How to back up your photographs in Evernote

A couple of weeks ago I described my photography backup plan and explained why I use Evernote to back up my best photographs.


Turns out the article was more popular than I expected and a few people have asked me to expand on exactly how I store photographs in Evernote. I can understand the question. There are a few ways to do it and each behaves a bit differently, so I'll expand on the details today.

If you haven't read the previous article, I suggest you go read it for context first. I explain why I back up photographs in Evernote as one part of my overall photography backups. The gist of it is that it is not my only back up. It's not even my main back up. I use Evernote as an extra safety net for only full resolution JPEGs of my best photographs.

OK, now that you've read the why of it, here's the how.

Export high resolution JPEGs

I use Apple's Aperture, but no matter what application you use, just export full res JPEGs to a folder on your computer.

In Aperture, it's as simple as following these steps:

  1. In the Project, create a Smart Album that filters photographs to 4 Stars and above. I call the album "Backup EN".
  2. In the new album, select all photographs.
  3. Go to File > Export > Versions (or cmd-shift-E). It's important to choose Versions and not Originals. Versions will export the photographs with any adjustments and metadata you've added baked in. Originals will export the original file which doesn't include any changes you've made in Aperture. Remember Aperture is non-destructive, so your originals are always intact.
  4. In the Export window, choose "JPEG - Original Size". This will export with the default image quality of 10. You could increase it to 12, but I find 10 is good enough. You can also export as TIFF if you want. It'll give you better quality with larger file sizes. But since these are final images and won't be manipulated anymore, JPEG is good.

Of course, the originals stay in Aperture and are backed up separately (see previous article).

Store the JPEGs in Evernote

There are several ways of getting your photographs into Evernote and this is where it can get confusing. The three methods described below give you a different result, but they all get your images into Evernote, which is what you want. All examples are using a Mac, since that's what I use. I don't know if it's the same on a PC.

Option 1: Drag or add the Folder into Evernote

If you select the folder you just exported your photographs into and add it to Evernote by either dragging it or using the Add to Evernote service, you'll end up with a new note with a compressed zip file inside that includes all the photos.


The problem with this is that you can't preview the photographs in the note without unzipping the file. Quick Look doesn't show you the contents either. Also, the note will be created in the default notebook.

Option 2: Drag or add the photographs into Evernote

If instead of importing the folder you select the photographs themselves and then drag or add to Evernote, you'll get a new note for each photograph with the filename as the title.


With this method you can see the photographs, but I think it's a bit messy and it'll be a pain to find them all later unless you tag or re-title them. You can always merge them into a single note once in Evernote, but it's an extra step. And the notes will all be in the default notebook as well.

Option 3: Create a new Note, then attach the photographs

If you create a new note in Evernote first, you can create it in the appropriate notebook and stack, and give it the title you want. In my case I use the exact same as the Project name in Aperture. Then either drag the images in or click the Attach button and attach them that way.


This will create a note with all the images in it. You can now see them all and they're all tidy in the same place. One note per project. I use this method.


The method you choose will depend on how you use Evernote and what a "note" means to you. There's no right answer.

Personally, I like to map a note in Evernote to a project in Aperture and I want to be able to browse through my Evernote library and see the photographs in each note. You could probably save some space by compressing the photographs, but I don't think it's worth it.

If you want to learn or get better at Evernote, I suggest you get Brett Kelly's ebook, Evernote Essentials. It will save you a ton of time and give you great ideas to get the most out of Evernote. I believe it's a good investment. You can find my review of the ebook here.

Why I back up my best photographs in Evernote

You can never have too many backups of your most important or precious files. In my case, my best photographs are both important and precious, so I back them up multiple times. One of them is in Evernote.

Every time I mention this, people look at me like I'm insane. You're probably thinking that right now!

Let me explain my overall photography backup programme first so I can put the backing up photographs in Evernote idea into context.

Evernote Photography Backup Notebook

Evernote Photography Backup Notebook

I organise and keep all my photographs in Aperture as managed files. This means each Aperture Library is a single special type of folder called a package that behaves like a self-contained entity. It includes everything in one place. I like the managed approach because I never have to worry about where my original photographs are.

I have 2 Aperture libraries: a Main library in an external Thunderbolt drive that has everything, and a Mobile library in my retina MacBook Pro's internal drive that has only a copy of the projects I'm actively working on. I merge the mobile one back to the main one regularly.

In the external Thunderbolt drive I keep my main Aperture library and my main Final Cut Pro library. Nothing else.

