They say the best camera is the one you have with you.
That means that your Android smartphone is likely the camera you use the most and the one you'll be taking pictures off of the most. Nothing can be quite as frustrating as taking a picture you need to print out, or send off to the print shop, but not being able to get it off your phone and onto your necessary machine. And while there are many, many ways to get a photo from your phone to your computer, cloud storage, or anywhere else you'd like to keep it, here are the best ways we've found to get from Point A to Point B.
1. Automatic backups do it all for you
Truly the best way to get photos off your Android is to do it automatically. Google+ Photos is the automatic back-up option that comes pre-loaded on most Android devices, but many are weary of uploading every photo to Google. And that's perfectly fine, Google's not the only game in town. Dropbox, Box and most other cloud storage apps have automatic backup functions — and if you're an Amazon Prime member, you have unlimited photo backups through Amazon Cloud Drive Photos included in your membership that you're probably not taking advantage of.
Each individual backup app has the setting in its own place, but on Google+ Photos, you can turn on automatic backup in Settings under the Auto Backup section, where you can specify whether your photos are re-sized and when they are uploaded. Your camera roll will always be uploaded when Auto Backup is turned on, but you can add other folders such as Screenshots to Auto Backup by going to the On device section at the bottom of the hamburger menu and then tapping the cloud next to your desired folders.
The benefit of automatic backups is that the pictures will appear in whatever service, cloud drive, or website you're using in the background while you're doing other things, so that whenever you do go the these services looking for photos, they're already there. No waiting for gigabytes of pictures to transfer. However, automatic backups sometimes have to be manually triggered if you're trying to transfer images you just took, as most automatic backups are set to upload at specific intervals. If you need to get a picture off your phone immediately after taking it, there's a better way to do that, and you've probably already used it at least once since on your phone.
2. The share button — it's for more than Instagram
Most of the time when you want to get a picture from your phone to anywhere else, you're likely going to be using the share button. When you tap those three interconnected dots, you summon a lengthy list of apps that you can share your picture to, and often share your picture through. Your social media apps will be here, as will your messaging apps and your Gmail, but if you just need to get a picture off your phone quickly and don't have automatic backup set up, you can share your photo to Google Drive or any other cloud storage app.
If you're just sending one photo, far more apps will show up in the Share menu, but once you start trying to transfer batches — or all of your photos, should you getting ready to upgrade or factory reset your device — that list will start to dwindle. Also, keep in mind the data limits on certain sharing methods, such a email, which has a 25MB limit on attachments, which while easy to avoid with lower-quality pictures could become an issue with your primo, pixel-heavy pics, especially if you have a camera app in Lollipop that will take raw images.
The share button also has options for Wi-Fi Direct transfers and Android Beam. If you're trying to get pictures from your old device to your new one, then they're excellent options to keep in your back pocket if you're strapped for data or are distrusting of uploading all of your pictures to the internet.
3. microSD cards — slide 'em if you got 'em
microSD cards may have just been left off one of the most popular Android phones in the market — the glass-backed Samsung Galaxy S6 — but they're still a popular feature among many Android users and especially among users who take a lot of pictures. Most phones with microSD slots allow you to store the pictures on the microSD card so they can be easily transferred by that card to a computer. Many budget phones also punt photos to the microSD card because there simply isn't enough internal storage for them. Whatever the case may be, if your pictures are on your microSD card, then getting them off the phone is as easy as ejecting the card and either sticking it in a new device or finding and adapter and plugging it into your computer.
Keep in mind that if you have a cheaper microSD card with a slow read or write speeds that it will effect the speed at which you take your photos and possibly the quality of said pictures. Also, please remember to eject the card from the system in Settings before pulling it out, or shutting off the device. Just yanking the card out and sticking it in another machine may cause the card to be corrupted, and that could mean your photos are gone forever. If you have the room on the phone's internal storage, have your camera default there and then copy over the camera roll when you want to transfer pictures or you're transferring devices, so that way, there's still a copy on the phone should the card get corrupted — or worse, lost.
4. USB transfers: going old-school
Once upon a time, if you wanted to get the pictures off your Android smartphone, you had to plug it into the computer, wait for drivers — assuming you didn't have to go hunt them down yourself — and then you could transfer files to and from your phone. That was and still remains one of the most dependable methods of getting photos — or anything else for that matter — off your phone. And nowadays, that transfer it easier than ever on most platforms. Now, for Macs, you still need a specialized program, but for Windows machines, Windows can find the drivers and install them quickly and get you into your device in less time than it'll take to cross the room to refill your coffee. Chromebooks are also Android-friendly nowadays.
Now, whenever you're transferring directly between your Android and PC, you do have to be mindful not to mess with anything besides the photos you're after. I once deleted half my system one very late night while trying to get old pictures and files off a nearly-full Moto X. True story. Your photos are going to (usually) be in either a DCIM — Data Center Infrastructure Management — folder or in Pictures, but each Android may stick it in its own special place. Rather than digging around in Explorer once the phone is already plugged into the computer, instead find out where your photos are exactly using a file manager app on your device. You can browse the folders more easily, you'll be able to see more, and you can flip back and forth between the file manager and gallery figuring out how many items in a folder you're looking for.
So, which method do you prefer for getting photos off your Android device? Are you all-in with automatic backups, or do you prefer to share it to your cloud storage account yourself to avoid any charges or unwanted photos going into the cloud? Do your photos follow you from device to device via microSD card, or do you go really old-school and break out the USB cord and the drivers? Share your favorite method in the comments, and stay tuned for more photography fun!