6.3.14

The importance of backing up your pictures

If you’ve ever lost your photos you know how frustrating that feels. And even if you haven’t been in that situation yourself, there are many simple things through which you could easily end up there.
So I want to use this post to remind you to back up your files, and to show you different ways through which you might lose your photos - and stop them from happening to you.

I always thought of myself as being on the ‘safe side’. I back up my photos and documents regularly, and keep more than one copy.
But here’s what’s happened to me not too long ago: I’ve been taking a lot of photos recently, and I use four main SD cards. Once I’ve used up all that space, I have to format them to be able to take more pictures. It’s definitely enough space for a shoot, and sometimes even lasts for two days of shooting.
When I get home I transfer the images onto my laptop, and back them up on an external harddrive. So the next time I’m out shooting I can safely format my memory cards, and keep taking more photos. Sounds safe? I thought so too, and probably started feeling a bit too safe.
Then something happened the other day when I copied the photos over onto my laptop, and I somehow missed some of the images. I didn’t look through the photos again straight away because it was late, and I had to get up early the next morning to take more photos. But I knew I had transferred the images, so of course the next day when I was out taking more photos I formatted my card.
When I got home that night, I went through my photos of the previous day, and realised that some of my images were missing. I checked the SD cards I hadn’t formatted yet, but my photos were gone…
Luckily I still had enough photos from the shoot that I could use, so the situation wasn’t too bad, but it proved to be a great learning experience.

I’m sharing this story with you, because losing your photos can be so simple and happen in so many ways that you might not even think of. And even though I was fine in the end, it still felt really frustrating.

Here are some ways to make sure your photos are safely backed up - I’m sure I’ll be able to add more points over time:

1. Always keep at least two copies of your photos.

2. Store your images in two different physical places if you can (e.g. at your home, and at your parents’ house).

3. Never format your card before you haven’t checked that you’ve saved all of the photos.

4. Always transfer all of your photos from a shoot onto your laptop or a harddrive straight away.

5. Regularly transfer images + format your card. There are two reasons for this: 1. It might just be me, but I like to keep my SD cards ‘clean’, it feels better. 2. You’re less likely to lose some photos because you forget about them being on that card if you keep using it over a long time. (I like to use my memory cards only for one shoot, and then start with an empty card the next time, which gives me all the space possible.)

5. Don’t use up all the space on your SD card. Always leave space for a few more photos. Apparently the first and last images on the card are the most likely to get corrupted if something happens. Plus, it’s good to keep a bit of free space just in case you might want to/have to shoot a few more images, and don’t have the time to change your memory card.

6. Keep track of your photos - make sure you’ve got a system in place to archive your photos. Whatever works for you is fine, but don’t just drop all of your photos into one single folder and keep the original ‘IMG_0123’ name. You won’t be able to find specific photos again - so how are you going to know whether you’ve backed them up already?

Let me know if there’s anything you’d add to this list. I would love to hear - anything to keep our photos safe is welcome. :)


32 comments:

  1. Do you back your images up online too? When I spoke to the Apple people they pointed me in the direction of Flickr, because of the free terabyte... I filled up Dropbox within one holiday (woops)!

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    1. I use Backblaze - they had a good deal when I signed up, but I can't say much about how useful it is right now. Haven't had to restore any of my files yet (luckily) ;) I'm sure there are other great services out there, if you just do a quick Google search.

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  2. Just the other day I put all my photos on my external harddrive again. The last time I did that was in Summer last year, whoops. I do put them all in the same folder and although that works for now, my future self will probably thank me if I find a better way to archive my photos =) Thanks!

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    1. Thank you for sharing, Aimee. I'm glad you've found a way that works for you at the moment - as long as you can manage to back it all up :)

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    2. I just realised that I do put my photos in different folders, I even name the folders. I'm organized and I didn't even know it xD

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    3. Haha, that's funny! ;) Thanks for coming back and letting me know! :)

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  3. Such good advice.

    Let me share a sad story: I had an external hard drive that I backed everything up on to. Then my laptop died. But I still had the back up, so it was fine. I bought a new laptop, lovely. But I never backed up my only copy - the external harddrive. Now that's died completely for no reason (it was just lying in a drawer!), and can't be repaired. So I have lost all of my photos before I got the laptop (2012). That included school and uni photos I'd scanned from physical copies I no longer have, all the photos from when I first moved to London. Etc. Now I have Dropbox, and it automatically backs everything up online.

    Anyway. That's my story. Back everything up, kids.

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    1. Ooooh no, that is so sad, Katie! I feel with you! I'm sure you've learned a lot from that experience. I guess now it's too late anyway, so just try to forget about it, and don't worry anymore. Enjoy your 'new' photos instead. :)
      Thank you for sharing, I think it's so important - everyone can learn from that.

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    2. Hi Katie.

      If you haven't already junked the external drive, don't. I had a 1TB drive 'die' on me some time ago so I put it to one side. Recently I went back to it and found it had come back to life. Sometimes what happens with hard drives is the heads 'stick' in place. You can cure this by giving the drive a firm knock. I don't advise it with a working drive but if it's dead anyway what have you got to lose? I suspect this is what resurrected my old drive as it would have been literally rattling around in the junk box.

