Back up your mobile photos automatically with IFTTT

The last time I wrote a post about IFTTT a few people sent along questions about how it might be used to back up photographs you take with a smartphone. I can understand this desire as I haven’t always transfered photos from my phone to my computer as often as I should have. Two years ago, I lost a phone to the Delaware river, and many vacation photos went with it. My now-in-place IFTTT recipes would have prevented the loss of images. Here’s how to set up an automatic backup of your mobile photos. You’ll want to download Evernote, Instagram and IFTTT. (As an additional step, Dropbox is optional.)

First, a quick look at the applications.


This app, above all others, is my external brain. When I’m processing “stuff,” which is anything that isn’t where it ought to be, it generally falls into one of four categories:

  1. An action step
  2. A project
  3. Reference material
  4. Trash

Evernote holds my reference material. This is information that doesn’t require an action but might be useful in the future. Evernote stores information in “notes” that are gathered together in “notebooks.” As of this writing I have 44 notebooks and 263 notes. Some examples are “Books to Read,” “Erin’s Wedding” (my sister), “Gift Ideas” and “Receipts.”

In this case, I’ll create a notebook called “Instagram Backups.” It will hold all of my photos for me.

Evernote is available across nearly every platform, including Apple, Windows, iPhone/iPad and Android. I wouldn’t want to work without it.


The social photo-sharing app is owned by Facebook and on smartphones everywhere (it’s available for the iPhone and Android). It lets you take photos, apply a variety of artistic filters and share easily with family and friends. You can even note where you took a given photo. It’s useful and easy to use.


IFTTT (If This Then That) is the scripting tool I’ve mentioned previously. You can create helpful, automatic little “workflows” without having to know any code or specialized computer programming. It’s my favorite thing to come out of the Internet in a long time.

Putting It Together

The idea here is that IFTTT will notice when you snap a photo with Instagram and place a copy in Evernote for you. This creates a backup and makes that photo available to you across every device that’s running Evernote for you. To get it working, follow these steps.

  1. Log into IFTTT and enable the Instagram and Evernote channels.
  2. Click “Create a Recipe.” The “If this then that” prompt appears.
  3. Click “This” to choose the “trigger.” Navigate to Instagram and click it.
  4. Several options appear. Choose “A new photo by you” and then click “Create Trigger.”
  5. The prompt returns with Instragram in place of the “This.” Now, click “That.”
  6. The “Action Channel” list appears. Click “Evernote.”
  7. Select “Create image note from URL.” This will create a new note in Evernote with your photo attached.
  8. Several options appear. In the field labeled “Notebook,” enter the name of the notebook you created in Evernote. In my case, it’s “Instagram Backups.”
  9. Click “Create Action.”

The screen will look like this:

That’s it! Now, every time you shoot a photo with Instagram, a copy will be sent to Evernote automatically. Nice!

I mentioned that Dropbox was optional. (Dropbox is an online back up service for your computer. There are numerous online back up services available, this is just an example.) If you want to use it as your backup repository instead of Evernote, follow the steps above swapping Evernote for Dropbox (or whatever service you use). Or, make a second recipe with Dropbox to create two backup copies simultaneously. Have fun!

11 Comments for “Back up your mobile photos automatically with IFTTT”

  1. posted by Chris on

    For a simpler solution, you could go into Dropbox settings and enable Camera Upload. They even give you extra storage for free if you do this.

  2. posted by Candid on

    I’m curious: would this work without Instagram? I just use the built in camera and would like to keep doing that.

  3. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Candid — These are all the programs that work with IFTTT

  4. posted by Mike on

    For those on iOS/OSX, this is all done automatically in iCloud/Photostream.

  5. posted by Adam on

    I would recommend just using Dropbox Camera Upload, which is built right into the Dropbox app, or if you have android, you can use Instant Upload, which automatically uploads all the pictures you take with the phone to a private area of Google+.

    I would like it if I could figure out a way to automatically upload screenshots.

  6. posted by chrisbean on

    YES: dropbox campera upload is my lifeline. Just open the app, and it transfers all your photos to yr dropbox account!

  7. posted by Lee Sowden on

    I use dropbox for camera photos, but with an added extra, I get a lot of friends sending me pictures on whatsapp and wanted this to be automagically saved as well, so I used dropspace, that will scan my whatsapp images directory once per hour and upload any new pics to dropbox. You can also use wappwolf automations to monitor your dropbox folders and pass them on to other apps as well. But ifttt is a great tool, use it for things such as images I am tagged in on facebook and grabbing them to dropbox.

  8. posted by Roberta on

    Wonderful. I am using Dropbox – so simple and works on both my devices. Am checking out more suggestions from comments.

  9. posted by Dave on

    So apparently IFTTT is NOT available for Android. Boo.

    I didn’t want to have to use Instagram, though, and Dropbox is blocked here at work (and sometimes I have to get to stuff from here!).

    Evernote would be great, so how can I get this amazing auto-flow for my Droid?

  10. posted by Tracy Blake on

    I have not ever stopped to say THANK YOU for all of the marvelous tips and ideas that I get from Unclutterer. You make it easy to understand, and open up new methods and ideas that are true timesavers. I have told many people about your website.

  11. posted by GadgetBoy on

    You may also want to check out WappWolf (Google it, not sure if I can provide the link here).

    You can set up a macro that when you drop anything into a specific folder within DropBox, it automatically uploads it to Evernote.

    Once it is setup, it doesn’t matter what device you use to drop a file into DropBox; it just works.

    I use it on my laptop also after scanning a large amount of documents onto a memory card (from my printer). After I load the card in my laptop, I can just drag the items into my Evernote folder in DropBox and the scans immediately begin uploading to Evernote. Very simple…

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