I recently came across an article by Scott Kelby that talked about something I had taken for granted and figured everyone knew, and thought it would be worth making sure our readers know that not all backups are created equal.
If you use Adobe Lightroom, as a high percentage of photographers do, I hope you will have noticed a small window that pops up on occasion when you’re closing your Lightroom catalog. It looks like this:
It’s the “Back Up Catalog” window.
Apparently, at a seminar he was teaching, Kelby got told a couple of times by attendees that their photos were backed up because they clicked that backup button every week.
And as he points out, this is utterly, completely, unequivocally wrong.
What’s at issue here is not understanding that backing up your photos is important, but rather, not understanding what the Lightroom catalog is. A Lightroom catalog does not contain the original copies of your images. It is nothing more than a database that records the changes you make to them. It knows the location of the images on your hard drive or wherever the images live, and remembers the changes you assign to them, from ratings to exposure changes and more.
When you click that “Back Up” button on the Lightroom pop up window every so often, you’re creating a backup of that specific catalog — that database — but not the images themselves.
This is so important it’s worth stating again: when you back up the catalog via that action window, you aren’t backing up your photos too.
Kelby had it right — and here are some ways you can actually back up your photos:
- Don't just make a copy of the images on the same drive they're currently on, whether that's your computer's drive or an external drive. Put them on another external hard drive. After you’ve done that, put them on another one. The first drive is your “working drive,” and the second is your backup. You can use software such as Carbon Copy Cloner (on macOS) to set up automatic backups from one hard drive to another. I have mine set to automatically back up my main photo drives to their corresponding backups once a day, every day, at the end of the day, to back up all of the work I’ve done that day. So far, so good.
- Every so often (less often than I’d like to admit) I’ll take that backup drive and store it off site — at my studio, at a relative’s house, etc. — and replace it with another new backup drive, so that I have an archived off-site backup, in case my house burns down or something.
- I also have a cloud backup in case something terrible happens and all of my physical backups are lost. I use Backblaze (though I’m not sold that it’s the best option), and it continuously backs up both my computer and my external backup drives to the cloud.
Hard drives are cheap. I mean, geez — here’s a 4 TB drive for a hundred dollars. Storage prices have decreased greatly over the past decade, and there’s no excuse to not grab a couple of these and have extra backups, especially if photography is what you do for a living or even just part time.
Get the drives. Do it today, if you haven’t done it already. Back it up. Sleep better at night. The end.