Backup Procedures

A solid photographer’s workflow includes a trustworthy set of backup procedures. I’m no Chase Jarvis but archiving and backing up my images has paid off, literally, multiple times. Further, commercial clients depend on me to protect the images they hire me to produce. When designing your own backup system, remember a couple things:

  • Catalogue and Archive!  Not all photographers will agree with this, but based on my experience, I’d advise you to, as a rule, never delete old images if you don’t have to, for two reasons: 
    1. It’s really inexpensive to archive your work on external drives today; just get a new one as you fill them up. 
    2. I’ve sold images to clients that are 2+ years old…and if I didn’t have a carefully archived portfolio this wouldn’t be possible. 
  • Duplicate and Separate!  Having mirrored drives that are always connected to each other and to your computer – which is popular for some reason – is a problem, especially if they are all connected to the same power source. If a short or surge fries that power source, guess what? You lose everything all at once. It’s very important, for effective backup, to store your images in multiple places – physically and/or online. Otherwise, they just aren’t really backed up.
  • Do It NOW!  A while back, I was forced to rapidly develop a backup system when one day early in my business I tried to offload a client’s images to my desktop, and lo and behold, my hard drive was full! Eek. I couldn’t even start editing them until I over-nighted myself some hard drives. It was a tad stressful, to say the least! Don’t wait until you face a situation like that – create your system before you have an emergency or painful lesson. If you are shooting RAW, you will rapidly fill a hard drive and you will need another larger source of storage before you know it. If you aren’t shooting RAW, start now. Why? Ask me about my recent painful lesson on this subject sometime…

My Hardware:

  • Two External 1TB Western Digital Hard Drives (Fire Wire).
    • #1 – “Main” – stays connected to computer, BUT is always plugged into a different power source than the computer!  (Note: The “Videos” title on the drive visible in the pic above is the manufacturer’s default. The only way to customize the title is to install their software, which is totally useless and just takes up drive space. Not recommended as far as I am concerned. I don’t use their software.
    • #2 – “Backup” – stored in a safe.

Before A Project:
The workflow I’ve developed includes prepping with small tasks before I go on-location. While seemingly insignificant, these little time-saving strategies add up, and that is what allows me to deliver images so quickly to my clients (< 2 days). There are many ways to organize your archive; this is what makes sense to my brain. 

  • Create a parent folder for each calendar year
    • All 2011 jobs go into Main Hard Drive / 2011.
  • Create a folder for each client project on Main Hard Drive 
    • YearMonthDay_Client Name_Project Name
      • Create subfolders for each project – “RAW1,” “RAW2,” and “Edited.”
  • Create private Client Album on my website and program all of the gallery settings. 

Immediately After Wrapping a Project: 

  • Offload (copy) RAW images to Main Hard Drive / Client Folder / RAW. 
    • Note: for projects with multiple memory cards, I create multiple subfolders, i.e. “RAW1,” “RAW2” and so on. This is helpful if I need to find images from a certain camera/lens more quickly. 
  • Eject cards from computer.
    • BUT, do NOT delete images from cards (yet). 
    • Cards are more stable than a hard drive!  For some reason, photographers doubt this, but it’s true. (The downside is, those little guys are easier to lose.) 
  • Immediately import images to Lightroom 3. 
    • At this stage, your RAW files are safely stored in three places, and within a half hour of returning from the shoot:
      1. Memory card(s)
      2. External hard drive #1
      3. Lightroom Catalogue
        • My LR is backed up to my Desktop; there are other options. Just remember, it makes no sense to backup your LR catalogue to the same drive as your RAW files.
        • Be sure you backup your LR3 catalogue whenever asked or your images/file history won’t benefit from this third backup. 

After Post-Production:

  • Select all / save metadata to files.
  • Export jpgs at highest resolution/300ppi (especially important for commercial work) to Main Hard Drive / Year / Client / Edited.
  • Upload images at highest resolution to previously created client gallery on my website. 
    • My website host, SmugMug, allows me to retrieve images if needed at whatever resolution I uploaded them. So, if I don’t upload high res images, and my cards, hard drives, and desktop all get destroyed in a fire or something, my online storage is pretty much worthless. Therefore, I always, always, always upload the maximum file size. I pay the same regardless, so why not maximize my backup potential? It’s 100% worth the extra couple of minutes that it takes to upload. 
      • Tip:  Make this one of your criteria for selecting a website for online proofing. If they don’t allow you to store and retrieve full-resolution images, pick another website host. 
  • Zip online gallery, and provide link to client so they can download their images.

At this stage, my images are still stored in all of these places:

  • RAW files: memory card(s), Hard Drive #1, Lightroom
  • Edited jpgs: Lightroom, Hard Drive #1, website

Final Backup Procedures:

Only AFTER my client confirms they’ve successfully downloaded their images, I do the following in this order:

  • Reformat memory cards and remove client folder(s) from LR3
  • On the first day of every month, I connect the “Backup” Hard Drive to the “Main” Hard Drive, copy the prior month’s jobs to “Backup” (which, remember, includes the RAW and jpg files), and then return the drive to the safe.
  • After 90 days, when the online gallery period expires, I delete the client’s gallery from my website. No worries about this, since the client’s images are stored on two external hard drives in separate locations. Plus, they’ve also downloaded the images.

The result of this system is that my work is stored in at least three places at all times. The only exception is while I am actually shooting, and for about 30 minutes after while I drive home and offload. 

Any thoughts? Any suggestions about how to improve upon this? Any questions?

– HBA

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About Mosaic Collective, LLC

I am Holly Baumann Ambuehl, founding member of Mosaic Collective, LLC, which was founded in early 2017 and is based in Central Illinois. I own and operate Mosaic Collective with my partner in business and life, my husband, Nathan. Mosaic Collective, LLC houses our rental property, my consulting contracts (with the nonprofit and public sectors on various work), and also my commercial and portrait photography business, which has been doing business as Holly Baumann Photography since 2008 long before the formation of our LLC. My blog posts feature client work, but I just love to write, so I also write about owning a business, food and drink, travel, and sometimes, my personal life! I am always honored when clients trust me to capture their vision, and equally so when my readers converse with me about what I've photographed or expressed here. I hope we'll have an opportunity to collaborate professionally and/or become friends. I'd love to hear what you think! - Holly
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