

  • When you’ve just taken some great photos you’d like to share or keep
  • Right after taking photos at a significant event
  • Before performing a backup
  • When your camera card is nearly full

There are many options available to easily transfer your photos to your computer or other storage location, including card reader, data cable, camera dock, and even wireless connections. Consult your camera manual for step-by-step instructions.

Card Reader

Most digital cameras and many camera phones have removable camera cards. These cards can be removed from the camera and inserted into a card reader connected to, or built into, your computer, or directly into a printer or external hard drive. Camera cards come in many different formats and sizes, but fortunately, multi-format card readers are readily available, relatively inexpensive and easy to install using your computer’s USB port.

Data Cables

Most digital cameras, and some camera phones, come with a data cable to transfer your photos to your computer. The most common connection type is Universal Serial Bus (USB). Some cameras support FireWire, another high-speed data transfer method common in video cameras and DVD recorders. Check to see which connection methods your computer supports.

Camera Docks

TThese accessories, available for a large number of digital cameras, provide an easy way to transfer your photos, when connected to a PC (usually via USB) and recharge your batteries at the same time. Printer docks add a third feature - quick 4x6 prints!


Digital cameras and camera phones with wireless connectivity (e.g. WiFi or Bluetooth) can transfer photos directly to computers, kiosks, and online services over wireless networks. In addition, many wireless service providers offer a wide range of camera phones with the ability to connect directly to services to upload, share, print and store your photos.

To assist you with transferring and managing your digital photos, most cameras come with digital photo management and organization software. Some of these software programs are available at no charge online. In addition, you can purchase more comprehensive programs from major retailers.

Use the software and cable bundled with the digital camera (or use other photo organization and management software) to transfer photos from your digital cameras to your PC or Mac. The process is almost automatic. Be sure to follow manufacturers’ directions for connecting and transferring the photos, and make sure you know where the software stores your photos so that you can make backups.