Amazon Photos: The Secret to Storing & Managing Photos “on Autopilot”


full guide to amazon photos for digital photo management

Photo management anxiety. Did you know it had a name? 

That stress & overwhelm of managing photos in so many places? 

The back-of-your-mind worry about precious memories slipping through the cracks?

I didn’t realize how much I felt this until I stumbled upon Amazon Photos – an amazing perk of Amazon Prime. 

It has been a huge relief to manage my photos with minimal time commitment & cost involved. All it takes are the right tools and habits, and your photo management can be on “autopilot”, too!

Amazon Photos provides an automatic way to seamlessly store, organize, share, print, and most importantly – enjoy your digital photos. Best of all, it is secure, cost-effective, and easy to use.

I’ll show you how to set it up in minutes, organize it efficiently, and create a lasting habit of managing your favorite memories.


This post contains affiliate links, which may generate a small commission for me, at no additional cost to you. I only recommend products & services I love. If you have questions, you can find the full site terms & conditions here.


A Quick Ranking of Amazon Photos

Free storage★★★★
Photo quality★★★★★
Cost effectiveness★★★★
Security & safety★★★★★
Ease of use★★★★★
Convenience★★★★★
Range of features★★★★

Part 1: Understanding Amazon Photos

Before we move to the how-to, it’s important to understand how Amazon Photos works and to address many of the common questions & concerns. I did a lot of research on my own and want to save you the time and trouble!

What is Amazon Photos?

As defined by Amazon, Amazon Photos “is a secure online storage service for your photos and videos.”

In addition to simply storing and backing up photos, it also has intuitive & convenient features for organizing, sorting, printing, and sharing your photos. It seems that Amazon has sought to provide an all-in-one photo management tool (and app) and has pretty much nailed it!

While I will focus on the benefits of Amazon Photos as part of a Prime membership, it should be noted that anyone with a free, standard Amazon account can use Amazon Photos up to 5GB of storage.

Prime members using Amazon Photos get a much sweeter deal!

If you are not currently a Prime member and want to check it all out, get 30 days FREE by going through this link.

Is the storage really unlimited?

As a Prime member, you really do get unlimited storage for photos.

For videos, however, the storage is capped at 5GB – which we found to go pretty quickly since we’re constantly videoing our son. However, for an additional $20 a year, you can add 100GB of storage. (Higher plans & pricing here.)

Even as frugal as we are, we decided that the extra $1-2 a month was worth the convenience of storing all our memories in one place.

What costs are involved? 

To summarize the different options mentioned above:

  • Any one with an Amazon account can store up to 5GB at no cost.
  • A Prime membership currently costs $119 per year. This includes Amazon Photos with unlimited photo & up to 5GB of video storage — as well as the hallmark free shipping, Amazon Music, Prime Video, and more.
  • Prime members can additional video storage at an additional charge.

Does it affect the quality of the photos?

Unlike other cloud storage solutions (Google Drive, etc.), Amazon Photos does not compress or resize your images.

In Amazon’s own words: “[It] stores your photos exactly how you took them, at their full resolution. We never down-sample an image to save space on our servers, so that you always have the highest possible resolution file.”

This is one of the biggest pros of Amazon Photos, in my opinion. I even store all of our high-res wedding photos in our account!

Is it secure?

A HUGE consideration in choosing a photo management platform is security & safety.

Digital Photography School produced an amazing, in-depth review of common options – like Google Photos, Apple Photos, Amazon Photos, and social media. You can read the full comparison here, but their conclusion certainly recommended Amazon Photos as a trustworthy option:

Amazon doesn’t make any money off your photos or the metadata contained in your photos, and the security of Amazon’s data centers is as good as anything. If you already pay for Amazon Prime, this option is certainly worth exploring. 

Are Your Photos Safe in the Cloud? The Real Cost of Using these Services by Digital Photography School

Can anyone see my Amazon photos? 

For any photos you upload directly to Amazon Photos, you – by default – are the only one who can see your photos. If your spouse or children log in to your account as well, they would be able to see them too.

