I’m a twenty-something wedding photographer in Texas who photographs couples who are ready to celebrate their marriage. Building my business has been one hell of a ride, so grab a cup of coffee (or some wine - no judgement here) and join me for my life behind the lens.
Prior to my wedding photography journey, I worked in software engineering and technical support for years. One thing I learned in those jobs is that it’s not a question of if your hard drive will fail, but rather when it will fail. While new technology has been getting better and more reliable, it is still a machine. Even the most cared for hard drive can fail. Also, we are human and we make mistakes. Every day, I see photographers on Facebook groups desperately searching for recovery software after they accidentally formatted their drive or memory cards. As someone who shoots about 200GB worth of photos per wedding, I needed a solid backup system to protect my client’s most precious memories!
My backup strategy always starts in my camera. My Canon 5D Mark IV has a CF and an SD card slot, and I make sure that I write full RAW images to both cards simultaneously. After a wedding or a shoot is complete, I use the SD cards to upload the files to my Lacie Rugged external hard drive (#2) via my computer. I do not wipe these SD cards until the gallery has been delivered to the client. Yes, that means I have a ton of SD cards (I have about 60 or so!), but I would rather have those cards ready in an emergency situation (Or like that one time where I accidentally made the time stamp the same on 8000 photos… *insert crying emoji*).
After a wedding or a shoot is complete, I use PhotoMechanic to upload the files to my Lacie hard drive aka my “Working” Hardrive (#2 on the Diagram) and my “Backup” Drive (#4). I would like to note, that my images and Lightroom Catalogs actually never live on my computer’s internal drive, they only live on a portable external hard drive (#2) that is plugged into my computer. Not only does this help manage my space on my computer, but it also allows me to switch between my iMac and my MacBook Pro with no issues. I just plug the drive in, and go! When this drive fills up, I just purchase a new one and put this one in a safe place!
This step is specifically if you use a Mac. Any time my Lacie hard drive (#2) is plugged into my iMac, it automatically competes a time machine backup to my Seagate Desktop External Hard Drive (#3). This drive is always plugged into my iMac, and will run a backup every hour, on the hour of my iMac and any drive that is plugged in (except for drive #4 which I chose to exclude for space reasons). The time machine backup is critical. No matter how late it is after a wedding I will make sure step 2 is completed and this backup starts before I go to bed.
So why a “Time Machine” Drive (#3) AND a “Backup” Drive (#4)? I added #4 to my system because step #5 is a painfully slow step. It is much easier when it is syncing from a hard drive that is always plugged into my iMac. For this drive, I manually create a folder for each client. I then copy only the RAW files and LR Catalog to this drive. At this point in the process, I have my RAW files on 3 separate drives plus any unformatted SD cards.
(Update as of 10/01/18: I have recently switched to Backblaze and I have been exceptionally happy with it! Both CrashPlan and Backblaze are excellent options, but I am getting much quicker upload times with Backblaze!)
The final step in my backup process is a cloud back up via BackBlaze. Think of this as my last resort emergency backup in case of a fire or a tornado. BackBlaze is syncing with drive #4 at all times. This process is slow. Once that initial backup is completed, it takes less than a day to get a session uploaded and safe in the cloud!
Don’t wait until you have a data loss emergency before you put a back up system in place. This system isn’t perfect, but it works well for me. I originally wrote this post pre-Hurricane Harvey, but after seeing the deviation that the storm caused, having a solid back up strategy is more important than ever. It is especially important to have an off-site or a cloud based solution for those catastrophic events.
So, how are you protecting your precious files? I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
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