I finally solved my iPhone photo backup problem

I’m a photographer, and I’m also in love with the beautiful everyday moments of life. That’s a foolproof recipe for taking lots of pictures in any given day, especially since my iPhone is never far from me.

The challenge comes with saving all those images, and I’ve finally found a way to automate saving every photo and video from my iPhone’s camera roll to my Flickr photostream. I’ve tried multiple systems, and there’s always been a glitch:

  • Flickr in-app uploader doesn’t upload videos.
  • Dropbox camera roll sync eats my Dropbox space.
  • IFTTT Dropbox -> Flickr recipe doesn’t upload videos.
  • I rarely plug my phone in to my Mac - can’t import pics that way.
  • Plus, this is 2014. C’mon - surely this can be automated…

Turns out it can be! Just a few minutes of setup and a handful of powerful apps and you’ll be on your way to automation bliss.

Here’s what you need:

iOS Photos and Videos, DropboxHazel (well worth the cost for this powerful little organizer), IFTTTFlickr

Here’s the how:

  1. Open Dropbox iOS app. Within Settings, select camera upload and turn on. (If you have quite a few photos currently saved on your phone the first sync will take a while - you may want to sidestep it for the first time by manually uploading those images to Flickr.)
  2. Open Hazel preference pane and add access to Dropbox/Camera Uploads folder. Create a rule that moves any file into a new folder housed in your Dropbox/Public folder. I titled my new folder ‘Flickr Uploads’
  3. Create a new recipe (or use my recipe) with IFTTT that triggers any new file in your specified public Dropbox folder to be uploaded to your Flickr photostream.
  4. Sit back and watch the magic work.

Customizations: I added an additional rule in Hazel that deletes files in my Flickr Uploads folder that are more than a month old. It keeps things clean but also gives me a time cushion. My IFTTT recipe adds the tag ‘2process’ to each photo or video it uploads to Flickr. Then I can quickly sort through my auto-uploaded images by searching that tag to delete any duplicates, add to sets, and add further customization within Flickr.

The only catch: Both Dropbox and IFTTT iOS apps must be open in order for them to run. My solution: be sure those apps are open when I charge my phone overnight.

This automation isn’t exclusive to iPhones; as long as your phone and Dropbox play well together to upload your photos, you can use this workflow too. IFTTT also supports 500px which could be an alternative to Flickr if you so choose. The lynchpins to my workflow are Dropbox and Hazel.

Happy automating! I love that I don’t have to think about saving my photos any more, that my iPhone won’t be bogged down with months and months of images, and that all my photos and videos will be stored and backed up on Flickr’s dime. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to post another Instagram.