Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to : Consolidate Photos from Several Cameras using Dropbox

Update 4/21/2016 : This solution using Dropbox is being superseded by a new process using Google Photos. 

See the updated How-to.

In the Family Tech column published March 14, 2013 we discuss how several family members using their camera phones might take pictures of the same event, and how the family might want to consolidate those photos into one place.

For example, a family of four might go on vacation.  Both parents, and both teenage children, have smart phones and are taking photos during the entire vacation.

How can we easily get all of these photos into one place so we can share them as a family, then publish them to friends and family and finally back them up for long term safe keeping?

There are any number of methods, but the one outlined in the column has each person creating their own free Dropbox account.

Be sure to test this setup on your system extensively to be sure it works for you and does not put your photos at risk.  Be sure also
to use this method with another backup system to insure the 
safety of your photos.

The entire process is outlined here step-by-step :

1.  Create Dropbox accounts for each member of the family

     a.  Go to the website
              (if you use this link, the size of your box should be 2 gigabytes + 256 megabytes bonus)

     b.  Create a new account for primary user.
             Be sure to record the email address and password you use to create the account.

    c.  Be sure to log out of Dropbox when you are done creating the account.

    d.  For every other member of the family, repeat steps a, b & c.

2.  Create a shared folder in Dropbox and share it with the other users.

     a.  Log in to the primary Dropbox account

     b.  Locate the New Folder icon and click it.

     c.  A text box appears.  Type the name for the new folder in it, "Family Photos"

     d.  After you press Enter, find the folder "Family Photos" in the list and double click on it.

     e.  The folder is opened.  At the top, find and click on the Share icon.

        f.  A dialog box appears.

     g.  Enter in the email addresses for the others in the family, using the email addresses you used to create their Dropbox accounts.  When done, click the Share Folder icon.

     h.  Each person will receive an email from Dropbox saying you have invited them to share this folder.

     i.  When they click the View Folder button, they will be shown this screen.

        Be sure to click the Sign in link near the bottom.  The form above is to create a new account.
        You already have an account for them.

     j.  The next screen is a standard log in.  Have them go ahead and log in.

         Once logged in, they will see the folder "Family Photos" is now in their folder list.

      k.  Go ahead and log out of Dropbox.

      l.  Repeat steps h, i, j and k for each person.

3.  For each member of the family, install the Dropbox app on their smartphone 

     a.  Find your device in this list, and install the correct app.

     b. After installation, run the app.  Each member will be prompted to log in in to their account.

     c. Likely during installation, you will be asked if you want to use Instant Upload.  Respond that you do.

     d. If not, you go to Settings and Choose Turn on Camera Upload

     e.  To keep from using up all your mobile data quota, choose Wi-Fi Only, then click Turn On.

      f.  Repeat steps a to f for each person who has a smart phone or other device.

4.  Taking Photos

      Once done, steps 1, 2 and 3 do not need to be done again, unless you obtain a new phone.

      For normal times, just shoot photos on your devices, and they will be saved to
      the "Camera Uploads" folder in each person's Dropbox.

      a.  Periodically, each person will need to log in their Dropbox account
          and review the photos in their "Camera Uploads" folder.

      b. Any photos they want to share with the family they should click on to select.
          They can hold down the control key and click on additional photos to select
          more than one photo at a time.

      c. Next, they click the Move button at the top of the screen.

     d.  A dialog box appears.  Use it to choose the "Family Archive" folder and click Move.

       They could also have clicked the Copy button of they wished to retain a copy of the
       photo in their own Dropbox.  They may want to Move them though as it is easy to 
       use up the free two gigabytes of space.

5.  Copying/Moving the photos to your local hard drive

       On the Primary Dropbox account, you want to move any photos in "Family Photo" folder 
        to another folder, and empty out the "Family Photo" folder periodically.  The size of the
        Family Photo folder counts against all the Dropbox accounts that share it.

        a.  The first time you do this, create a new folder "Family Folder Archive" by clicking the 
             New Folder icon.

        b.  Next, enter the "Family Photos" folder.  Select the first photo, and then while holding
             down the Shift key, click on the last photo.  All the photos should then be selected.

        c.  Click the Move button, and in the next dialog box, choose the "Family Photo Archive"
              folder and click the Move button.

        If you have the Dropbox App installed on your PC, then the contents of "Family Photo Archive"
        will sync down to your PC.  

        If you do not purchase additional space from Dropbox to save all your photos, be sure to copy
        the contents on your PC folder "Family Photo Archive" in your Dropbox folder to another
        folder on your PC.  That way, you can delete space from "Family Photo Archive" as needed
        but retain all your photos.

        Once the photos are safely in one folder on your PC, make sure they are regularly
        backed up along with your other data to either a remove backup site, or at least
        second hard drive, or preferably both.

If you try this out, and find any issues, or have suggestions for ways to improve, please put them in the comments.


  1. Great Article - Can you have your Iphone link photos to a SUBFOLDER in DROPBOX.
    Then everyone's pictures could automatically get uploaded and separated eliminating steps 4 and 5.

  2. It may be by far more convenient to share the Camera Upload folder with each other.
    1) Rename the Camera Upload folder on all accounts except one.
    2) Share the last remaining Camera Upload folder with all other family members.
    3) Move the photos from the remamed folders to the shared “new” Camera Upload folder.
    4) Delete the renamed, now empty former Camera Upload folders.

    By that, every Camera Upload from every account will now instantly be shared (a kind of photo stream). No need to ever manage or move files again.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.