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Managing Your Archive

Another system many photographers use is storing images on a home hard drive and also storing them on a third-party offsite service. Photo-specific backup is offered by companies such as Mylio, PhotoShelter and SmugVault. For an annual fee, these companies offer backup of files and images on your computer. Some companies offer automatic backup, while others have you manually upload your files to the server.

For smaller image libraries, you might consider cloud storage sites such as Apple iCloud Drive, Dropbox and Flickr. All these offsite backup options offer access to your images online anywhere you have Internet access. The points to consider are their pricing plans, maximum storage available, file types allowed and image security online.

With your images now backed up in two places, you can start sleeping a little easier. What happens if your Lightroom catalog files disappear when your computer hard drive crashes? Not good. Another backup consideration is backing up your database files like Lightroom catalogs. Be sure to regularly back up your Lightroom catalog, and have it stored in multiple locations so if your computer hard drive crashes, you have copies of your Lightroom catalogs in other locations.

One quick point: Backing up your Lightroom catalog is only backing up the organization structure of the image catalog. Your original images aren’t getting backed up when you back up your Lightroom catalog. You need to back up your original image files, as well. At photo workshops, many times I’ve encountered participants who thought backing up their Lightroom catalogs was backing up their original image files. This isn’t the case—back up your images, too!

In the end, image database management is very specific to the individual photographer. Shooting habits, file size, operating systems and many other variables will determine what system best works for you. Databases and image searches are only as good as the information that’s entered into the system (think keywords), and you need to have images and database catalogs backed up in case of disaster. The real question is, "Can you sleep soundly at night with your current system?" If not, use these principles to create a solid image database system.


Another new database management program offering even more cross-platform compatibility is Mylio ( This program allows you to organize, edit, back up and sync photos across devices and to the cloud. The editing tools are nondestructive, and images can be organized in albums and searched using star and flag ratings. What really caught my attention with Mylio was the program’s automatic backup of newly added images and the ability to work with existing libraries from Aperture, Lightroom, iPhoto, Flickr, Facebook and even Instagram. Mylio offers a variety of annual subscription plans, depending on the number of images and devices you want to sync. The Basic Plan ($50/year) includes 50,000 images and three devices.

To see more of Tom Bol’s work, visit his website at

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