If you chose to share photos with others, you have three options:

  1. You can share individual photos or videos directly via text, email, or social media (similar to how you would share an item from your phone’s photo library).
  2. You can create member-only Groups (which is what we do) to invite others to view certain photos. By accepting your invitation, they will get notified when you add new photos and can view & comment – all in a private setting! They do not have to be a Prime member to accept your invitation.
  3. You can utilize Family Vault. While we don’t use this feature currently, it’s a great way to share & collect photos with up to 5 family members or friends. The coolest part is that the individuals you invite get a free Prime Amazon Photos account – unlimited photo storage and up to 5GB of videos & files. Essentially, you’re extending your Prime benefit to others even if they aren’t a Prime member themselves.

If you’re a little confused on the differences, you can see Amazon’s overview here.

How are the photos uploaded and accessed?

You can upload, view, or download any photos through:

  • A web browser
  • The mobile app (Apple or Android)
  • The desktop app

Everything syncs together across compatible devices, even Fire TV or Echo devices.

What happens to my photos if I cancel Amazon Prime?

Whether you are just paying your Prime membership fee or an additional storage fee for Amazon Photos, there may be consequences to cancelling your membership. According to Amazon’s terms of service:

If you no longer have a Service Plan or exceed your Service Plan’s storage limit, including by downgrading or not renewing your Service Plan or no longer qualifying for an Additional Benefit (as described below), we may delete or restrict access to Your Files, or limit your account functionality.

Amazon Photos Terms of Use

While that sounds scary, the takeaway is simply to download your photos if you decide to discontinue use of Amazon Prime / Amazon Photos.

It would be a hassle, since you can’t download full albums at once (at least for now), but it’s just a matter of planning ahead. At least your photos would all be in one place!

We decided to rely on Amazon Photos because we honestly don’t see ourselves cancelling our Prime membership anytime soon. We use so many features of the service that the annual price is absolutely worth it. If you are a loyal Prime member, I wouldn’t think twice about centralizing your photos in Amazon Photos.

full guide to amazon photos for digital photo management

Part 2: Setting up Amazon Photos efficiently

If you’re ready to move forward with Amazon Photos, it is easy to get started and organize your account.

Setting up your account

If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account and you want to test it all out, you can use this link for a free 30-day trial. Then you can follow the rest of the steps as usual. 🙂 

If you are already a Prime member, simply log in to your account. To get to Photos, click on “Hello – Accounts & Lists” then scroll to Your Amazon Photos and click to open. 

There are two settings to check before you get started. In the top right corner, click on your name then “Settings”.

  • Find People, Places, and Things: by default, this setting is turned on. This means that the software will scan your images and detect faces and objects. The purpose of this is to provide easy sorting & filtering based on people, locations, and even themes like “dog” and “sunset”. I keep this feature on for easy searching, but if you’re sensitive about technology like this, you can turn it off easily.
  • Add Uploads to Family Vault: You can automatically add all of your photos to the Family Vault (definition of Family Vault here). By default, this option is turned-off, since using Family Vault is optional. If you know that you’ll be sharing every photo with your Family Vault members, this option would save you from manually adding photos each time. Most people will probably keep it off, though. (You can always go back to your settings and add all or remove all with the additional options.)

Organizing & uploading current photos

I’m going to talk about how to organize your photos before I even tell you how to upload them, so that you can do it as efficiently as possible.

There are three levels of organization.

1. Basic uploads

Any photo you upload can be sorted according to date taken and location taken. If you have the scanning feature enabled, you can also sort it by people, place, or thing detected. This is all done automatically and there is no action needed for you when uploading these general photos.

2. Albums

You can choose to sort some or all of your photos into albums, which is most easily done when uploading. Consider using albums for:

  • Special events like weddings, vacations, photography sessions, etc. that you want to access all together
  • Groups of photos you want to share easily with others 

When adding these photos, simply choose “Create Album” instead of “Upload Photos”.

