Have you backed up your photos lately? I am asking because I have just seen the grief of a good friend of mine who lost all his photos because he hadn’t. He had done what everybody knows one shouldn’t do, but everybody does. He had kept all his photos taken over the last three or four years on an SD-card in the camera – and had not backed them up on any other device. These were photos of family and friends, from holiday and travels, of precious moments and of big sentimental value. The SD-card malfunctioned. All photos gone.
Are you putting yourself in a similar position? Please, don’t. Go right back home and back-up your photos. Now.
Don’t expect it won’t happen to you. It’s only a matter of time before it will. Before your precious photos of which you only have one copy of will be destroyed because the storage device – whatever kind it is – breaks, because you accidentally delete the photos or because you lose the SD-card somewhere you can’t get it back from. Too many people take risks, even professional photographers. I have too often surprisingly seen professionals that play with the fire – and I know one day will regret it. I know, backup is boring, but I assure you will regret, too, not paying attention to this trivial task the day all your photos are gone – even if you are only an occasional photographer, yes, don’t even see yourself as a photographer.
I learned my lesson early on (and don’t we all have to learn the hard way). It was back in the days when my computer had a stunning 20 megabyte hard-disk, a computer that was more expensive that my quite more advanced computer of today and couldn’t even hold one of my regular TIFF-files of today, and back in the days when the computer was run on a disk-operating system call MS-DOS, the precursor of the later Windows, by, yes, Microsoft. Anyway I had been writing the majority of articles for a magazine I was editing back then, when the hard-disk crashed. I lost one month worth of work. And there was only one solution to the problem: To write all articles once again.
I learned my lesson. After that I backed up everything I wrote or created on the computer. Later on when I started photographing digitally, my photos were backed up the same way. All my originals would exist in at least three different storage devices. Back in the beginning I thought I was safe if I backed up only the original photo files. If I lost processed photos – I could always process the originals again. But then my archive of processed photos quickly grew, and I realized that I should not only backup the original information, but also all the work I had put in. If I lost ten years of processed photos, it would take me another ten years to process them again from the originals.
I had to learn one more lesson. Not long ago I was on an assignment. Every night after a day’s work my photos were transferred to my portable laptop, and the CF-cards formatted to be ready for the next day’s photographing. That had been my workflow for many years while on the road. Of course you have already seen what was wrong with this picture. Yes, I backed up all my pictures in the various ways when I got back from the trip – but I didn’t backup while travelling. One of the last days of this trip the hard-disk of the laptop crashed. Disaster! So yes, now I always backup right away every evening to an external harddrive when I am travelling. By the way, the pictures from the trip weren’t lost, but it was an expensive operation to get them extracted from the crashed laptop. Not recommended!
Today, all my photos are stored and backed up in hard-disks on different servers – and even backed up on DVD’s (there is no way you can delete a file from a DVD – and extra precaution). In addition I have them backed up on an external hard disk that is stored off site. If my house burn down, I still have my archive intact.
For any data that is important to you – photographs or anything else – there should never, ever, be only one copy of it in existence, no matter how safe you believe it to be. Catastrophes do happen, houses burn down, banks get robbed, data centres have power failures and cloud companies go out of business.
Have you backed up your photos lately – or at all?