So, you have hundreds of photos from that once in a lifetime trip, now what do you do with them? With more than 90% of today’s photographs taking digitally, what to do with them becomes a big question. In the days of film, it was simple – develop the film, print the images, stick them in an album or collectable box. Today, however, we take hundreds, if not thousands of photos on vacation and just download them to the computer. I hate to tell you this, but you better not stop there!
Digital photos are more vulnerable than film photos to being lost forever. Sure, film photos have to be protected, too, and negatives can be easy to lose, photos yellow over time, they could be destroyed in a fire or lost when moving from place to place, but for the most part, we can file them, store them in albums, lock them up and keep them safe. If you are a digital photographer, though, a simple hard drive failure can wipe out everything! All of your precious photos of the kids, grandkids, that incredible vacation, and more often than not, nothing can be done to retrieve them. Your photos are priceless to you, so you need to back them up, and if you’re like me, you’ll want to back them up more than once!
Currently, I have two kinds of backups for all my photos. Both have backup software running so I don’t have to remember to back up the photos. Basically, I backup the backup. And my software alerts me if any of the backups don’t work. There are numerous backup options, so let’s take a look at a few here.
Online Backup Services
There are several online backup services available for consumers. Some are very inexpensive, while others get pretty pricy. As always, research them and pick what is best for you. Here are just a few:
Many of these can offer data backup services that run automatically and in the background, so they don’t interfere with you while you work – however you may experience a slowdown in your processing while they are running. Basically, every time you add a new file to your hard drive, that file gets uploaded to the server where it remains until you need it. The biggest advantages to using an online service like these, is that your files are stored off-site, so if there’s a fire, flood or a burglary your images will be safe and sound in the cloud.
As I said, these services can get expensive, especially depending the on the volume you plan to store and most have a limit on the number of gigs you can place online. This can be a problem if you take thousands of photos. You’ll basically be forced to select the “best of the best” to store online. That means you’ll have to spend as much time sorting through your photos and choosing the images want to save, and this can take just as long as manually backing everything up! So if you have lots of photos, make sure you find a reputable unlimited service.
External hard drives
There are many products on the market that you can use to back up your files at home, and just like those online services they can be set up to run automatically and in the background. Western Digital has a broad range of external hard drives on the market (most of them with a high storage capacity of 1TB or greater) that are inexpensive (between $99 and $250 US) and easy to use. They come with backup software preinstalled, so all you need to do is plug them in, select the directories you want automatically backed up, and then let them do the work.
Another, slightly more expensive version is ioSafe. Their solution is fire and waterproof and performs the same functions as the Western Digital products. There are some drawbacks to these products too, though. Like all hardware, external hard drives are subject to failure and data loss, and sometimes they develop software glitches, or user-error plays a part in suspending backups. Check your backups weekly to insure that they are actually backing up. External hard drives should be replaced every couple of years. Don’t think just having them sitting there will cover your needs.
Currently, I back up all images to two external drives. I replace them every two years to avoid issues.
It takes some extra time, but manual backups to DVDs are a great idea. DVD’s generally last around 10 years (so every 9 years or so, go through and recopy the ones you want to keep). This tactic does actually have several advantages over the other two types of backups. First, you can file your DVDs away in a binder, safe or some other offsite storage.
To make manual backups work, you need to make sure you have a plan. The best plan would be to copy your photos when you put them on your computer. Label the DVD and store it. If that is too much trouble, then at least once a week burn off your latest photos. Make sure whatever you do, you have a plan that you stick to. Don’t get off of that plan.
Don’t put it off
Whichever way you decide to go, do it today! Think about how much you would lose right now if your hard drive failed, all the photos of the kids, the graduation, the grandkids, Christmas photos. It’s not a matter of IF your drive fails, it is a matter of WHEN.
So don’t delay. Setup a backup plan TODAY.
It might be a little bit painful to set up an automatic back-up system or pay for the hardware, and it’s certainly at least a pain to have to manually burn all your photos to DVD. But there is far greater pain waiting for you should anything ever happen to your photos. Ask yourself how much you would be willing to spend in time and cash to get those photos back once they’re gone. You will probably only spend a fraction of that to protect them in the first place.
I am privileged to be an award winning photographer that has been photographing the great outdoors for more than 30 years. I travel often for work, and pleasure, so I hope to share a few things I've learned along the way!
"A portrait is more than a photograph, it is a reflection of your soul, a stolen moment in time that only happens once and that is why your portrait is so important, you will never be in that moment again." Jeff Driver
“I've never taken a photograph of someone and created a persona, I've just discovered what was already there.” Anthony Farrimond
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