Auto-upload is a great back-up feature to have for the iPhone. I use both SmugMug and iCloud to store my photos. The thing to know about backing photos up to SmugMug is that they are converted to high-quality JPEGs instead of the original HEIF/HEIC format. For most cases, this is perfectly fine, but a few features will be lost like LIVE photos and reverting to the original photo.
Here are more details from the blog post:
On iOS, your photos are uploaded in their original high quality version and converted to high quality JPG photos (for those technical ones out there: the HEIF/HEIC photo is uploaded and converted to a JPG).
- For iOS Live Photos, only the still photo is kept. The moving portion will be lost.
- For Slow-Motion videos, the video will play in real-time.
- For iOS “Portrait Mode” photos (the ones with the blurry background), you won’t be able to change the amount of blurring if you re-download the photo.
I love that auto uploading feature is included for free for the paying customers, and the storage is unlimited! So I turned auto-uploading on my iPhone 😜.
Does it auto-upload your videos as well?
Also, do you have Optimize iPhone storage enabled? So then I would think that it would have to download the photo from iCloud Photos and then upload to SmugMug since I don’t have the full res version on my phone.
Both are excellent questions! It is unclear from from reading the blog post or within the app if video uploads are supported at all. There is no mention of that feature.
I also doubt that it will upload originals by downloading them from iCloud. If originals are missing it will probably upload display copies available on the phone. In practice I often have issues retrieving originals from iCloud even from iPhoto (for editing or exporting to other apps).
For me this auto-upload feature is a piece of mind that there are at least two copies of my photos (in whatever format) backed up in the cloud.
Confirmed with SmugMug support:
- Videos are not auto-uploaded. You would have to manually select them and upload them. I submitted a feature request.
- iCloud Photo Library originals (full resolution) are indeed auto-uploaded to SmugMug if you have "Optimize Storage" enabled. I confirmed this myself with several examples.
I had previously had SM for many years, but cancelled a while back. So I created a new account to test this on Saturday. I have 51,780 photos in my iCloud Photo Library. I got the entire library uploaded in two days (I have 1gig fiber - although my iPhone on Wi-Fi really only uploads around 200-400 on average and who knows what SM maxs out to or limits us to).
Things I found:
1. The app recommends leaving it open during the auto-upload for best results. Presumably because iOS will time it out eventually. So I did this for the two days. The screen just dims after a bit, but does keep the app open.
2. My phone got pretty warm during the whole two days, which was expected.
3. Not all photos appears to have been uploaded. I only see 49,300 uploaded. All photos in my library should be either JPG, PNG or GIF.
4. After the upload was completed. I tested simply taking a new photo with the camera. I did not launch the SmugMug app, however it was opened just prior to taking the photo. The first photo I took got uploaded, however the version in SmugMug was low-res. I tested again with a few more photos and all of those uploaded in full-res. I asked support about this and they figured it was just a single anomaly.
5. The next day I tested taking a few more photos and this time opened up the app and kept it open for a while and non of the photos got uploaded to SM. So not sure what is happening now, but doesn't make me comfortable relying on this.
After this experience, I decided to test other apps that support camera auto-upload. I already have my full-res complete Apple Photo library on my Mac and it gets backed up to a Time Machine drive, ChronoSync drive daily, Carbon Copy Cloner drive daily, weekly, and monthly. Plus Backblaze and Google Photos (via Backup and Sync app). I still like the idea of yet another backup that will take all the photos and save them out of the library file organized (preferably) by year/month. I know I can pull all the photos out of the library package in the "Originals" and "Masters" folder. I figure if all goes to hell and I cannot recovery my library file, then I will have all my photos in some kind of organization.
1. Plex - I have my own Plex server that I use only for video, but I have played around with hosting my own photos there. I haven't played around with the camera upload in a while, so figured I'd give it a shot again. After some fiddling around to get it to finally start uploading, it did start and saw all 51k photos. I checked my Plex folder on the server and saw that it was saving most of the photos with a .plist file extension. I could open them fine on the computer and could even just rename them to .jpg. Apparently this is an ongoing issue: https://forums.plex.tv/t/plex-ios-camera-upload-uploading-bizarre-wrong-format/468236
So I decided to scrap this idea for now. I could certainly deal with this, but having all my saved photos with the wrong file extension doesn't sound great, even for a backup.
2. OneDrive - I have an Office 365 license with work, so I have 1TB of space. It does have a switch to enable uploading videos and it will organize everything in year/month folders. The photos screen in the app just sat at "Loading" for quite some time. Figure it would do that while it figured out my huge photo library. During that time, I did some more research and found that OneDrive camera upload will not auto-upload photos that are not on the device. So this was out.
3. Google Photos - I didn't try this one, but just wanted to mention it since it does offer camera auto-upload. Like I mentioned above, I use the Google Backup and Sync app on my Mac and point it at my Apple Photos Library and it auto-uploads everything to Google Photos. I have it set to "Original Quality" since I have 1TB of G Suite space. I've had this setup for a while now and it's worked alright. I did have to reinstall the app recently because it apparently just stopped uploading new photos. I like the Mac app setup better since then it is always uploading in the background and I don't have to worry about an iOS app killing battery usage or having to manually keep an app open.
4. Dropbox - I already have this setup on my wife's iPhone to automatically upload all the photos she takes and then I have a round-about way for this to get to my Mac and have them auto-import into my Apple Photos library. This is the only iOS app I am aware of that does the auto-uploading of photos via device location. This has been the most reliable way of getting photos to auto-upload. My wife never needs to open the Dropbox app on her iPhone. I always get the photos she takes.
I tested Dropbox on my phone to upload my entire library. The filenames do get renamed with the date taken, which is nice. However, all the photos just get thrown into a single Dropbox folder. I'm sure I could configure some way to have the photos auto-organize into year/month folders, but didn't go further. It also appeared to completely stop uploading whenever I would close the app.
So after all this, back to SmugMug, I'm not sure I will keep it as a source for another backup. I don't like that my videos are not also auto-uploaded and the reliability of an iOS-only backup is questionable. I already pay for Backblaze to backup my entire photo library and also have the Google Photos backup for kind of a disaster recovery. At least for offsite backups, I feel pretty safe, but I'm always looking for other ways to safeguard my photos. $50/year for unlimited photos-only backup is not bad at all though.
I was also looking for how to download all your photos out of SmugMug. So in the case of disaster recovery. Can't find any details on that besides downloading on a per-gallery case.
I recently had some backups fail so I spent a lot of time downloading galleries from SmugMug dating from 2002, and it was gallery-by-gallery.
Since I also only upload keepers to SmugMug, I’ve been downloading everything from my Google Drive and that has been a multi-month slow process over a fast fiber optic line with errors that are hard to keep track of.
Imagine what it must have been like to transfer all of Flickr’s photos to Amazon when SmugMug bought them. 🤯
I would have thought since GDPR that they would have had a full export by now.