This is my overall backup strategy:

  1. Time Machine: One at home via Wi-Fi and one at work via USB. They back up both my rMBP and external Thunderbolt drive, which includes all my photographs.
  2. Backblaze: Continuously backing up both rMBP and Thunderbolt drive to the cloud.
  3. Clone: About once a week I clone my rMBP using Carbon Copy Cloner. This only backs up my Mobile library.
  4. Aperture Vaults: This is my primary photo backup. An additional external USB drive holds Vaults for both Main and Mobile libraries. Vaults are one of the great things about managed files in Aperture.

My photographs live in at least 5 places: the original drives, two Time Machine drives, the Backblaze cloud, and the external drive with the Aperture Vaults. I think I'm covered.

So where does Evernote fit in?

Aperture is non-destructive. Many photographs don't exist in their final form since Aperture doesn't touch the original files. Any adjustments you make in Aperture are just instructions that Aperture interprets. This is good because it preserves your originals intact, you can further adjust the photos later, and you don't fill up your drive with duplicate files.

However, I still like to keep an extra copy of my very best images in a final "rendered" format. Full size JPEGs are good quality even for print and will be readable for a long time by pretty much any computer.

I used to export these to MobileMe Galleries back in the day. Now I store them in Evernote.

Once I'm done with a project in Aperture, I filter out the 4 and 5 star images and export JPEGs in their original resolution. In Evernote, I create a new note for each project with the same title as in Aperture and I add all the JPEGs to it. All these photo backup notes are then stored in a dedicated stack called "Photography Backups (JPEGs)".

UPDATE: Several readers asked me to expand on how I put the photos into Evernote, so I wrote a follow up explaining it.

Backing up my best photographs in Evernote is really just in case the worst happens. I don't think I'll ever need them, but it helps me sleep better at night.

If you want to learn or get better at Evernote, I suggest you get Brett Kelly's ebook, Evernote Essentials. It will save you a ton of time and give you great ideas to get the most out of Evernote. I believe it's a good investment. You can find my review of the ebook here.

Week 6: Love, pockets, and Evernote

Find what you love and let it kill you

This week I read an article by pianist James Rhodes in the Guardian titled "Find what you love and let it kill you". It's beautiful and there's really nothing I could quote here without taking away from the piece. Please go read it now. It's worth it.

I've become a fan of Rhodes and just purchased one of his albums in iTunes. Amazing music and he's the type of artist I love supporting.

Via: Steven Pressfield.

Jerry Seinfeld on creating a show today

Jerry Seinfield:

Why would I put a show on a big heavy rectangle in your house when I could put it in your pocket.

This guy is brilliant.

Evernote adds descriptive search

From their announcement:

Imagine walking up to a bookshelf in your home. If you know where your desired book is, you see it and grab it. If you don’t know where the book sits, then you’ll try to recall the color of its spine, neighboring books, chronological placement, or any number of other attributes of the book until you find what you need.

Evernote’s search has always been great at providing the first part. If you know what you’re looking for, type in some keywords and the notes appear. Today, as part of our drive to create great experiences for users with a lot of notes, we’re introducing a new approach called Descriptive Search, which will let you find those notes, even if your memory of them is fuzzy and contextual.

This is great news and it works well if you use tags extensively. Unfortunately, it's not smart enough to look in the titles of notes. For example, I have a notebook in Evernote titled "Blog Post Ideas" where I create a note for each idea for an article I may want to write at some point. To keep them organised, I start the title with a related keyword. For example, articles about Aperture start with "APERTURE: Bla, bla, bla". I know I should use tags for this, but it's easier and faster for me to just start the title with a keyword.

Today I tried to search for "blog post ideas about aperture" and I didn't get what I expected. The search was for notes in "Blog Post Ideas" but that were tagged with "aperture". Since none of those are tagged it didn't give me any meaningful results.

I guess I should start using tags a lot more. There's a whole chapter on tags in Evernote Essentials that I just might read again over the weekend.

Week 3: Writer's Block, Evernote and The Passage of Time

Jerry Seinfeld on writer's block

Jerry Seinfeld did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) chat on Reddit last week. The whole thing is interesting and he was very candid with his replies. But what I really loved is his answer when someone asked him how he deals with writers block. He said:

Writer's block is a phoney, made up, BS excuse for not doing your work.

Gotta admire the guy. Perfect response.

The Overwhelming Evernote

Tim Stiffler-Dean wrote an article on Medium called The Overwhelming Evernote in which he explains how to avoid getting overwhelmed when you first start using Evernote. He includes a few good tips on how to use the service.

