Backup is the stuff of nightmares, or dreams, depending on how you back up. As with all workflow, backup will vary from photographer to photographer based on shooting habits, computer systems, work environment and your own conscience. But with all things considered, backup has one end goal: If your hard drive crashes, all your files, programs and images are safely stored on other drives and can be quickly restored.
I break my backup workflow into two areas: "in the field" and "back at home." I’ll start simple with field backup and then look at home backup. No matter if you’re a beginning photographer or a seasoned pro, these guidelines will ensure you never suffer from "the backup nightmare."
Backup first starts in the field. After a few days of shooting on vacation or working on assignment, flash cards start filling up. Wouldn’t it be a disaster if you lost your European family vacation pictures? Or, my worst-case scenario, losing images shot on assignment for a client, some of which might be very hard and expensive to reproduce. It’s time to back up in the field!
One guideline I use in my backup strategy is the Rule of 2. I always have my images backed up in at least two different locations. Sometimes I even back up to three locations for peace of mind. You have to decide what works for you.
When I’m on assignment, I carry 200 gigabytes of flash cards, my MacBook Air and external 500 GB hard drives. After a day of shooting, I return to my hotel and download my images onto my laptop and my external hard drive. Remember, downloading can take a lot of time, so choose fast flash cards, card readers and external hard drives that use your computer’s fastest connection, like USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt. At this point, I now have my images on my computer and on an external hard drive.
Why do I carry 200 gigabytes of flash cards? First, I may actually shoot that amount of images on a long commercial assignment. But another benefit is that I don’t have to reformat my flash cards in the field—I have enough card space to keep shooting on new cards. The flash cards I’ve already shot become another source of image backup since I don’t reformat them in the field. And flash card prices keep dropping, making them more affordable. I now have three backups of my images: my laptop, an external hard drive and flash cards.
What happens if your computer dies or gets stolen? Well, the good news is that you have your images on flash cards and portable hard drives, so you haven’t lost your images. First, you can continue to keep images on flash cards as one source of backup. You could also carry a multimedia image viewer like the Sanho HyperDrive, which allows you to download your flash card directly without the need of a computer, or use a friend’s computer to download images to your external hard drives.