Do You Take Sufficient Enough Precautions To Store Your Images?

Do You Take Sufficient Enough Precautions To Store Your Images?

As I read another report this week of a photographer losing his life’s work to petty theft, I started to question if I was doing enough to back up my own images. How many copies of your work do you currently keep? Are you doing enough to protect your photos? It’s easy to get complacent, but ask yourself: are you prepared for a thief to strike?

In the particular case I stumbled across, wildlife photographer Lawrie Brailey, from near London, was devastated to discover thieves had stolen his caravan. But it wasn’t the vehicle itself that was of such great concern; rather, the irreplaceable contents that lay within.

An award-winning wildlife photographer, Brailey was working for the Wildlife Aid Foundation at the time of the theft. The caravan was parked overnight on a remote site – owned by the foundation – but had disappeared when Brailey returned the next morning. Along with the vehicle went his portfolio of six years, contained on his Macbook, which was not backed up elsewhere.


The story made me question whether I was doing enough to protect my own work. First instinct when reading a story like this is sheer disbelief that any self-respecting photographer would go such a great length of time without making copies of digital files. His website is still live and intact, which at least means he has a copy of the images he considers his best. But undoubtedly there are unpublished images, unfinished works and original raw files that he required access to that are now inaccessible.


It’s easy to judge, but when I thought about the contents of my own laptop, there are a number of recent shoots whose final, photoshopped images I’ve yet to back up. Admittedly, all of the originals and safely stored on an external hard drive, but it’d still be inconvenient to have to work through editing these images again if anything were to happen to my laptop.


I often receive emails from clients dating back several years ago enquiring as to whether I can re-send an old photo as they’ve lost their own copy. Thankfully, thus far, I’ve always been able to meet their request as I keep a copy of every image I take – both the original and the edited version – on external hard drives. 


How seriously do you address the storage of your images? Do you use physical hard drives, an online service, or both? Whilst I spend the evening backing up my entire back catalogue, let us know what you recommend below…

Jack Alexander's picture

A 28-year-old self-taught photographer, Jack Alexander specialises in intimate portraits with musicians, actors, and models.

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After a photo shoot, I download all the images to my computer. Once I have sorted the bad apples out from the good ones, I immediately back the images up to two external hard-drives. The one hard-drive is placed in a secure safe in my house, and the other drive accompanies me wherever I go. That way, I have my life's work with me should something happen at home. One can never be too comfortable about anything.

After a photoshoot, I keep a copy on my cards until I have transfered all the files on my computer, my external hard drives and my cloud storage. One drive is on my desk and I bring the other one at work. Then I can delete my cards and start fresh.

I replicate all my photographic work on 5 hard disks over 2 locations - including every raw file and every photoshop project. About to add Bluray backups of photoshop files, subsequent TIFF conversions and selected raw files, to be stored in a third location.

Same for me. Raid 0 on 2 locations(Brother in distant country agreed to set up a backup PC there) The cheapest if you manage your own cloud ;)

I generally save them on my computer, a hard drive and tape backup. Since I am also a software dev, I wrote a script to upload all my images to amazon glacier storage which is Amazons' tape drive backup system. Is pennies to store, but you do have to pay to get it back out if it is too much data. Worth it though.

I'd be careful with that, this post scared me off glacier as an option. I just use crashplan and it has the advantage of being able to mail me all my data (3TB+) on a hard drive if need be

I keep backups on multiple hard drives at my home, some stand alone, others on different PCs. I also keep a hard drive at another location with all my files, RAW and processed. Finally, I upload everything to Amazon Cloud. As I shoot a lot of film, I do the same with high quality scans of my negatives as well.

I don't know if I'm doing it right but I'm saving all my files on 2 HDDs and on the cloud. 10To for $5/month can be a great deal for someone like me who's not a pro and dosen't have a lot of money :)

TimeMachine copy every day, disk clone every few weeks, and continuous CrashPlan, which incidentally costs less than I used to spend on bigger backup harddrives every year.

Rule of three applies. 2 internal drives which are mirrored, then copied to a NAS on-site then copied to a NAS offsite through a VPN. Also have an old Ultrium drive for tape back ups every month and a USB 3 dock for internal drives for weekly back ups.

Yes, I'm paranoid about my data especially since I have about 8-9Tb in cold storage and about 5Tb in hot/warm storage.

In the past, together with a second internal HDD, I was using "" as my only backup.
18months later after I uploaded more than a 1.5TB of pictures this cloud service banned me for no apparent reason... resulting of loosing of all of my uploaded raw files + my money and the time invested.
From there I decided to go with the "you are never better served than by yourself" mindset and I bought a 5bay Synology NAS (1513+) that runs into SHR mode (similar to raid 5).
From time to time I also do a back up of my work on 3.5inch HDD that I give to my friends.
On top of this, I recently installed another NAS in my home country on which I also transferred all of my pictures.
When I'm on the road for several months with my MacBook pro then I carry with me two 2.5 HDD. One for time machine backup and one in which I manually backup the pictures. I keep them in two different bag, I hope It would be enough to make the pictures safe.
I also do some printing and photobook to have the pleasure to see them on paper.

Few articles that helped me develop my own data workflow.

Chase Jarvis:

The Slanted Lens:

Generally though.
Use both card slots as mirrored images.
Once the day is done it goes on my computer
Computer has a timemachine external drive
The two cards get removed and replaced with new ones (one goes to the room safe)
Computer does an icloud backup as well
If I need to recycle cards I put the contents on another external drive in the safe

When I travel:
One set of cards in my back-pack
One set of cards in my friends bag
HD with all the files in checked baggage
Computer with me

Once I am back home
The machine does another time-machine backup on the local NAS
HD with all the files goes in different part of the house
icloud back-up for off-site copy

While I rarely keep images on my laptops hard drive, but when I do it's only while working on images away from home. Usually a copy of images gets backed up to my own personal cloud (Drobo 5N) as well as an off site storage. This is done before any edits even begin, so in total I have at any give time, photos on the CF or SD card, laptop, Drobo, and off site. So that is a total of 4 different backups. I will only format cards once I'm successfully well backed up. I have learned this lesson the hard way.

For me, the process is simple. When I'm done with a shoot, I immediately download the RAW files from my camera (even if I don't do my post processing immediately) onto my hard drive. I use Idrive for cloud storage and I have it set up to automatically back up my computer constantly. I then copy the same files to my external drive. And then Time Machine backs up my computer hard drive to another external hard drive. Can't be too careful; I lost my data ONCE and never again.

drives are cheep, no excuse for losing data.

You really have raised an important question. Talking about the backup. We have been backing up our digital files since 2002 when we made the shift to digital. In the beginning, everything was stored on CD's as Digital files got larger, and larger, we moved to a cloud storage as an offsite backup and we have two external drives we use in house as the local backup.

Every shoot. I back up to computer. Then external (raid) hard drive. Plus have a cloud backup (Crashplan found it works better with Mac than Livedrive did) that constantly uploads and updates.

I keep my photos on my memory card until I have a minimum of 2 copies somewhere else. I store my working copy on a USB drive and a backup copy on a Raid 6 NAS.

Sadly the images were backed up! I had backups on two backup drives that were, annoyingly, also in the caravan! My offsite backup hadn't been updated in a while either...