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  4. I have a similar process - I download all my photos onto my PC from my camera and I check how many photos I've taken, then compare it to the images downloaded on my PC. Once that's done, I back it up immediately onto my external hard drive, and if it's really important - onto my Laptop and onto the online storage Dropbox. I also like to format my cards regularly and keep a clean slate, I feel like it's good practice!

    I once knew a wedding photographer who must have become complacent in her backing-up procedures because for one wedding she only downloaded the images onto her laptop, and then forgot to back up immediately. She formatted her card for a wedding the next day, and then that external hard drive failed! She went to 5 different places to try and retrieve information for that hard drive but there was nothing they could do, and those poor people had zero wedding photos.

    Great article - I think this process in photography is widely overlooked.

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    1. Oh, another sad story. It really make me feel for the people it happened to - for the wedding photographer, and the couple getting married. So sad! Must be such a shock to hear there are no photos of your wedding.
      Thank you for sharing your process and experience, Jess! I really appreciate it. As I said in my reply above, I do think it is such an important aspect to talk about, it can be one of the most annoying things to lose your photos.

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  5. I agree wholeheartedly that backing up photos (and other files) is vital. I copy the raw files from my card to my Dropbox account and an external hard drive. Each day's shoot is stored in a folder using the date and, where relevant, event as the folder name. For example, any photos taken today would go in a folder labelled 20140307 for a general shoot or 20140307SuttonPark if I decided to take my camera around the local park.

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    1. Hi Mike,
      thanks for sharing your advice above. I hope Katie might be able to get back some of her photos!
      I archive my photos in the same way you do - date of the shoot and name. I know lots of photographers do it that way, just seems to make sense.
      I'm glad you managed to get your hard drive come back to life by the way! :)

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  6. Hi Helena, great article. I recently posted similar article on my blog at http://www.david-bay.com and mentioned the advantages of Google Drive or Dropbox as great automatic solutions for busy people. Of course with SD cards it is critical to remove adn backup more regularly because once they are gone, they are gone for good!

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    1. Thanks for sharing the link, David. Really helpful!
      You're right, Google Drive and Dropbox are great - although I mainly use Google Drive for documents etc.

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  7. I loved taking photos too and thanks for the tips:)

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  8. Hi,, I used to back up after putting photos in the computer on a CD,,, now I do both, with the price of the SD card, I mark the SD card and put a new one in my camera.. There are nice little plastic files for the SD card that holds 10 of them.. I am sure there are other ways to keep the SD cards.. but this is working for me now...
    I lost photos also when my computer failed.. I still see some of them in my mind.. Funny, I see photos in my mind, but not the all the fiber art I have made.

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    1. Hi Vivian,
      thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience. I'm glad you've found a process that works for you! :)

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  9. We are backing up on the cloud with Carbonite. Hope that is enough...
    Sam

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    1. Sounds good - as I said, I'd always back up on an external hard drive as well, though.

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  10. Just a thought to add... It is my understanding that CD's and DVD's have a 'shelf-life' of about 1-2 years. Of course they can and do last longer, but that is how long they are designed to last. There is a new disk designed to last 1,000 years and has been approved for use by the Department of Defense. The info is etched rather than printed. They run about $3 each and require a compatible disk writer (LG and others and are less than $100) More info is at mdisc (dot) com. Likewise, SD Cards, external drives, etc. are fragile. My plan is to use an external hard drive, M Discs, and online. A second external at a family members' home is extra protection.

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    1. Some great thoughts! Thank you for sharing, I really appreciate your advice (and I'm sure other will as well!). :)

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  11. May I ask, what is a Dropbox? I've had the same issue twice already:-(((
    Thank you.

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    1. https://www.dropbox.com/
      It's a service that let's you upload, share, and store files basically.

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  12. Great post and so important for the photographer folks. I keep my photos on the memory cards, I just purchase new ones when my space gets limited. I then transfer them to a memory stick and they are also saved to flickr. So hopefully I won't have any issues of losing them. As far as inventory, I actually write down photo subjects taken for each trip to NYC (my blog is about NYC) by date and then number the memory stick and list each date of photos where they are stored on the memory stick. It works well for me and makes it easy for me to find shots I have taken of prior events.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, Rosemary. Definitely sounds like you've found a way that works for you, and you're on the safe side.
      I couldn't keep buying new SD cards personally, I take so many photos that it would be way too expensive ;)

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  13. This is the photo stress of our modern world! We no logger worry about our photos in photo boxes being lost to a fire but our non-tangable masses of digital files lost to the cyber circuit underworld. :)
    We have just been buying new SD cards lately too for quick and easy back up since a nice external hard drive died. QUESTION- What does it mean to format an SD card?

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    1. Formatting basically means deleting all the files/photos on your SD card for good, to create new space - everything will be gone, and there's no way to restore any images.

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  14. My suggestion is to make sure you share special photos with your family and friends too. Because even back-ups do fail. It happened to me at work...twice (different companies). One sad example...I have a cousin who has NO baby photos of herself. If her parents had shared photos with loved ones, she would have been able to get copies for herself now.

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    1. Definitely a good idea! It's always sad to hear stories like this...

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  15. nice post

    www.interestedtips.blogspot.com

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