Image Backup for Photographers

Now let me start off by saying that I by no means am an expert on the topic of data backup and the purpose of this post is not to give you a fail-proof method of backing up your images.  Instead, I'd like to emphasize the point that you can NEVER have enough backups of your images and data.  Backup drives, memory cards, thumb drives, they all fail at some point, it is just a matter of WHEN they are going to fail.  Backing up your images in multiple locations and methods will greatly reduce your chances of image and data loss.  This post explains our backup process from start to finish.

The Backup Process


Dual Card Slot

I have two Canon 5D Mark III's, and the absolute best feature of this camera is the dual card slot.  The dual slot feature, allows photographers to record images on two separate cards simultaneously while at an event.  I shoot on a 32GB Sandisk Extreme Pro Compact Flash as my main card, and I duplicate the images on a 64 GB Sandisk SD Card in my second card slot.  Both are recorded in RAW, so that if (::knock on wood::) I ever have a card failure, I have RAW duplicates on the other card.  I choose to shoot on large cards as opposed to a bunch of smaller cards.  I know there are good arguments for both methods, but the reason I choose the larger card is simple... the less times I need to change out a card, the less chances we have of physically losing or damaging a card (for example someone bumping into you as you a changing a card and it suddenly drops into a puddle... hey, it could happen).


Before an Event

Before I leave for an event, I "log-out" every memory card that I will be taking with me.  All of my cards are numbered and have my business name and phone number on them.


During an Event

During the event, I have a secure pouch inside my carry-on bag that I place used cards in.  This bag with the pouch inside NEVER leaves my body.


After an Event

When I return home from an event, I immediately "log-in" all the memory cards I have returned with.  That way, I know immediately if there are any missing cards. 


Downloading and Backup

Backup #1 & #2: I am the ONLY person who downloads memory cards from an event.  I download each card carefully, recording the number of images on each card and checking each file to make sure that it has downloaded correctly and fully.  After I have downloaded all of the cards, I add up all of the image counts for each card and compare it to the amount of images in the folder I created on my desktop.  I then open the entire collection in Photo Mechanic to make sure the images are loading without any errors.  This backup on my desktop is backed up instantly online via Backblaze.  For those of you who are not familiar with Backblaze it is an inexpensive and reliable online backup for your entire computer.

Backup #3, #4, & #5: Once I have one copy of fully downloaded, error-free images on my desktop, I then copy them to my Synology RAID drive.  My RAID drive makes (2) individual backups of the files and also uploads a third copy to Google Drive, which is an off-site online backup.  My Synology RAID drive is also plugged in to a battery backup unit (UPS), so that in the event that there is power loss or a power surge, my data will be kept safe.

Backup #6: I then place an extra copy (just because) on a Western Digital drive for good measure

Want to know why cloud backup is so important?  You could backup your data 8,000 times on an array of different RAID servers in your home or business location, but what if you have a fire?  What if someone breaks into your home or business and steals all of your equipment?  What if lighting strikes your house?  What if you have a leak in your roof/ceiling that leaks onto all of your backups drives?  Cloud backup, puts all of your data in another off-site location so that in the event that something unfortunate happens to your on-site drives, you still have a copy somewhere!  As mentioned earlier, we use both Google Drive & Backblaze as cloud storage both for speed and reliability. 

Backup #7: Remember those little SD cards that I used in camera to duplicate my files while at an event?  Those are placed immediately in a fire and water-proof safe.  These cards are not removed until all files and are backed up, culled, edited and delivered to the client.

So you may be thinking to yourself, "Wow, this sounds like over-kill"... well, I don't think it is.   My philosophy has always been that you can NEVER have too many backups of your data.  Make a system for yourself that greatly reduces any chance of image-loss and STICK to your system.  Image loss inevitably occurs when you deviate from the system.

Image Backup for Our Clients

If you have been reading the above, the same principles apply for the backing up of your wedding or personal photos.  You should always have a backup of your photos & data on your computer, a hard-drive and an off-site location or cloud at minimum.  Backblaze, Dropbox, and Google Drive are all great options for personal cloud backup.