Being a photographer is a profession that deals with a lot of technology. From the fancy cameras we shoot with, to the cards the images are saved to, to the hard drives that everything is stored on, there are a lot of moving tech parts.
I started taking image protection a lot more seriously after I began photographing weddings. While it’s not ideal, you can technically re-shoot a family session or engagement session. But a wedding day? Those are once-in-a-lifetime moments that can’t be recreated. That realization made me approach file storage and safe keeping in a totally different way.
When it comes to technology, the question is not if it’s going to fail, it’s when. As photographers, we deal with capturing one of the best days of people’s lives. It’s so important that you have more than one back up in place to make sure those memories are safe. Here’s how I approach keeping my client’s photos safe and protected.
Shoot on two cameras
My first insurance policy on a wedding day is having two of the same camera. I will typically use them both during the ceremony so I don’t have to switch between camera lenses. But I also have the second camera in case the first were to malfunction while I am shooting.
Shoot to two cards
I shoot two Nikon d750s (read this post to find out what’s in my camera bag), which have dual memory card slots. You can either set the cards up to act as overflow (when one card fills, it starts to save to the second card), or backup (it will copy to both cards simultaneously). On a wedding day, I am always shooting backup. This means that before I even download images to my computer, they are backed up in more than one spot. I LOVE this feature and don’t think I’ll ever by a camera without it. I go through a lot of memory cards (more on that next), but it’s so worth it.
Shoot smaller cards and switch throughout the day
I know some photographers who swear by their large cards (64GB+++) and leave the same card in their camera for the whole wedding (or in a portrait photographers case, multiple shoots). While this would be much easier when it comes to downloading the cards onto my computer (I’d love to just stick the card in my computer and walk away!), I use smaller cards (16 and 32GB, usually), and switch them throughout the day.
I will usually have separate cards for getting ready, portraits, the ceremony, and the reception. Yes, I go through a lot of memory cards on a wedding day. But again, when you’re talking about an investment like wedding photography, memory is CHEAP. I’ll gladly spend the money to make sure my client’s wedding images are safe.
Desktop + Cloud backup
After every session and wedding, I dump all the memory cards into a folder on my desktop called ‘[CLIENT NAME] RAW’. Once the images are all there, it gets automatically backed up to CrashPlan, which is what I use as my Cloud backup.
Culled photos are copied to external hard drive
The next part of my process is culling photos in Photomechanic. This essentially means I’m going through every single photo and selecting which ones are good enough to make it into Lightroom. At this point, I’m getting rid of duplicates, blurry photos, blinks, lighting tests, etc.
All the photos that pass the first cull are then copied from my desktop to an external hard drive, where they are ready to be imported into Lightroom. If you’re keeping score, by this point I have **FIVE** copies of every image I plan on editing before it is even imported into Lightroom. Not to mention, this is all done within 3 days of the wedding. I work fast to make sure there are multiple back ups in place.
Culled photos are copied to Lightroom
Then, all the ready-to-edit images are copied to an additional folder that becomes my working folder in Lightroom. These are the files that I am actually editing. If something were to happen to these files, it would certainly set me back a ways in editing (since I’d have to start over). However, the original files would still be safe and sounds (and in five separate onsite and cloud locations). Total peace of mind!
Extra ways I keep images safe
In addition to all the ways above, there are a couple more things I do to keep photos safe:
- I outsource my photos to an editor using Smart Previews. This provides yet another backup of my images in a small file size. These are not ideal files to deliver to a client, but in a pinch, I could do that as a last resort. I also like that this backup is “off site” (because my editor lives in Tennessee!).
- I do not delete images from memory cards until the wedding or session is delivered. Again – this means I have a lot of memory cards! It also means I need to have a good work flow so I can edit and deliver fast enough before I run out of cards. Outsourcing the bulk of my wedding editing helps this immensely so I don’t get behind (or at least, too behind) during busy season. I want to be clear that I DEFINITELY still get behind, but this really helps!
- After wedding galleries are delivered, final images are stored in three different places: Shootproof (online/cloud), flash drive (offsite, delivered to clients), and my external harddrive (on site).
At the end of the day, I read something years ago that has stuck with me and ended up being a foundational element of my business: physical memory (as in storage devices, cloud backup, etc.) is CHEAP. Yes, it’s a bummer to drop $100 on memory cards. But when you’re talking about the investment people are making to make sure their memories are safe, it’s a no brainer.