With a custom 24MP Sony sensor, fast processing times and a huge buffer, a camera like the a9 can shoot 20 fps for up to 362 JPEG or 241 RAW images. Dual slots for UHS-II cards at up to 128 gigs means a photographer can finish an assignment with images of over 10K. All that tech and storage ensures you’ll likely never miss a shot, but you’ll also have much more work to do in post, including where to store all those files.
Despite aggressive selecting from an import with stars, colors and the Delete key, the result can still be gigs worth of frames to store, and I’m not even talking video. Luckily, disc storage pricing has dropped significantly in the past few years and so have cloud services. Your mileage may vary, of course, and there are many ways to achieve the same goal of organized storage with redundant backups; for this post, I’m sharing what works for me.
For example, my G Suite account ($10 a month per user) includes unlimited storage, and my new MacBook Pro is configured with a 1 terabyte drive so, when on an assignment, I save locally and then transfer files to a RAID when back in the studio. I also use the Google Photos auto backup app to upload JPEGs from my export folder to the cloud.
My preferred photo management app is Capture One Pro 10, and I use one of their recommended workflows of a Catalog with Sessions. The Catalog contains all of the images I shoot in a year, and within that are per-project Sessions. Sessions store all files as a complete project, and that includes RAW files, settings files, library files, output files and paths to the drives used. The paths are set to relative, so moving Sessions from the local hard drive to an external drive, in my case a RAID, will maintain the file structure.
As I’ve learned, it’s best to work with Sessions inside the local Catalog, so this workflow assumes you’re being efficient with the project; e.g., your work is finished when moved to an external drive. Capture One Pro 10 doesn’t like it if a drive unexpectedly disconnects and database corruption can occur. (It has happened to me, so back up the Capture One database, too!)
RAID stands for “Redundant Array of Independent Disks,” and that’s a super-geeky way to describe a backup drive with redundancy. Multiple drives are combined into one unit and the data saved to it is distributed across the drives in one of several complicated ways, referred to as RAID levels, and they depend on the required level of redundancy.
All you need to know is, for sure, get a RAID, and if a drive fails, the data is preserved on another drive. Like high-end camera bodies, the prices have dropped significantly, and you can get an 8 TB G-Technology RAID for about $500 on Amazon. Once plugged into your computer, you see a single, big and fast disk drive with software taking care of the various RAID configurations.
Next to the RAID, I have another drive that clones my MacBook hard drive whenever it’s plugged in. Then, I periodically replace that cloned drive and store the previous one.
If that sounds like a lot of work, it is, but note that if you lose your photos you’ll never make money from them again. Also, until just recently, it was faster to work with your media on an external drive, but a Mac configured with a superfast solid-state drive is how I’m working now.
It is blazing fast.
And, I used to travel with an external, portable drive with my Catalog and Sessions set up on it. I’d move the Catalog from the portable drive to the RAID. Now, I’ve removed the external drive from my backup process and move the Sessions once finished from my local drive to the RAID. That has saved me a step and lightened my luggage.
Another storage and backup option that has also dropped in price is a NAS, that’s a network attached storage device, and described in the least geekiest terms, it’s a WiFi router with a drive inside or attached to it. Considering the size and volume of the files I work with, backing up to a NAS causes too much network congestion and takes forever, so I haven’t implemented one. As mentioned above, I have an unlimited cloud storage with Google, so that’s my NAS.
How to best use Google’s photo technology is the topic for another article, but Google’s machine learning and artificial intelligence is surprisingly useful in grouping similar photos and organizing by date.
Thankfully, I’ve not been in a lost-data panic searching through my Google photos, but know it’s there, if needed. Just like a good backup strategy, it takes time to set up one that works for you, but is well worth the investment.
You can follow DL Byron on Twitter @bikehugger