How I Backed Up my Photos in China

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Thanks for reading! Andrew.

 Prince Gong's Mansion, Beijing, China

Fujifilm XT-1, 35mm lens, 1/250 @f7.1, ISO 800

Today’s photo from China was taken in Prince Gong’s Mansion, Beijing. Also called Prince Kung’s Mansion, the complex includes temples, residences, gardens and even an opera house. It was built in 1777, and has been recently renovated.

There are some Tibetan style prayer wheels outside one of the temples. I found it quite interesting to observe how people interacted with the site by walking past the prayer wheels and spinning them around. I stayed there for a while taking photos. Patience was required because there were a lot of people – I had to wait a while before I was able to take a photo that included just one person. Luckily, it happened to be this charming girl who was enjoying her visit (and wore a pink dress with a similar hue to the red woodwork).

Backing up my photos in China

You may remember that before our journey to China I laid out my plans for backing up my photos while on the road.

Further reading: Managing and Backing Up Photos on the Road

The basic idea was to copy the photos taken during our two week journey to Xi’an, Beijing and Hangzhou to my iPad using Apple’s SD card reader. I have an iPad with 128GB storage, theoretically providing plenty of storage space for the photos that I planned to take.

The advantage of the iPad, as opposed to taking my laptop and a hard drive, is that the setup is much lighter. I also don’t have to worry about the consequences of my laptop being stolen if that were to happen.

A long term advantage, compared to buying a portable hard drive with a card slot, is that the iPad uses flash storage. Portable hard drives have a lifespan that is unknown, but much shorter than that of flash storage.

Plus, an iPad is the perfect device for reviewing photos. It can also be used to check emails, browse the internet, read ebooks etc.

iPad as back up device

To recap, there are two potential ways to use an iPad as a backup device.

1. Shoot in Raw and copy the Raw files to the iPad using Apple’s Lightning to SD Card Reader (older iPads use the Camera Connection Kit – I believe that you can use Apple’s Lightning to USB Camera  Adaptor and an CF card reader if your camera uses CF cards).

The Raw files can be viewed in the Photos app and imported into the Photosmith app (if you have it) where you can organise them into Collections and apply Flags, Ratings, Keywords and so on. Unfortunately, you can’t import Raw files into Lightroom mobile.

Further reading: Five Ways to Use Lightroom Mobile

2. Shoot in Raw + JPEG and copy both Raw and JPEG files to the iPad.

This method takes up more storage space but has two benefits. One is that you can import the JPEG files into Lightroom mobile, where you can organise them into Collections, apply Flags and even process them. Then, when you get home, you can import the Raw files into Lightroom and use John Beardsworth’s Syncomatic plug-in to synchronise the changes you made to the JPEG files to the Raw files.

A second benefit is that, if you have a good enough wi-fi connection, Lightroom mobile uploads the JPEG files to Adobe Cloud from where they are downloaded to Lightroom CC the next time you open it on your main computer.

So, how did it work out in practice?

The truth is that it worked very well. I chose to shot in Raw and import the Raw files into the iPad. I have plenty of memory cards and didn’t need to delete any Raw files.

Once the files were copied to the iPad, I kept it in my hotel room and the memory cards in my camera bag. That way if I were to lose the contents of my camera bag, I had copies of backed up files on my iPad, and if my iPad was stolen from the hotel room (which didn’t happen, nor did it seem likely to happen) then I would still have my memory cards.

I shot more photos than I thought I would during those two weeks, taking up a total of just under 80GB on my iPad.


  • Although I had intended to use PhotoSmith to arrange the photos into Collections and Flag the ones I wanted to process, in practice I didn’t have the time or inclination to do so. It was enough for me to be able to view the images in the Photos app.
  • Hotel wi-fi connections were not fast enough to upload all JPEG files, if I had taken them, to Adobe Cloud or an alternative cloud storage service like Dropbox. This was as expected.
  • It also occurs to me that the smaller file sizes of my Fujifilm XT-1 (16 megapixels) is an advantage when it comes to file backup and storage. If I had been using a camera that creates larger files then I probably would have run out of space on the iPad.
  • As far as I know there is no Android tablet or smart phone with 128GB storage. However, some Android devices let you use SD or micro SD cards as storage. It seems to me that as long as you have enough micro SD/SD cards then you could use an Android device to backup your photos to them. I’ve never used an Android device so don’t know for sure (please write and let me know if you have tried this).

In conclusion, if you are thinking of using an iPad for backing up photos while away from home then you need to have a good think about how many photos you are likely to take during that time and whether your iPad has enough storage for them (bear in mind you are likely to take more photos than you think you will). If it does, then it really is an excellent way of backing up and viewing your photos.


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6 Responses to “How I Backed Up my Photos in China”

  1. Andrew, this sounds like an excellent way to back up photos, if you have enough iPad storage, and much more convenient than dragging around a laptop. I’m not familiar with Photosmith, so that’s a good tip for viewing and importing raw files. Thanks.

  2. Spence says:

    Andrew, this sounds very workable as backup – as long as the files exist in 2 places, you should be safe. I take a MacBook Air and an external USB 2TB drive, the air weighs only slightly more than my ipad and the 2TB drive is minimal. Files go on both the air SSD drive and the external drive (I run lightroom from the USB drive normally anyway). The advantage for me is in keywording as I import and review and delete immediately.

    • Hi Spence, yes, the Macbook Air is very light. My wife has one and they are wonderful. My MacBook Pro feels like a brick in comparison!

  3. Frank Schweitzer says:

    Hi Andrew
    Thanks for your storage blog. However(!) I think I have missed something.I bought an IPad with12 gigs thinking I would never exceed this in the sort of trip that I do but when I try to download RAW files -and I always only take RAW – it tells me that it takes too much current and is unable to do it. So my plan to have a safety scheme has not worked. How do you manage to download RAW images onto your IPad – it cannot just be a matter of memory. Must I now sell the IPad and buy a MacAir? Then why not download temporarily all RAW files to it, saving the memory cards, until returning home and completing the job on a desktop?or into the Cloud?

    • Hi Frank, are you connecting your camera directly to the iPad or are you using a card reader? I used the Lightning to SD Card Reader adapter to transfer the photos, but I understand you may get the message you are seeing if you try to attach a device (such as a camera) to the iPad.

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