Traveling with Instagram and Dropbox

With all the devices out there today for documenting your travels, there are a couple that I’ve put to the test and have down to a science. During the past five months traveling all throughout Italy and Spain, my trusty iPhone and the apps Instagram and Dropbox have been my primary tools for documenting my travels with pictures and staying connected via the ever-popular social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress blogs. These are ever-present characteristics of my world as a blogger and travel writer. At the same time, I highly recommend them to any traveler for documenting your trip with pictures along the way with creative artistic options, keeping them organized and backed-up, and sharing with family and friends. Take a look at how I’ve been doing it for over five months now…

To start with, I have the new iPhone 4S and learned to request that my American service provider, Verizon, unlock it so I can have other SIM cards in it for the countries I’m traveling in. And yes, this is possible. To get details on this, read up on my blog post “Unlock Your iPhone for Traveling Through Europe”. If this is not an option for you or you simply don’t want your smart phone unlocked, you can still use these tools. Having cell phone service coverage is not the only way since you can use WiFi connections on your smart phone instead. If you don’t have an iPhone the apps Instagram and Dropbox are also available on other smartphones.

The Instagram App is great because one, its free, and two, it enhances using your smart phone as a camera. On my travels this helps greatly for my budget and cuts down on things I’m carrying and traveling with. The app allows you to choose taking a picture right then and there, or choosing from the pictures you already have saved on your phone. If you’re like me, you like to point and shoot with the basic smart phone camera and then later go back and choose through Instagram which photos you want to enhance. This is where you can apply the filters of light and even choose black and white, different frames, and zoom in. Then you get the option to do what they refer to as “Geotagg” the location. If you’re in an area where you have WiFi or you have a local SIM card in place and have good service, the Geotagg feature will list an entire roster of places in the area the picture was taken so you can name what the picture is of or where it’s located.

Before Instagram…

After Instagram!

I’ve come to learn that even if I don’t get to instagram-ing the picture until later and I’m in a different place altogether, the Geotagg option still pulls places from where the picture was taken. Or you can type in a location and it starts to pull up options or you can create your own location. You can also enter a description or comment and then choose to have it emailed to you and/or posted to Facebook, Twitter and an entire list of other social media networks out there. And, as all good social media tools today have, it has the social network connection: you can choose to follower others and others can choose to follow you. This depends on your account settings, where you can specify if you want your pictures to be public and on the news feed of Instagram, or if you want them kept private. You can comment on pictures of Instagram users that you’re following as their pictures appear on your news feed and vice-versa, they get to like and comment on yours, even sharing your public pictures further through their social media networks.

Without Instagram…

With Instagram!

Some of the ways I would like to see Instagram improved would be for the ability to shrink photos or essentially zoom out further. On my iPhone I can zoom in closer to a portion of the photo and it crops to that view, but I can’t get it to allow me to make it smaller and this tends to cut off portions of the photo originally taken with my iPhone. I have determined that this may be from taking the photo horizontally or vertically or from zooming in when the original picture was taken, but have not confirmed this yet. Another aspect of using the app that I try to be respectful of is that many professional photographers say that this and other similar apps are hurting the photography community and industry. This definitely makes sense since the app in my opinion, gives good quality photos with the filters you can apply, even to the point of being not only digital, but also print-worthy.

So what does one do once they have all these Instagram-ed photos from their travels? What it will look like on your smart phone is this – you may have the original photo (that is, if you took it with your phone camera originally rather than straight through the Instagram App) and you will have the Instagram enhanced version of the photo. This means you want to keep in mind that you’ll have double the photos and this will take up more storage on your phone. To eliminate this problem, I use Dropbox for organizing, backing up, and sharing my photos, so that later I can go back and delete the photos I don’t want kept on my phone.

The Dropbox service is essentially cloud storage for files and photos. It’s as easy as going online through your computer and setting up an account. You can start with the basic free account that gives you 2GB of space, with the opportunity to earn 500 MB per referral (up to 18 GB). You can also choose to pay for more space.  Once you have the account set up, you have it downloaded onto your computer (which does not take up a lot of space, so don’t worry) and it works like your regular window for browsing files. Then you get the Dropbox app on your smart phone, which with cell coverage or internet connection syncs wirelessly with your Dropbox account that you can access both online and on your computer.

And here is where the two meet for that seamless process of backing up and sharing your photos from the palm of your hand, literally…

Once I go through and touch up the photos on my iPhone with Instagram, I go to my Dropbox app on my smart phone and select to upload photos. It gives me the option to access my pictures in the regular iPhone photo app and choose what folder in Dropbox to have them uploaded to. If you haven’t already created a folder through your Dropbox on your computer, you can create it then and there on your smartphone as well. With a folder chosen, I start to go through and check the photos I want uploaded. I like how Dropbox gives a good view of the photos, not too small – not too big, and you can check multiple photos to upload at once. And of course this process also applies to regular photos not touched by Instagram. Depending on your connection to internet or through a local cellular service, your photos will upload within a matter of minutes or will stay there and resume uploading when you have that connection and open the app again. Finally, Dropbox gives you the ability to specify if you want a folder or file to be public or private, which is part of being able to share any files or folders you want with an online link that can be emailed to family and friends or posted on the internet.

There you have it…this is how I document my travels with pictures and how you can as well. I’m able to have it fit in the palm of my hand with my iPhone, sync with my laptop, and share with family and friends through all my social media networks. These two apps and the way they work together and with other social networks, is great for personal use of my travel photos and for my work as a blogger and travel writer. What creative ways have you been able to use them for your travel photos? I hope you share them here and that my own practices will be of help to you as you continue to document your travel with photos.

Happy Instagram-ing and Dropbox-ing away!