A Photo Backup Guide: 4 Ways to Safeguard Your Images

Getting started as a photographer is as much spending time behind the lens taking photos as it is time behind your computer uploading, organizing and processing images. After shooting an eight-hour wedding, I am left with thousands of images that also need a photo backup guide.

Figuring out the best way to manage so many images is often something that is overlooked until a problem arises. A wedding cannot be recreated, and losing photos from a once in a lifetime event would be devastating—not only for myself, but everyone in attendance. As your photography archive grows, so does the need to stay organized and protect your data.

There are a variety of options to consider when choosing a photo backup guide. For every photo stored on your primary drive, you should keep at least two additional copies on some type of backup. It is recommended that these backups be stored in two different locations in order to protect against all hazards. Below are some backup options to consider:

External hard drives

With a variety of storage capacities, it is relatively easy to find a drive suitable for your needs. The largest drives have up to 6TB of storage space, however, a drive of this capacity requires a wall power adapter, making it less convenient to take with you. Smaller hard drives are more portable without the need for a power adapter, but lack the storage capacity. I often travel with my files so I have a multiple small portable external hard drives that I work off of, and a larger hard drive at home with a copy of everything. The problem with external hard drives is that no drive will last forever, so it is important to look into alternative storage options.

Find more ways to organize and backup your data by RSVPing for Michael Clark’s upcoming class, The Professional Photographer’s Digital Workflow.

Online storage

Online storage is great for the everyday photographer, and there are a variety of online storage providers with a multitude of options. From unlimited storage space to RAW image upload availability, encryption options and automatic backup services that will run in the background, you can definitely feel safe storing your images online. The only reason this might not be the best backup approach is if your Internet connection is unreliable—this will only lead to frustration when trying to batch upload.

Photo-sharing sites

Sites like SmugMug are one of my favorite ways to house a full-size copy of my final processed images. It is convenient to be able to access and download my images anytime without the need to carry around a hard drive. I am also able to grant my clients download privileges, and should they lose their wedding photos, a copy can be downloaded for free.

SD cards

Another option is SD cards, such as the Eye-Fi SD Card which uses built-in Wi-Fi to connect your camera to your smartphone, tablet, PC or Mac. Take a photo and it automatically uploads to your device. It even has an option for photographers wishing to transfer RAW files. This is great for the photographer on the go!

In order to stay organized, and ensure the safety of your work, it is important to develop a workflow process with a fail-proof file management system. Your own backup process can be designed to be manually or automatically driven. Backup software can be used to automatically copy new images from your primary drive over to a backup drive, and then an online backup service can be used to automatically create a digital copy of your hard drive. As long as you are consistent with your uploading, you will not have to think twice about the backup process—it will all run in the background. You also have the option to manually copy the images to your external hard drive or online storage site. However, if you choose to take a more manual approach, it is important to consistently update your data to reflect the most recent uploads!

Establishing a backup plan is imperative. Do not wait until it is too late to develop a process that works for you! The thought of losing a client’s wedding or my own personal archive of images is a gut-wrenching thought. It might be a nuisance to initially set up, but it will be worth it. Protect your data so that you can rest easy knowing all of your images are safe.

Find more ways to organize and backup your data by RSVPing for Michael Clark’s upcoming class, The Professional Photographer’s Digital Workflow.


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Lindsey Leigh Graham is the owner of Flyway Photography, based in Folly Beach, South Carolina.