Maybe you’ve heard the horror stories. Maybe you have one yourself. A photographer friend of mine lost his entire portfolio when his hard drive crashed. More recently, another fellow photographer posted on Facebook that his computer had a virus and unless he could recover, all of his files would be lost.
I heard once that it’s not a matter of “if” your hard drive will fail, but “when”. So use protection! Now, I know a lot of photographers who are starting out are on a tight budget and they want to save every penny for that next lens or piece of equipment. But honestly, what good is taking pictures if you’re just going to lose all of them? And if you want to get paid to take pictures what are you going to tell a client when you lose theirs?
Step One: Physical Back Up
Memory is cheap. You can get an 8GB USB drive for about $15-$20. Now 8GB may not get you very far if you’re shooting RAW files. A 64GB USB drive will cost you anywhere from $120-$170.
Personally, I have both a USB drive (4GB) and an external hard drive (1TB). You can get a 320GB external drive for about $60. Or for double the price you can get 1 terabyte! Prices, brands and types vary. I’ll include helpful links at the end. I think I read that Scott Kelby likes the LaCie portable drives. The 250GB model will run you $99. The portable ones are handy ’cause you can bring them with you on a shoot and transfer your files periodically in case something happens to your memory card.
Step Two: Virtual Back Up
Google “online backup” and you’ll get a list of companies that offer online storage of your files. One of the most popular I’ve heard of is called Mozy. They offer 2GB of storage for free. Mozy claims you can store 300 photos with 2GB of space. It’s a good way to try before you buy. It’s $4.95 a month for unlimited back-up or $54.45 for a year (13 months actually).
Another service is called SOS. They offer a free trial, then you pay an annual fee according to storage space. $19.95 for 2GB, $29.95 for 5GB or $49.95 for 15GB. Think about it, less than 50 bucks a year for either service. That’s .93-cents a week!
There are others. This article from PC Magazine reviews some of the more popular ones and calls SOS the most user friendly.
Putting It All Together
Ideally, you want to have both a physical back-up and a virtual one. Your workflow could go something like this.
1.)You come back from a shoot and download the images to your computer. That’s 2 copies (one on your memory card, one on your hard drive).
2.)You finish editing and put the final images on a CD for your client. That’s 3 copies
3.) You delete the images from your memory card and back up the files from your computer to an external hard drive. That’s still 3 copies.
4.) You deliver the CD to the client leaving you with 2 copies.
5.) You need the space on your computer so you back up the files through an online service and delete them from your hard drive. But you still have the files saved on your external drive. That’s 2 copies.
Now if your drive ever crashes, or gets lost/stolen or destroyed. You have at least one more source to retrieve your files. Yes it costs a little money. But for $150 bucks you and your clients have piece of mind that the pictures you worked so hard on to take and edit are safe.