Let s play the backup game…

 JPEGs Lightroom

I remember it well. Back in 2009 I was working, late into the night, on a set of wedding pictures for one of my earlier clients. It must have been near midnight and I was very nearly at the end of the edit process (regular readers of this column will know that in those days my workflow was painfully slow) and I had been editing a wedding for the best part of a week. There was a fizz of the lights, a slight groan from the computer and then I was enveloped in total darkness. a power cut,”I optimistically told myself.

Sadly that wasnthe case. It transcribed that the hard drive inside my computer had simply burnt out and taken the whole of the computer with it. Luckily, very luckily, I had yet to recycle the CF cards and had the original images. I had to redo the whole of the edit, including the culling process, it was a sobering lesson.

So, off the back of that Igoing to outline my backup and cloud storage procedure here. Itmy own method, that works for me, but of course if you have better suggestions then please do let me know as Ifairly sure the perfect backup and peace of mind procedure has yet to be developed. Itworth bearing in mind that I am a PC user, and whilst the principles should still apply, on a MAC some of this may be mitigated with the Time Machine system.


My data redundancy and backup process starts in-camera during the shoot itself. The DSLRs I use all have dual card slots (CF and SD) and I choose to shoot full sized Raw files to the Compact Flash cards and medium sized Raw files to the SD Cards. The SD cards are large (32GB) so I never need to change them during the shoot. The SD cards are purely there as emergency backup.

On the way home from the wedding I drop by the studio and Leave the SD cards there. When I get home I burn copies of all the CF cards to my laptop. So, by the end of the night I have three redundant copies of all the images. Two sets of cards and the laptop. The cards are in two physically different locations too, should the worst scenario occur at any one of those places.

When I get back to the studio I put copies of the CF cards in two locations. One on the local hard drive and one on a Western Digital 3TB external hard drive. I use Photo Mechanic as the ingestion tool and it copies the files to the relevant locations. The WD 3TB drive comes home with me each day and acts as my off-site Raw file storage.


 peace mind

Once the edit is completed, I am left with the Raw files, finalised JPEG images and the Lightroom catalogue. All of this is compressed into one large .RAR (similar to ZIP) file. This file is stored locally in the studio in two separate hard drives. I also create a second RAR file, which is the same as the first one, but without the Raw files (i.e., just the JPEGs and the Lightroom files).

This second RAR file is then placed in my Dropbox folder. Dropbox is a wonderful system which allows a synchronisation of local files to your place in the cloud. I pay for the 50GB version, which is around ?6 per month. This gives me complete peace of mind as I know that I have complete redundancy of all the important data from the wedding:

The original Raw files on my WD drive which gets taken home each day (these drives, when full, are simply replaced and locked away at home).

The Raw files and all the JPEGs and Lightroom Catalogues in two separate external drives in the studio (one of which is in a locked cupboard).

The JPEGs and Lightroom files are safely the cloud”via Dropbox too.


I also use Dropbox to backup all my non-photographic work. For example, this document is being written on my local drive. The moment I save it, it is synchronised with Dropbox, meaning I have access to the document (and anything else in my Dropbox folders) from anywhere with internet access. It also keeps old versions of files in case you need to backtrack or find a deleted item. It really is a great system for me and Iyet to find an equivalent that is so flexible, and relatively cheap too.

 cards laptop

My extra level of peace of mind comes when I upload the JPEGs for the client to their gallery.

I use Zenfolio and have the premium package. This allows you to store unlimited files in their system so I tend to put all my JPEGs into the gallery at around 4000px on the widest edge. This is a further backup mechanism, though in reality itjust a benefit of the gallery tool of choice that I use for my clients.

I will mention also what I do on the few occasions Ishot weddings overseas, or, on occasions when I have shot a wedding and gone on holiday straight from the wedding. In these situations I take an external drive with me.

I copy the files to the drive and physically post the drive back to my home. In a separate package I send the SD cards to the studio (not to home, where the Raw files have been sent). I also make JPEGs of all the images quickly using Lightroom and put a copy of those in the cloud via Dropbox. The CF cards, typically, will travel with me from then on.


Always keep a clean copy of original files off site

Redundancy is key, and preferably in multiple locations

Backups and apathy don t go well together

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