I just had my very first hard drive failure. This occurrence could have been catastrophic for a photographer. In fact, I've heard of horror stories of photographers who didn't back up any photos before their computer crashed or a hard drive fails and had to explain to brides that they don't have any photos to give them from their wedding day. Could you imagine losing all your wedding day photos?!
Luckily, my hard drive that failed is one that I don't use for current projects and I know I had most of the important stuff backed up elsewhere or online. I knew it was coming; the hard drive was six years old. This loss isn't devastating. This could have been though, if I didn't take precautions.
My process for backing up professional photos might be borderline overkill, but I'd rather play things safe than have to explain to someone that I don't have the photos that they expected from me. This isn't to say my process isn't fool-proof but I am fairly confident in my approach.
When I get home from a photo shoot or wedding day, the first thing I do (before even using the restroom or giving my husband or daughter a kiss) is start uploading my photos into Adobe Lightroom (the program I use almost exclusively to edit) and its catalog is located on my main external hard drive. (Once they start importing, I give my proper hellos and take a potty break.) This process can take anywhere from a half hour to several hours depending on how many photos I have from the day. Immediately after that, I back them up on a second external hard drive. This process goes much more quickly since I am not importing them into Lightroom.
At this point, all the photos from the day are in three locations; on the memory card(s), on my first external hard drive which is my Lightroom hard drive, and on my second, backup hard drive. While I am editing the photos, they remain in those three locations. No exceptions. I don't format my cards until clients have their photos. This creates an incentive for me to get the photos back to my client a little more quickly because I don't allow myself to use the cards again until I am done editing. Once I am done editing, I send them to the client via google drive (or on a DVD if they prefer) and leave them on my main external drive. I also upload all the photos onto my Smugmug account. Then I format my cards so I can use them again.
I've had my Smugmug account for a little over 4 years. While, I used to use it as my website and have clients view their galleries and order prints, I don't care to use it like that anymore. I use it, basically, to backup both personal and client photos. I can create individual galleries, put those galleries into categories, create passwords, allow clients to view their photos using their password if need be, keep the photos totally private or public, and share photos on this blog all through Smugmug. As the owner, I retain copyrights to all the images. I can access and download the full files anywhere -even on my phone using their nifty app. I have the 'Basic' account which costs $40 annually and has no limit to the amount of photos or videos I can upload and save their. I repeat, NO LIMIT to photo uploads.
I would recommend Smugmug for anyone who would want to keep their personal or family photo history safe and secure. (And, I am not being compensated in any way by saying this.) There are also other excellent cloud backup systems to keep personal documents, photos, videos and whatever else you need kept safe -possibly cheaper (more cheaply?). Please, if you don't have your important files backed up online, do it now. It is great to have external hard drives to back everything up within your home but that won't help you in case of theft, fire, or a number of other things which may happen within your home. Do it. Aren't your photos worth it?
SInce, this is a photo blog, I should probably share a few photos, right? Over the weekend I stepped out from behind the camera for a few shots of myself for the website. You can thank my husband, Rory for the following photos.
Rory's work isn't too bad, eh?
How about you? What is your backup system? Have you had an experience losing important photos or documents? I hope not, but if you have, maybe we can all learn from it.