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Photography is as much about capturing memories as it is about producing images. As with any memory you want to make sure that you can retain it for as long as possible. Over the years I have developed an ironclad three-point photography backup workflow for my work that makes it very unlikely that I will lose any of my images.
The goal of this strategy is to provide a low friction redundant backup system.
The Best Photography Backup Solution
- It must be low friction. If it is difficult to do, then you won’t do it. Solution: automate as much as possible!
- It must be redundant. Minimum 3 points of failure.
- Your working drive
- A local backup drive
- An off-site copy of your work.
What am I backing up?
I have backup all of my RAW photos and videos were taken since I began seriously shooting around 10 years ago. This may seem like overkill, but when you have an established system like this in place for a number of years it becomes fairly automatic to do and easy to maintain.
Let’s face it, times have changed since the days of developing your own film!
- Cards + Reader
- 1 x External HDD (2tb USB 3.0 drive)
- 1 x External HDD (6tb POWERED USB 3.0 drive)
- Chronosync (mac) or FreeFileSync (PC)
- Backblaze (or alternative online backup software)
The Photography Backup Workflow
Take your photos :). While you are shooting I suggest you treat your cards like film (especially if you are away from home). I have about 5 CF cards that I cycle through.
Shoot the first one until it is full, then move to card 2. Only format the first card (if you HAVE to) once you have shot all the way through to the fifth card.
This will allow enough time for the backup strategy to work properly. At the end of the day, cards are (now) very cheap.
Import these photos onto your nominated working external hdd (using lightroom). Remember DONOT erase your card after import. My lightroom storage principal is simple. Each shoot is imported into a folder DATE-KEYWORDS and the files are named DATE-NAME-CLIENT-KEYWORDS. This way I can easily keep track of all of my files.
This is your primary working drive where you will do all of your edits. Always work from these photos. At this stage you have 2 copies of all your images.
If your hard drive breaks you can still re-copy the photos from your card.
Step three is where the automation kicks in. My computer is a mac so I use a piece of software called Chronosync. Chronosync enables you to automate file transfers on a scheduled basis or with a number of other “triggers”. In this case I set the backup to initiate when both volumes are connected to the computer.
Whenever the two drives are connected “chronosync” will launch. It will then quickly check to see what has changed since the last update then sync all of these changes from my small 2tb hdd to the larger 6tb hdd.
You now have 2 local copies of all of your photos + the one on your card as long as you have had it. Basically before you have to format the card make sure that these two copies are in tact.
Here we take care of the “off-site” back-up of your photos. I use Backblaze as it offers “unlimited” storage. Bear in mind that this is slow.
Backblaze is a fully automated online backup solution. You select the folder you would like to be uploaded, then let it go to work.
I set my 2tb external working drives to back-up to the cloud. So every time it is plugged in the sync will start and it will begin sipping these files up to the cloud servers. Initially I just left my computer on, with my working hdd attached 24/7 and attached to a fast internet connection for around a month.
Remember, syncing a couple of terabytes to the cloud is like trying to fill a swimming pool with a tap and a coffee mug. You will eventually fill it but it takes time. Once full, you have a fantastic, off site backup that you are able to access from anywhere.
Do you have a different strategy of your own? Share it in the comments section below! I would also love to hear if you are keen to impliment this strategy, or what you would like to change.
Furthermore, if you have any questions regarding the details of this process I am happy to help you out. You can send me an email via the contact page. Or you can get in touch with me via any of the social pipes below.
Thanks for reading and remember three copies are two copies, two is one, and one copy of anything is as good as none!
Stay safe 🙂
Ben – Cultured Kiwi
New Zealand travel photographer based in London, UK. He was taking photos from a very young age in the backcountry of New Zealand before moving abroad. Since doing so he has taken workshops and tried to help get as many people into this art as possible. Featured in NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz and many photography publications it’s safe to say he loves his photography!