Just Back It Up

Imagine for a moment that you’ve just come back from vacation/wedding/party/etc and have a multitude of amazing moments captured on your camera for posterity… or so you thought. Back in the days of film, it was always devastating to accidentally open the back of your camera, exposing your entire roll and losing your photos. At least you could say you ‘only’ ruined 24-36 photos (26-38 if you were really good at loading the roll). The damage was limited. Even so, do you remember how that felt? Do you remember the despondency of losing the moments you’d hoped you could tangibly hold onto forever?

It didn’t feel good, did it?

Today, with digital photography, the problem is even worse. There are so many more ways in which to lose your photos! Sure, back in the film days, you could misplace a negative or two, accidentally expose a roll of film, or lose some prints to flooding/fire/forgetfulness. But you usually had a negative and a couple of prints of most everything you ever shot. Now? I bet you haven’t even printed a picture in the last 5 years. Your lone digital photo file is the ONLY copy you have.

So why, oh why, oh why aren’t you backing up your photos?

If you only have one copy of your photo files (and no prints), consider this:

  • Hard drives fail
  • Formats go extinct (good luck finding an optical drive in 10 years)
  • Software changes and files become unviewable/unprintable
  • Floods, Fires and Forgetfulness still happen
  • Systems crash and data is lost

If you don’t have a backup, please believe me: it is only a matter of time before you lose your photos.

So here are my recommendations for backing up your photos:

  1. Look for a camera with a redundant card slot and use it - this will keep a redundant copy of your photos from the moment they are made
  2. Keep a backup on your computer/external hard drive and ensure that you have a redundant copy of said computer/external HD
  3. Keep a backup in a geographically different place than where you live. The best way to do this nowadays is with cloud-based services.
  4. Keep your backups up to date with consistent, periodic backups

The key takeaway is this: You should always have 3 copies of a photo (and one of those copies shouldn’t be physically located in the same place as the others) for your photo to technically be considered as ‘backed-up’.

I can’t tell you the relief you’ll feel when your entire system bites the dust and all you have to do to recover every single file is click a button. The relief is also much better than the alternative - the devastation you’ll experience as thousands of your photos are lost forever.

Just backup your photos. Do it now.

Let me know how you backup your photos in the comments below (or leave a confessional on how you only have one copy of your photos). I’d love to know what services and methods you use or what has kept you from backing up your photos in the past.

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Feature Photograph of the Week - Berber Shoes

Berber shoes on display in Souq Smata in the medina of Marrakesh.

Berber shoes on display in Souq Smata in the medina of Marrakesh.