Assessing Amazon Photos

Assessing Amazon Photos

Did you know that Amazon Prime Members have access to unlimited photo storage?  Since many people already pay for Amazon Prime, I decided to download the service and check it out and see what it has to offer.  What does Amazon Photos storage include?  For Prime Members they will store unlimited photos at full resolutions and up to 5 GB of video files.

Part of my work as a photo organizer is to assess different photo organization storage systems.  The downside is that I have my photos in far too many locations, let’s just say they are pretty well backed up.

I do have a unique situation.  Our “Photo Hub” is actually a Network Attached Storage Drive (NAS).  It is running in a raid (two drives with the same information).  It is sort of a backup, but not a safe offsite backup which I recommend to clients.  I already run Backblaze to backup my entire computer.  This is a cloud backup service that is very reasonably priced.  Backblaze backs up my entire computer and will also backup attached external hard drives to the cloud.  The problem is a NAS is not the same as an external hard drive.  I discovered that cloud backups of NAS drives can be very expensive, primarily because they are often commercial products that hold large amounts of data.

I discovered that Amazon Photos will backup my photos directly from my NAS. Woo-hoo!

You will need to go to Amazon and install the Photos Desktop App that looks like this:

So, I got started.  My Photos folder on the NAS contained about 270 GB of data, mostly photos but also some videos.  It took about 3 days to upload the photos.  We just switched to Metronet that has much faster upload speeds than Comcast.  Expect it to take much longer with Comcast.  Also, if you are streaming a lot of movies this month, and who isn’t, you might go over your data limit.  That is part of the reason we got rid of Comcast was that I frequently had to upload and download photos from clients from the cloud.

I reached Amazon’s 5 GB video limit almost instantaneously.  I wasn’t surprised.  Anyone that has a smartphone and takes an average number of videos and has videos saved with their photos, will run into the same problem.

What to do?  This is where Amazon gets its extra money.  You can get 100 GB of video (and documents) storage for $19.99/year and 1 TB for $59.99/year.  They also offer larger plans.  I just finished a large conversion project with about 300 GB of video, so I needed to go with the larger plan.  I was able to add my about 260 GB of videos at a later date and they downloaded overnight!

Note that your files are getting uploaded to Amazon Drive that will be accessed by Amazon Photos.  This is what it looks like on Amazon Drive.  On the left sidebar, you can click on Amazon Photos to open up a Window for Amazon Photos.

Another feature is a Family Vault that allows up to 5 family members to share their photos to this library.  That can be a nice way to get photos from your family members.

You can also set up the app on your phone to automatically download your photos.  It will download to a directory on Amazon Drive and Photos will access the photos from there.  

When I open Amazon Photos, frankly it looks like every other automatic photo program.  You see a mass of images/videos on the page that are automatically organized by date and time. 

Here is the Home Screen for Amazon Photos.

If you scroll down the screen farther you can see how Photos categorizes photos, including a breakdown of year and month.

Organizing automatically by date and time can problem for many people. 

  • I have a meticulously organized collection organized by chronology and events.  Amazon Photos does not recognize any sort of folder structure you might have set up.
  • Anyone that has pre-digital photos and videos will see a big mess of files that are basically organized by the date they were digitized/converted unless someone had gone through the effort of changing the EXIF data in all the photos and videos.  Not likely.  Not even me.
  • If you have any digital pictures that were organized in a folder structure but had the wrong data in the metadata, they are also not going to end up where you want them.

However, you can go to the Amazon Drive Backup directory ( to see the existing photo structure.  These are two different applications, but one set of files.  You can’t see this in Amazon Photos.

What I like about Amazon Photos?

  • It backs up your photos at full resolution.  If you need to download them back from Amazon, they will be returned at full resolution and the metadata remains intact.  Google Photos compresses files and Apple Photos returns different resolutions based on how you share them.
  • You can access the photos anywhere you have access to the internet.
  • People tagging is easy and efficient.  None of these programs are perfect though, and many of my daughters’ pictures were mixed up.  You can fix it on each photo. This feature is proprietary and can only be used in the Photos program right now.
  • It also picks up “places and things”.  You can search for beach or Orlando or other places or things that Amazon detects in your photo.  It also lists the options on the sidebar.
  • The location information with a map showing when you click to get information is nice.  The picture below was taken from an airplane.  I had no idea where it was specifically taken, but my GPS was recorded in the image.  I love geotagging.

