Text by C. Scott Wyatt

I

’ve lost all the photos of our little ones. What can I do?”

Unfortunately, I get questions like this too often from panicked friends. Thankfully, most have been backing up their photos without realizing it, thanks to Google and Apple.

Google Photos, with apps for Android and Apple devices, offers free unlimited storage for photos if you enable high-quality image compression. Compression reduces the quality of photos slightly, while creating much smaller files. Serious photographers and hobbyists prefer uncompressed images.

Google provides 15 gigabytes of uncompressed image storage for free, but that’s a fraction of what a photographer might require. For 100 GB of cloud storage, Google charges a reasonable $1.99 monthly. For $100 annually, Google offers 2 terabytes of storage. That’s more than enough for most families.

Apple’s iCloud offers a solution if your household, like ours, uses Apple computers and devices. The iCloud storage plans start with a free 5 GB plan, one-third of the Google free plan. However, the paid offerings match Google pricing for 200 GB and 2 TB of cloud storage. You can share iCloud photo libraries with anyone via the iCloud website.

Amazon, always an aggressive competitor, offers unlimited full resolution photo storage for “free” to Amazon Prime subscribers. Why does Amazon offer free storage? Amazon offers one of the easiest to use printing services for photos, but not the cheapest. Amazon’s counting on users ordering photo books, canvas prints and keepsakes.

Although transferring photos from a smartphone to a cloud service or computer isn’t difficult, cloud storage disasters happen. Too often, a phone owner forgets to configure and test cloud storage. Without backups, a lost or damaged phone takes memories with it.

My wife and I use Google, Apple and Amazon. If we decide to close one account, the photos exist on the others. We also have a network-attached storage device (NAS) that makes continuous backups of our computer drives.

If you own or have access to a scanner, I suggest scanning old family photos and documents to add those to your cloud accounts. Archiving family photos also makes sharing them convenient.

For a time, we had a digital picture frame on display. The concept was nice, but in practice, the images were no match for printed photos. Who wants a picture frame with a power cable hanging to the nearest outlet?

Our televisions, Blu-ray players and streaming devices all feature slideshow modes for images. Again, nice but not how most people want to view family photos. It’s like watching old-fashioned slides of family vacations.

Printed photos hung in frames or placed in albums and scrapbooks still offer the best photo experience. We still order printed school photos and frame them for our walls. Our daughters create scrapbook pages for special events.

Most basic home-office inkjet printers and multifunction devices print acceptable photos on coated paper. To get the best quality, use the manufacturer’s ink and paper. Third-party inks produce washed-out and blurry photos. Cheap papers also bleed and run.

The Epson Expression Premium XP-7100 offers unmatched photo quality among multifunction home printers. At $200, the XP-7100 balances price and output quality. The $250 Canon PIXMA G6020 “Supertank” outputs photos rivaling the Epson. You can print 7,000 pages of color before refilling the Canon tanks, saving hundreds of dollars. The Canon G6020 uses bottles of ink instead of cartridges. Epson sells “EcoTank” models, but the photo quality trails its XP-7100.

All-in-one printers and general-use printers cannot match the higher resolutions and color quality of dedicated photo printers. The images also fade faster than photo printer output.

Canon SELPHY printers are small, $100 printers that produce great, but small, photos. There’s even a Canon camera-printer reminiscent of the Polaroid instant cameras, the IVY CLIQ. These photo printers are more for parties and social events than home use.

For photography hobbyists and profes-sionals, buying a dedicated photo printer offers more control and flexibility than using a printing service. If you own a digital camera with interchangeable lenses, invest in a similarly priced photo printer.

The Canon PIXMA Pro and Epson SureColor printers produce great photos. If you want the best, the SureColor P700 prints using 10 inks rated for 200 years of life. The P700’s 5760 dots-per-inch is unrivaled among mid-range professional photo printers. For $800, it is $1,000 less than “gallery-quality” printers. The P700 supports rolls of paper, for longer prints.

Canon’s PIXMA Pro-10 also uses 10 inks rated for 50 years or more. Frequently available online for $500, the Pro-10 wins the price-to-quality comparison against the Epson SureColor P700. In lab tests conducted by leading photography websites, Canon inks faded within 24 months when exposed to sunlight, if that’s a consideration.

Don’t risk losing family memories. Archive photos to one or more cloud storage services and print your special photos so that you have them for years to come.

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