If you are starting (or are already in) a photography business, you need to make a solid backup plan for your clients’ photos. There’s no two ways about it: if you don’t have multiple copies of your clients’ photos, you’re a hobbyist rather than a true professional, as you are relying on pure luck when it comes to your photo archive.
Why do you need to backup photos?
Imagine this scenario: you get home from your photo shoot – whether it is a commercial shoot, location portrait, wedding, or anything else, and you copy all the photos to your computer’s hard drive. That night, there is a fire in your house and you lose all your photos, every single photo that you have on your hard disc(s) at home. Or if there’s no fire, let’s say that the next morning you leave your house for your next shoot and while you’re away, your house gets burgled.
I know, not very likely, but it’s possible.
Let’s assume that you don’t have a fire or burglary – at least not the next day after your shoot. Are you OK then, if you only have one copy of your client photos on your hard disk? I’m afraid you’re not. Computer hardware doesn’t last for ever. Hard disks fail. It’s a fact of life. The only question is how soon each one fails. That’s why you cannot rely on one single point of storage for your files.
So many times I’ve seen photographers post in various online groups that they have had a hard disc failure and what can they do now as they can’t access their files!? I have myself had experiences of external hard disks that have failed within two years after buying them. One failed so badly that not a single photo was recoverable from that disc. One was a Maxtor and one was a Philips. Needless to say, I have never bought those brands again.
On the other hand every Verbatim hard disk I have used has never failed on me… yet. The first Verbatim hard disk I bought is now 8 years old, still going strong. But even though Verbatim disks have had a 100% reliability rate for me so far, I would never rely on one to be the keeper of the only copy of any important file.
How many backups does a professional photographer need?
The minimum for safety’s sake is two backup copies on top of the originals: one copy on a second (internal or external) hard drive and one copy off-site in a different location. Alternatively, instead of two manual copies on two hard drives, you can have a storage disc array like Drobo, which has redundancy built in and you won’t lose your data even if one of the hard discs in the array dies.
Your off-site backup location can be a neighbour or a storage unit away from your home/office – or it can be on a remote server; cloud storage is quite affordable nowadays. Another benefit of cloud storage is that your files are likely to have backup structure within the storage provider.
The further away the off-site copy from the original files is, the better. Why? If your off-site copy is next door, in case of a fire or a burglary, you are far more likely to lose your off-site copy as well as your original files. That’s why it’s safer to locate it a good distance away.
What software is good for backing up photos?
So how do you backup photos, then? Making the second copy on a hard drive (internal or external) is a simple case of copying the files over. Or let Lightroom make a second copy when you first import your photos from your memory cards.
Backing up your website
Don’t forget to make a copy of your website, as well! Earlier this week web host company 123-reg accidentally deleted thousands of their customers data from their servers. Imagine that – everything on your website disappearing all of a sudden. What would you do?
Again: make sure you have a backup of all the images and text on your website, including all your static pages and blog posts. If you use WordPress, you can use a plugin that backs up your data directly to your Dropbox account, for example. Set up a daily or weekly backup, whichever you think is more appropriate for you, depending how often you update your website.
Do I really need to do all this?
If you want to be a reliable, professional photographer, yes you do. You’ve probably read in the papers about couples who have hired a friend or a relative to take their wedding photos and, being a hobbyist photographer, has lost the memory cards in the pub that same evening, and the couple have no photos from their wedding as a consequence.
There was even a case of a professional photographer who had shot someone’s wedding and two weeks later his laptop was stolen from his car, containing the only copy of the photos from that wedding. Two weeks later! A client was left without photos again.
So if you want to be a professional, act like a professional. Be someone people can rely on having proper systems in place, and someone who takes their work seriously. That’s what your clients are paying for at the end of the day. Use it as your selling point, as well – inform your prospective clients and you’ve got them covered.
What’s your backup plan? Do you have a solid plan in place already? If you haven’t – what are you going to do about it? Remember, sort out your backup system today. Not someday, because someday is usually too late.