Backup workflow for photographers

Backup, backup, backup. I know that we all know these words and think about them from time to time, but how many of us really have a solid backup solution for our digital files. The honest truth is that a drive will go bad, they are not designed to last forever and if you are just editing and storing your images on one drive you are asking for trouble. I have been changing the way that I backup files for years and am always looking for ways to safeguard my clients important images and also not take a huge amount of time for me to maintain.

I wanted to share my backup process from the time when we shoot the images to archiving. If anyone has suggestions on others ways to backup please share in the comments. I am very, very cautious when it comes to my images. Some might say overcautious but I think when it comes to a wedding shoot its better to be safe than sorry.

This is my process for backup’s for weddings, other types of shoots are a little bit different but not much. At the wedding we don’t do any backup, a wedding is so busy and full of a million things racing through your mind. If you are going to make a mistake and drop a card or misplace one that is more likely to happen at the wedding vs. the calm of your office the next day. I always keep my cards in a pouch on my hip so they are safe and secure all evening long. When the shoot is done the cards are put in a fireproof safe until they are transferred to a drive.

I first download my cards to a “work drive” on my computer. This is a separate internal drive that just has the shoots I am currently working on. Once they are downloaded I also copy all of the images to a small external drive that goes back in the safe along with the cards. Normally I don’t format a card until the shoot is edited, backed up and online (didn’t I say I was pretty cautious). After the images are processed through Lightroom and Jpeg’s saved, I copy over all of the RAW and Jpeg files to a NAS device (Network attached storage). We use a Ready Nas NV+ which I just love (here is a link to check it out on amazon: NETGEAR ReadyNAS NVX) It is so easy to use, alerts you of errors and when you are reaching capacity, just a great system. I’ll be doing a separate review of the Ready Nas tomorrow so if you are interested in one of these check back.
Ready Nas NV+

Our Ready Nas is setup to use their X-RAID system which basically keeps one of the drives as a backup. So for example if I have 4 – 1TB drives in the unit, one of those drives is used as a backup and then I have 3TB of free space. This way when a drive goes bad (like one just did for me last month) all I have to do is pop out that bad drive, replace it with a new one and viola! everything is just as it was. It’s kind of like techie magic.

So now I have my RAW files (with .XMP settings) and Jpeg files stored on a device that automatically has a backup. My final process is to upload these to our online proofing company. They store a backup of the final processed Jpeg files so we always have a off site copy. I’ll delete the images off the work drive leaving me with all the photos in 3 places: my small USB drive in a safe, my NAS drive and my off site backup. Another great thing about using a NAS device is that it’s expandable so you can hold many TB’s of info or many years of shoots. When I have a client from a few years ago that need a photo or wants to do a wedding album I don’t need to search through boxes of DVD’s or search through a stack of old external drives.

What’s your system like?

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Author: Mark

Mark is a fine art wedding and portrait photographer from Northern California. He has been passionate about photography since childhood and started his studio 12 years ago to bring a fresh style of photography to the wedding and portrait world.

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  1. Who do you use for online backup and how long does it take to backup! On my connection 20GB would take forever.

  2. I use our online hosting company as a online backup of our shoots. They archive everything forever and since we upload all our events there for people to view it makes it very easy. Also we only upload the compressed jpeg files, I don’t have an online backup of the RAW files. So for a typical wedding shoot its only about 2GB which takes about 8 hours on my connection. It’s always done overnight so I never have a slowdown on the network connection.


  1. Ready Nas NV+ Review | Digital Photo Buzz - Digital Photography reviews and tips - [...] my backup article How to backup your photography, I talked a little bit about the Ready Nas NV+ that…

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