June 09, 2009

2nd Installment - How I Back Up My Image Files

2nd installment of how I back up my pictures.
1st Installment - Hard Drives...cheap storage, easy to use, takes no time at all to transfer files. Love my hard drives.

What do you do when your hard drive fails? Good question. I have always backed up my pictures in two different locations. I would like to make sure everyone realizes...I am a simpleton. There are so many different options on how to back up your pictures...I like to keep it short, simple and easy. For me I download my images into a folder in my computer first. I don't take them into any program first, i.e. lightroom or iphoto. I download the images to a folder, then drop that folder into my file system on my hard drive like I previously stated. Once I have a back up copy made I take the original folder and put it in lightroom, my editing software, I LOVE lightroom, it is a sleek, high performance piece of work. It makes it possible for me to batch change large amounts of images at the same time.

I edit my images and then I export my "tweaked" versions into a new folder and back that folder up onto my hard drive. So now I have my originals and my tweaks backed up. Then...I burn these onto a disc, I use DVD's because my file sizes are large and I am normally backing up hundreds of images at once. I can burn about 700 images onto one DVD.

This does take time, it is pure drudgery, but I can touch it, file it, hold it in my hands, just like I could do with negatives. I like having a hard copy. I wish that I would feel secure without the burned disc, but alas, it helps me sleep at night. Once I finish my proof albums and know that I am done with the images for a while I delete them off my computer to open up space for what is going to be downloaded next. I have a 500 gig hard drive on my computer and I fight to keep about 100 gigs of that clear so my computer runs quickly and without slugging along. Once my editing is done I have all versions backed up onto my hard drive and burned onto a DVD. One of those might poop out on me, but the likely hood of both freaking out is so slim that I am covered.

Other options for those of you who do not need to back up several thousand images a week...there are several.

I have on-line storage back up space with my MobileMe acct. on the Apple website. I also have an account with Smug Mug. I thought that Smug Mug might be my second source rather than burning to a disc (because did I mention...drudgery), but it takes all night for me to upload a large sitting, doing that several times a week and keeping my computer working for days on end to upload to smug mug doesn't sit well with me. I like to give the old mac a rest at night. For those that have a couple hundred of images to back up each week this would be a great option. I paid $40 for a year of unlimited storage with smug mug which is very reasonable. Smug Mug's storage lives on the Amazon servers.
Shutterfly and Flickr are two other types of on line sights, and I know there are many more, that you can upload.

For those of you that shoot RAW. Shane J. asked me about backing up RAW images, Smug Mug doesn't take RAW files. I shot RAW for several years and my back up of images was the same as it is now, hard drive then burn to a disc. I now shoot JPEG only. If there is a situation I am going into and for some reason feel like I need to shoot RAW I will, but that hasn't happened but once in the last year. Once I learned my camera inside and out and felt comfortable adjusting all the buttons and dials I can shoot proper exposure on the fly, so for me RAW was just larger files that I was never needing.

What is RAW? Many of you probably know, some might not. A RAW photo file is like going to the grocery store and buying all the ingredients you need for your cake then bringing it home and baking it when you are ready for it. You can mix up the ingredients, add a bit more of this or that, the world is your oyster, you have all the ingredients to make the cake you want and remake it anytime you wish, the files size is about 2 1/2 times the size of a regular jpg file. When you shoot RAW your camera records basic info then let's you put it all together later on your computer. A JPG photo file is like a cake that is baked at the store, you bake that cake and you better like it because your limits have been set, all the different ingredients to putting that pic together have been mixed, baked and cooled. I know and respect many photographers who shoot one or the other, it is all in what they are comfortable with.

Then Shane asked about how I back up my Lightroom catalog. I back up my catalog onto my hard drive. When Lightroom starts up it gives me the option to make a back up of my catalog, sometimes I say yes, most of the time I say no ; ) About once a month I back it up and then go into my library and find the Lightroom back up and transfer it over to my hard drive. This way all my tweaks on my images are saved for future reference.

There are some other very good ways to back up, but like I said, effective, short, simple and easy is the way for me to go. There are entire books devoted to backing up images that would serve those who are looking for more advanced or just plain more information on backing up data, like RAID systems, personal servers.

For me it is simple, put it on a hard drive, put it on a DVD and sleep well at night.

The worst thing to do is NOT to back up your images, choose your method and go with it. Stay consistent. One day you will be grateful that you did.

Any questions?