  • The search function is nice.  It will search the file name information as well as places and things and it does it quickly.
  • You can do basic photo editing in the program.  However, the changes will not go back to the original files on your computer.  When you edit it will ask you to save as a copy.
  • You can order prints or create projects directly from Photos.  I could see myself doing that.  You can create albums of photos for particular projects, you can either download the specific photos you want to use (without impacting originals or use their services to create projects.
Order Prints and Projects from Amazon

Other issues with Amazon Photos

  • If you make changes to the filenames in the folder it is watching for backup, it will create a duplicate file.  The program will only make additions to your backup folder.
  • I have found other duplicates that I can’t explain, especially from the phone download.  Amazon will use the same file name but add info in parentheses.  Some have suggested not using or disabling this feature for this reason.
  • It is possible to create albums based on Amazon Drive Folder Structure, but you have to do this one directory at a time.  It is probably not worth the effort.
  • I can’t see any metadata such as descriptions or keywords that I might have added to the photo.  You also can’t add any.
  • You can’t change file names and you can’t sort your photos by file name.  For those of us who put dates in the file name, especially for old files, this decreases the program’s functionality.  
  • It is possible to change the date and times of files.  However,  if you choose a grouping of files it will make all the dates and times identical.  Other programs offer the option of a time shift.  
  • Inability to make “smart albums.”  Other photo organizing software allow you to set parameters to create albums, this does not.

Final Thoughts

  • This is by no means a complete how-to for Amazon Photos, but I wanted to give you the feel of the program before you might want to commit time and effort to it.
  • The issues related to not being able to make changes to metadata or file names may be because Amazon Photos Backup sends files in only one direction – from your device to the cloud.  The Backup feature Photos is not Syncing like in DropBox or Google Photos.  That is not necessarily a bad thing though.  In this case, I want a backup. 
  • There is a syncing option in Photos/Drive that I have not addressed in this review.
  • Know that Amazon Drive and Amazon Photos are two different applications.  However, the photos you load into Amazon Drive will show up in Amazon Photos.  Photos you Backup into with Amazon Photos will show up in the Backup Directory on Amazon Drive.
  • If you want to use Photos for a backup, understand the folder structure won’t show up in Photos, only in Drive.
  • If all your photos are digital originals and don’t have date issues, this can be an effective way to backup files.
  • I would not use Amazon Photos to Organize your photos. 
  • It is a great way to access your photos from the cloud.  You can share them to a TV via Firestick and the Fire TV Amazon Photos app and you can post to social media from Photos.  If you have a Tablet, it can be a great way to access photos to show to others.

Don’t wait to convert your VHS tapes!

VHS Tapes Need to be converted to digital files

Every year we wait to convert our home videos, the more likely the quality will continue to degrade.  Here is a great article to explain just what is happening.  Not only that, we often don’t have the ability to play them on our equipment anymore.  My recommendation is to convert them to a digital format before it is too late.

Here is what you need to do:

  • Identify any tapes (VHS and other tape formats you have) that need to be converted.
  • If you can, try watching them, to make sure you know what is on the tape.
  • Prioritize what tapes you want to convert first, especially if you have budget constraints. It is also good to start with just a few to see how the process works.
  • You have plenty of local options for tape conversion including Reel Pro Video or Absolute Video in Batavia.
  • Ask them to convert the files to a digital format.  I recommend AVI (PC) or MOV (Mac) especially if you intend to edit the video, but Mp4 is OK for most uses.  Saving straight to a DVD saves it to a compressed format that has limited uses.  You may need to provide a USB drive or external hard drive or purchase one from them to complete the conversion.
  • Once the tapes are converted, it is possible to edit down the files to the parts you actually want to see!  Please consider doing this.  Often a young relative will help.  If not, that is a service we also provide.

Imagine how fun your next family event will be when you pull out some edited videos people haven’t seen in years!