I'm a big fan of Evernote, but that wasn't always the case. I tried it many years ago and it didn't stick. Back then, I threw everything at it under the idea that it was an "everything bucket" and very quickly it became an unmanageable mess, so I just gave up. It wasn't until I read Evernote Essentials that it all made sense. Tim's article is a good introduction.

London in 1927 & 2013

This is just awesome. Producer/director Simon Smith describes it thus:

During the 1920s, cinematographer Claude Friese-Greene travelled across the UK with his new colour film camera. His trip ended in London, with some of his most stunning images, and these were recently revived and restored by the BFI, and shared across social media and video websites.

Since February I have attempted to capture every one of his shots, standing in his footsteps, and using modern equivalents of his camera and lenses. This has been a personal study, that has revealed how little London has changed.

Evernote Essentials PDF

I'm a big fan of Evernote. These days, I use it for almost everything and it has become a big part of my workflow, but that wasn't always the case.

When Evernote first came out, I wasn't sure how to make use of it, or even why. Then I read Brett Kelly's Evernote Essentials PDF.

Evernote Essentials

Evernote Essentials

About Evernote

Evernote is, as Brett himself describes it in the ebook, "a ubiquitous digital notebook which syncs to the web and across all of your devices that can capture, store, and index just about any type of data you can throw at it."

You can pretty much store anything and everything in Evernote. Text notes, images, web clippings, audio, video, pdf files, lists, iWork files, and more can be organised in Evernote.

How I use Evernote

Here are a few examples of what I use it for:

  • Productivity - Store reference material for tasks I need to do.
  • Writing - Keep a list of ideas for articles to write, and the related research.
  • Learning - Take notes, and store reference material, for courses I take. For example, I have a notebook for SCUBA diving and one for Platform University, amongst many others.
  • Reference - Store instructions, how-to's, and assorted tips for things that interest me. Or save web clipping with my own notes (Evernote is awesome for this).
  • Lists - For example, a wines I like, movies to watch, books to read, places to visit.
  • Shopping - Keep info on different products to compare later. For example, I have a notebook right now for a SCUBA dive watch.
  • Keep all my travel documents handy: hotel confirmation emails, tickets, research, lists of places to visit, maps, and more.
  • An extra back up JPEGs of my 5 star photographs.
  • Save my daughter's drawings (a great tip in the Evernote Essentials PDF).

I use it for more than that, but you get the idea. The more you throw at it, the better it gets. Searching for stuff in Evernote is easy and powerful. And all your stuff is available from any device: desktop, smartphone, tablet, and even the web.

The problem with Evernote is that it's so powerful that it's often overwhelming.

Many people don't know where to start. I was one of them. This is where Brett Kelly's ebook can help.

About the author

Brett is arguably the perfect person to write a book on how to use Evernote. Not only has he been using it for over five years, but he clearly knows it pretty well.

In fact, he was hired by Evernote themselves after he wrote the book. That has to be the best endorsement possible.

Evernote Essentials PDF

Evernote Essentials is the definitive guide for Evernote users. It explains everything from how to set up an Evernote account all the way to how to become a power user.

In the ebook, you'll learn how to organise your database (or Evernote Library as I like to think about it). You'll learn how to put stuff in and take it out. How to take advantage of tagging. How to search effectively. Tips on sharing, using reminders, adding metadata, and more.

Brett includes several use cases that show you specific examples of how to use Evernote:

  • Evernote for Travel Junkies.
  • Evernote for Parents.
  • Going Paperless with Evernote
  • Archiving Your Social Media Offerings with Evernote
  • Evernote as Your Personal History Book

In the latest version, Brett also added a few new sections:

  • How he uses Evernote.
  • How to set up a new account.
  • Evernote and Security.

Believe me, the Evernote Essentials pdf is a good investment.

Some people complain about the price, but seriously, it'll save you so much time that you'll be thankful you read it. The ebook is 160 pages packed with valuable content. Plus, when there's an update you get the new version for free.


Evernote Essentials is available as a PDF (the original version), an ePub (for iPad/iPhone), and a .MOBI (for Kindle). You get all version when you purchase it. It's also available directly from the iBookstore.

Whilst the content is the same for all versions, I strongly recommend reading the Evernote Essentials PDF.

The design and formatting are really nice and it's lost in the ePub and .MOBI versions. Plus, you can read it on your iPad and make annotations directly on it as you read it.

This is the best and quickest way to become proficient in Evernote.

I highly recommend the Evernote Essentials PDF. If you don’t agree, Brett offers a 100% money-back guarantee, so there's nothing to loose.