Albums can also be easily created with existing uploaded photos by creating an album, selecting photos, and adding them to the album. You can just save time by doing it initially!

3. Family Vault

One last mention of Family Vault – if you know you will use this feature to share and collect photos with up to 5 others all in one place, but you have chosen NOT to automatically add all of your photos to Family Vault, you can select “share” after you upload groups of photos and add them to Family Vault from there.

Just a friendly side-note: While Family Vault can be a great solution for some situations, don’t get too bogged down on this if you’re getting started! Like I mentioned earlier, we don’t currently use this feature.

Options for uploads

For your initial upload, keep it simple! Start with maybe 1-2 months of photos. Don’t feel like you have to back-up every photo right away. (We’ll talk about that later!)

You will most likely have photos on your phone, computer, and/or other devices.

  • To upload photos from your phone: Download the mobile app, Amazon Photos, in your app store.
  • To upload photos from your computer: Download the desktop app here. You can choose to backup all photos, select folders, or select individual files.
  • To upload photos from other devices: Connect the device to your computer. Open your Amazon PHotos account in a web browser, select “Add+” and navigate to the file location of your connected device.

Customizing Amazon Photos

Once you have uploaded your current photos, you can certainly stop here! However, these additional features can make your photo organization even better.

Facial tagging (People)

I really love this feature! As you upload photos, Amazon will detect similar faces (similar to Facebook’s suggested tagging feature).

By navigating to the People tab, you can name each person. If Amazon has grouped photos of one person into multiple groups (i.e., someone changed their hair, beard, looks, etc.) you can merge them into one person simply by using the same name on the groups.

Amazon thought me on my wedding day and me after giving birth were two different people, and it gave me such a good laugh!

Hidden items

If there are especially personal photos you want to save but not show up if you’re showing someone else your photos, you can “hide” individual photos. They are easily accessed under your account > Hidden Items but don’t show up in your main feed.

I don’t use this feature much but I have some labor & breastfeeding photos hidden away just for my own memories 🙂

Centralizing past photos

Once you’ve gotten the hang of the interface and decided you want to use this platform, I highly encourage you to centralize all your digital photos here.

Unless you have a massive amount of videos, there’s really no reason not to!

This can be a big undertaking, so give yourself permission to do it slowly but surely over time. Break it down into chunks and tackle one every evening or every weekend, etc.

Think of all the places you may have existing digital photos. Save this checklist as you work through centralizing your photos.

It’s up to you if you want to digitize prints, old photographs, or even videos in old formats — either way, don’t let this bog you down or keep you from moving ahead with managing your current photos.


Part 3: Creating a lasting habit of managing your photos

The relief of having all of your photos in one place will only last if you continue keeping your photos there. This takes building a regular habit of maintaining your photos, but it can be done easily and very quickly.

Plus, a huge added benefit of creating a “photo management habit” is the ability to see, enjoy, share, and use your photos more regularly!

Ongoing Maintenance

Whether it’s daily, weekly, or even monthly, include photo management as a part of your regular habits. If you can work it into an existing planning/admin time, even better!

For me, I find that this fits naturally to my weekly planning time on Fridays and takes less than 5 minutes. (It may take longer if you have photos on more devices than just a cell phone.)

The primary maintenance involved in your photo storage is:

  • Uploading photos*
  • Gathering photos from other people as needed
  • Eliminating excess

Regularly uploading photos

Every session, transfer photos from all regular sources (phones, computers, etc) so that you never have a large backlog.

*One big feature we haven’t discussed yet is automatic sync. If you’re using this, you won’t need to manually upload photos unless it is from an additional camera or device.

  • On the Amazon Photos mobile app, you can turn on automatic uploads (Settings > Uploads > Auto-Save). By default, the app will only upload items when connected to Wi-Fi but you can enable upload with cellular data, if you have an unlimited plan.
  • On the Amazon desktop app, you can select certain folders to automatically upload (Backup > Add folder to backup).

If you and your spouse/family member share an Amazon account, you both can have the apps installed & logged into your account, which will sync all photos as needed.

