Steven Brokaw Photography

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Backup Workflow – Do It or Else

As a photographer nothing is more important than your digital image files.  If you are an amateur or hobbyist they represent your “moments in time”, or your hobby output.  If you are an advance amateur or pro, they are the output of your passion or your livelihood.  Bottomline, you can’t afford to lose them.  That’s why it’s uber important to have a solid backup workflow.

What do I mean by a backup workflow?  To me it means 2 things:

·         Where do you maintain your images once they come off your camera?
·         What process do you follow to store your digital images and back them up?

First, I’m going to assume you WANT to back up your images.  If not, then all I can tell you is; you should.  Can you imagine losing photos of your children, your kid’s prom, the wedding job you did, your portrait session, etc. etc.  Bottomline, keeping your image files only on your computer is a disaster waiting to happen.  Don’t let it happen to you because a good backup plan is easy and costs very little money.

Here’s my workflow.  First, and this may sound strange to some but I don’t keep my images on my computer’s hard drive.  Instead, I keep them on an external hard drive that is always attached to my main computer.  That way if I ever need to take my entire portfolio to another location or another computer it’s available.  I use a Western Digital My Book Essential  External Hard Drive at 2TB.  I simply attach the HD through a USB plug and plug in the power.  My Windows 7 computer recognizes the external HD every time I turn it on.  You can pick these hard drives up for less than $150.

I upgraded this recently from a 1TB which was getting full. 

And now the important part, and something any serious photographer should do.  I backup my external hard drive and store it in a different location.  I simply use another WD My Book and plug it into my computer.  Than at least weekly I backup the images from my main WD hard drive.  I simply use Microsoft’s free SynchToy to handle the backup.  I created a synch pair, set it to “echo” and let it go.  When I’m done with my work, I take the backup hard drive and store it separately.  Paranoid, maybe, but I’ve talked to others that do more than this.

I now have a backup of all my images in case my main external hard drive fails, or is stolen.  At worse I have images up to the date of my last backup.

Here’s my workflow:

·         I create a new folder in my primary image directory on the main WD hard drive.  The folder naming convention is the YEAR,MO, DAY – Name of shoot
·         I copy all images from my camera’s card into the folder.  I do not hook the camera to the computer; I use the computer’s card reader,
·         I use Nikon’s ViewNX and rename all my images to reference the shoot or subject.  I’m fairly generic to the shoot versus the specific image,
·         I use Nikon’s ViewNX to add my EXIM data (I have a script which includes my copyright data, my name, contact info and also tags
·         I open Adobe Lightroom 3 and synch folders to bring in the new images
·         After I process any images (especially if it’s a large number of images, or it’s that time of the week) I attach the backup hard drive and using SynchToy back up my images. 

Note, the one reason I use a backup application versus simply dragging and dropping is because I want the backup HD to be an exact uncompressed copy.

This has become standard operating procedure to me.  There are many other ways to do it much faster or to do exactly what I am doing with other tools, software, etc.  Also, there are many external hard drive options.  Bottomline, the key is to backup your images!!

One additional comment.  You can consider a free or paid “cloud” based service.  This gives you more flexibility, but you need an internet connection and you are relying on the cloud provider.  I’m sure over time this will become more reliable, but for now I’m sticking with what works for me.  Don’t wait, go out and do it now.  Please, you can thank me later.

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