OmniFocus and Evernote working together

Sometimes life gets so hectic that you're forced to ignore your carefully defined productivity system and just go with your gut.

OmniFocus and Evernote Together

This happened to me last month. Instead of my usual morning routine (coffee > OmniFocus > Evernote > work), I had to drop my planned tasks to go put out some unexpected fires for several weeks. I missed 3 weekly reviews and didn't open OmniFocus once during that time. I knew what had to be done, so I just did it.

The fires were eventually sorted out and everything was back to normal. Or so I thought. I opened up OmniFocus to find over 50 overdue actions, a handful of unfinished projects, and an Inbox full of unprocessed stuff.

That, my friends, is seriously overwhelming.

Fortunately, I keep most of my commitments organised using a combination of OmniFocus and Evernote, so getting back on track required nothing more than a clear head, several espressos, and a few hours going through those two applications.

Here's how I use OmniFocus and Evernote together as the core of my productivity system.

OmniFocus manages Projects and Actions

At it's core, OmniFocus is where I keep track of my tasks. It gives me a quick way to decide what I need to do at any given time. But I don't just dump every task in, I could use Apple's Reminders for that. No, I'm a bit more methodical.

At the root level, I have a folder for each area of focus. These are the high level themes that are most important to me and I've chosen to actively keep an eye on.

OmniFocus Library

Inside each folder are the relevant Projects, which in turn hold Actions. That way, I can quickly zero in on anything I need to focus on at any given time.

For example, when I'm working on a strategy document for a specific client, I can quickly find all relevant tasks by opening the Career/Work folder and clicking on the relevant project. Or if I'm planning an upcoming SCUBA diving trip, I just need to go to my Recreation folder and there it is.

As a side note, once I find the project I'm working on, I just hit cmd-ctrl-F (or hit the Focus button in the Toolbar) and everything else disappears. That's one of the beauties of OmniFocus. It's great at letting you, well, focus.

So that's what goes into OmniFocus. But what's arguably more important is what I keep out of it.

Evernote manages Reference Material and relevant Notes

If it's not an actionable task, it doesn't make it into OmniFocus. Ever. If it's not something I need to do, but I want to keep for some reason, it goes into Evernote. Conversely, if it is an action, I won't put it in Evernote.

In order to maintain consistency across both applications, I have a notebook (or stack) in Evernote for each Area of Focus, mirroring the structure in OmniFocus.

Evernote Library

Essentially, Evernote is where I keep all reference material and project related notes.

Using OmniFocus and Evernote together

Smarter people than me have figured out ways to automate certain aspects of using OmniFocus and Evernote together, but I like to keep it simple. I don't use any additional software or scripts to connect them or any fancy stuff.

For me, it all starts in OmniFocus. If an action needs to refer to anything that's in a note in Evernote, all I do is paste a link to it in the notes field of the OmniFocus task.

OmniFocus task with link to Evernote note

This way, when I'm looking at the task in OmniFocus, all I have to do is click on the link and Evernote fires up and opens the specific note.

OmniFocus and Evernote Copy Note Link

To get the link, just select the note, option-click (or right-click) and choose Copy Note Link, then paste it into the notes field in the OmniFocus task.

Examples of using this OmniFocus/Evernote system

I have a notebook in Evernote for this site. It contains all sorts of notes that relate to in one way or another. One note is a list of article topics that I want to write. Every time I have an idea for a post, I add it to the list. In OmniFocus I have a recurring task that just says "write article for ditw" with a reference link to this note.

When the task becomes available, I click on the link and go through the list in Evernote, pick one, and write the article. When I finish, I remove it from the list in Evernote and mark the task as complete in OmniFocus.

Once upon a time, I used to create a new action in OmniFocus every time I had an idea for an article. At one point I had hundreds of these action "tasks" that were only ideas for posts. Nothing actionable in itself. It quickly got out of hand and became just noise. To the point that I ended up ignoring everything because it was too much.

Another example is SCUBA diving. It's one of my hobbies. I have a Notebook in Evernote dedicated to SCUBA diving that holds notes about places I want to go diving, equipment I'm researching, manuals of dive computers, and pdf's of underwater signs, among other things.

Most of these notes aren't related to any OmniFocus tasks, but some are reference material for when I do have an active SCUBA diving project.

As you can see, these two apps work great together and are arguably the best at what they do. The trick, for me, is to use each for what their best at in a complementary way and not to fall into the trap of mixing uses across both.

By the way, the best and quickest way to learn Evernote in depth is Brett Kelly's Evernote Essentials ebook. I highly recommend it.