I find that it is less time-consuming to sync ALL my photos and delete the ones I don’t want within my web browser – rather than choosing which files to upload from my phone. However, it is totally up to your preference and you have several options for manual uploading if that works better for you.

Gathering photos from others

After I had my first child, I became much more aware of wanting to gather photos and videos of him from other people! Often during events, special occasions, or family times, other people capture precious memories that you want in your own photo collection!

Managing my photos once a week helps me to remember if there are any photos I want to follow up on.

While you may not need this step every time, it is a great way to keep things from falling through the cracks and keeping track of all of it in your head.

Gathering these photos can be as simple or techy as you want!

  • Send a quick text or email for the photos
  • Download photos from social media (if applicable)
  • Best of all, ask them to share in your Amazon Photos group or Family Vault if they are members 🙂

Eliminating excess

Cleaning up your photos and videos regularly will make the most of your storage AND make it easier and simpler to use your photo library.

Every time you review/upload your photos, take less than 5 minute to clean up that “batch” of files:

  • Delete duplicate or similar photos by choosing your favorite one or two
  • Delete blurry or poor-quality photos
  • Consider trimming down the length of videos to highlight the important memory, while minimizing the file size

Ongoing Enjoyment

It’s worth repeating here: the whole point of maintaining & managing your photos is so that you can enjoy them!

As you are regularly centralizing and cleaning up your photos, take advantage of these wonderful ways to share them with others, enjoy your favorites in print, and take a trip down memory lane!

Sharing

As I’ve mentioned before, I highly recommend setting up a members-only group, especially if you have kids or pets you’re always sending photos of. Members will get to react or comment on photos, similar to a Facebook interface, which makes it super fun while also being private!

This has been an amazingly easy & efficient way for me to share photos of our son with all our family without posting them publically to social media.

Prints & Photo Gifts

Ordering prints is so easy when using Amazon Photos! Since all of your photos are in one place and stored in their original resolutions, it eliminates any prep-work before ordering what you need. All you do is click “Order Prints” to begin an order.

While you do need to plan a few days in advance for shipping, the individual print prices definitely beat any other service I’ve used.

They also have a huge range of photo gifts available – enough to rival Shutterfly and other companies.

  • Personalized photo cards
  • Photo books
  • Wall decor
  • Photo gifts like coffee mugs, mouse pads, calendars and more

Plus, Prime members get free shipping on prints & products.

Memories

While I am not a fan of phone notifications, one app I definitely allow is Amazon Photos – for one reason. Every day, the app shows you memories “On This day” for as many years as you have stored.

Since all of my photos are stored in one place, I truly get to “walk down memory lane” every day and see photos from ALL seasons of life. Of all the features I love, this is hands-down the most meaningful one to me.

Warning: it will make you cry over your babies!

Additionally, Amazon will automatically generate videos like year-in-review. Similar to the daily memories, I find these videos much sweeter and memorable (than ones from social media platforms) because it has access to all of my photos.


Wrapping up

I hope you feel hopeful and excited to have a practical, seamless way to not just manage your photos but use, share, and enjoy them.

Managing my photos like this has been well worth the small cost, as it has brought so much joy to me, my husband, and our extended family. I’m so glad I set up this system when I did and I hope you will feel the same way in the weeks, months, and years to come!

What’s next?

Don’t stop here! 🙂

If organizing your photos reveals a larger problem of managing digital & paper items – it is never ending! – there is a FREE course I want to share with you.

Professional organizers, Emilio y Samantha from KWPOrganizers, offer a course on Skillshare called Tame the Paper Clutter – all about how to create a personalized system to manage both physical and digital files.

You can access this course at NO cost by using my link for a Skillshare 2-month free trial. Set up your account by following these instructions, then search “Tame the Paper Clutter” to get started.

Once you put your photos “on autopilot”, you might want to do it with all of your responsibilities at home!

You can get a free personalized action plan for streamlining or automating “life admin” here, or skim my directory of solutions for managing meals, home, and life.

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