How I Back Up My Photos

As I've just spent the last few hours making sure all my images rom 2014 are fully backed up before deleting them from my hard drive, I thought today would be a good time to talk about how I back up my photos.  (If you don't currently have your photos backed up somewhere I strongly suggest you do so - it's not a question of if your hard drive will fail, but when. Get them backed up!) 

When I import images from my memory card, I save them onto my computer's hard drive. I then go through the images, culling and deleting, and keep a few to edit.  (I don't keep any that I am not going to edit - they get deleted)  I then edit them, usually in Photoshop, so I save a copy of my PSD file, and I make a JPEG copy of the final images.  So for any one "session" I have an original file, usually a PSD file (sometimes I don't bother with this) and a completed JPEG, all saved by date and month.  

Once I have done all my editing and have my JPEG's ready to go, I then back them up. I save a copy of the original, PSD and JPEG files to my EHD. At the end of each month (in theory!) I also take the step of uploading the final JPEG's to SmugMug (a photo storage and sharing site)  

There are a couple of reasons why I use an off-site service too. The first is that whilst I have two copies of my photos by having the hard drive copy and the EHD copy, they are still in the same physical location. That means if there was to be a fire or some other disaster at my home, then all my photos would be lost - forever. Some may say it’s an unlikely scenario, and maybe it is, but I’d rather be safe than sorry when dealing with all my visual memories - they are the one thing that is truly irreplaceable.

The second reason is because my hard drive WILL fail one day (do you know that the life expectancy of a hard drive used daily is just two to three years?!) - just like the one in my computer eventually will, and I’d like to ensure that I get to my images easily and in one place without too much trouble. There is also unlimited storage and file sizes (well, 50MB per file, something I will NEVER exceed!) so I can never run out of space. 

The third reason is because having the images on a photo sharing site (such as SmugMug) allows me to easily share images with family, friends and anyone else that I take pictures for.  I'm uploading them to there anyway as my back up, so I can quickly create separate galleries that I can share privately (they only see the galleries I share with them, not everything that I have up there - you have total control over who sees what) I find that really useful if I take pictures of my friends kids (which I do occasionally) or things like parties, as I can just send them the link and they can download their images and I don't have to try to get a disc to them or anything. 

Urrm. That's it. Oh, no, wait, there's one more: If I ever do decide to go into business (something I waver about monthly) then I can also use SmugMug as my photography site, and sell downloads and prints directly from there.  I won't go into the whole business side of it, but you could run your whole business out of there if you wanted to! 

Not bad for a mere $60 per year for the POWER level service which I have. 

(You might be thinking at this point that you can get Flickr etc for free, but it's pretty useless as a back-up - you can only download your last 200 photos online, and the photos are compressed - this is true of a lot of free sites.  If you want to use Flickr, get Flickr Pro)

There are two downsides to backing up your photos online with SmugMug - one is that is that you have to remember to do it (I always forget and end up backing up three months in one go) rather than it automatically backing up, and also the time it takes to upload them (ditto with the 3 month thing!) but the benefits outweigh the issues for me. 

Anyway, back to the back up "strategy".

Once a year I take my JPEG's and I make a printed book with them, which is, in essence, now a fourth copy - which even to my mind, is a bit excessive. Which is why, once I am sure that my images are on the EHD, have been backed up to SmugMug, and have been printed, I delete them from my hard drive to save space on my computer.

You might be thinking that I only have one copy of my originals and my PSD's - which is true. But the JPEG's are my finished result, and truly all I care about - I'm unlikely to ever want those originals or PSD's again so I won't be devastated if I lose them 

The other other thing to mention is that I also now use Apple's Time Machine to back up the contents of my computer and my system files to an external hard drive daily. I don't really consider this a long term back up solution - but's it's useful for short term back up whilst I get them transferred over to the EHD and SmugMug, and made into books etc. 

That's my back up strategy! I hope it made sense. It's probably not perfect, and I'm sure there are easier ways to get the same result, but I feel like I have all my bases covered, and have a solution that works for me - although I daresay I'll change it again by next year!