Zenfolio | Max Stansell Photography | Photo File Backup Strategy

Photo File Backup Strategy

January 07, 2018  •  13 Comments

Hey everyone! I hope the holidays were safe and full of happy memories.  Its the beginning of the year we've had our first snow of the season and its very cold out side with temps in the single digits in the mornings.  Very cold for Eastern North Carolina. So I have been taking this time to clean up photo files from last year.  Deleting the ones that I will never use and making sure the ones I keep are key worded and making sure things are backed up. Which leads me to this blog's discussion Backing up our files.  In the age of film it was a lot simpler.  You could print your photo and hide away your negatives in a box some where and there you have it.  It was backed up your photo in one place and negative in another.  Now if you had them both stored in the same place and there was a fire you were done! Lost everything.  So if you were real serious about safety you could store your negative's in another place in case of fire.  Seems simple enough but in the age of digital it seems to be a lot more confusing.

First lets talk about mobile backup.  When your  on a vacation trip or workshop that last a couple of days. How to backup files? In film days you didn't you just put your roll of film in a safe spot and hoped for the best.  With digital its good to have multiple copies of your files for safety when the storage device you are using fails, and they will fail. Here is the system that works for me and how I back up my files.  First lets say I'm on a week long workshop somewhere very remote no internet, phone service just beautiful Landscapes every where. My first backup is my SD card.  I have purchased enough of them to last a week.  SD cards are pretty cheap now you can get them where ever you see a sale and before you know it you'll have quite a few.  Before my trip I format all of my cards put them in a card case that I have labeled Day 1, 2, 3 etc... On day one I use day one card at the end of the day I back that card up to a external drive that I take with me then take the card and put it in the case and take card labeled 2 into my camera and am ready to go.  I don't format anything while Im on a trip.  Now I have two copies of my images from day 1. Pretty simple and fairly inexpensive.  When I travel I have my cards in one bag and my external drive in another.  The external drive doesn't need to be real fancy you can get one for 50 bucks give or take.  If you get a SSD external drive it will cost a little more but for speed and durability I would recommend it.  These external drives don't need to be huge they could be 250-500 gig they are only temporary until you get home to back them up again.

At home backup.  I have gone through so many different strategies for backing up files.  I have bought external drives , put files on CD and DVDs, Tried to mirror external drives and really couldn't find a system that has really been easy or efficient until now.  First of all let me say that most people save way too many images.  For example if you took 20 photo's of this spooky tree and you picked one image to process and used that one for making a canvas 5 years ago.  Why are you keeping the other 19 that you didn't like then and haven't used since? DELETE them! Save space and time and effort backing them up.  Now Im not talking about family photo's I keep all photo's of family members that are half way decent. I do.  But workshops, or just riding around cull out the ones that you know your not going to ever use again. What I usually do when I import photos into lightroom after a shoot I go through them and the ones I like I'll give them 1 Star I then will go through those and cull even more etc... At the end of the year I'll go through all my photo's and anything without a star I get rid of.  Im probably not going to use anything after a year anyway. So thats step one. Get rid of excess.

Step two has changed over the years but let me start by saying there are many ways to back up your files and my way is by no means the best for everyone just best for me so far.  The most important thing is to back up your files no mater how you do them make a back up of your art. My first backup plan was like most of your plans I had none! I put everything on my hard drive with no backup incase of drive failure.  Of course as my drive got full my computer slowed down so I had to find a way to get files off of my computer.  So I started making CD's with files on them.  I would take older folders of photo's and put them on CD's and that got them off of my computer but still didn't have a backup.  Then I got my first external drive and I would put one copy of my photo's on computer and one on external drive my first real backup. But I didn't have a backup of what was on the CD's.  So then I got another External drive and Copied all of my files from the CD's to the external drive and copied my external to the other external drive. Now for the first time I actually had a backup of all my files.  But how to keep the backup? Thats the trick it actually takes me to physically make the backups.  Which if your like me "Lazy" its hard to do.  So then I tried to import to both drives but then I had raw files on one drive and processed files on the other.  What to do?  I want a system that will be simple.  I want a backup that is safe away from my active backup (the one that I'm using in Lightroom).  

I'm on a podcast listening craze for the last couple of months and one of the podcast that I've listen to was Alpha Mirrorless with Juan Pons and Andy Williams.  Both are wildlife and Landscape photographers that travel half of the year and I've pretty much copied what Andy Williams does for his backups. You can listen to their backup episode #17 which gets into detail. So I've just started a cloud based backup system through a company called BackBlaze which can automatically back up your computer and any external drives connected to them for 50 bucks a year. There are many more companies that do this but I used this one on the advice of Andy Williams and Juan Pons.  What I like about it is I don't have to think, its simple I don't have to take the time to make the backup.  If something should happen to my system you can retrieve from the cloud or they will ship you a external drive with all your files on them.  They have been in the business for quite a while with a good safety reputation.  The only downside of this is that it takes a while for the initial download of all your files.  Im still in that process but after the initial it should be fairly quick.  Then Ill have a copy at my house and one away from my house incase of a fire theft or computer crash or whatever. And I can access from any computer anywhere to download a file.

Thats pretty much my system when I import to lightroom from my SD card or from my mobile external drive (I keep my photo's on external drive not computers hard drive) it goes to my drive and will be backed backed up by Backblaze on the cloud. I have tried to make my back up plan like my camera situation by making it simpler, smaller and more efficient.  Again this is my system use any system you want but please use a system and keep on shooting!


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