Best Practices for Storing & Backing Up Files

The Modern Photographer’s Guide to Safeguarding Memories: Best Practices for Storing and Backing Up Files Using Portable SSD Drives!

In the dynamic world of photography, where every click captures a unique moment that can never be replicated, safeguarding your client’s precious memories is essential. The importance of efficient storage and reliable backups cannot be emphasized enough. With the rapid evolution of technology, portable SSD (Solid State Drive) drives have emerged as indispensable tools for photographers seeking fast, secure, and convenient storage solutions. Especially traveling wedding photographers. In this guide, I delve how I use portable SSD drives to store and back up my shoots!

1. Choosing the Right Portable SSD Drive

The foundation of a good file storage and backup strategy begins with selecting the right portable SSD drive. Look for drives with high storage capacities, fast read/write speeds, and durability. Brands like Seagate, SanDisk, and Western Digital offer reputable options. I personally have used all of them and really like 5TB Western Digital SSD for my at-home backup and a smaller SanDisk 2TB Portable SSD that comes with me everywhere.

The Sandisk 2TB Portable SSD is small and sturdy and is also water and dust resistant. And it’s SUPER fast read and write times make editing a breeze.

As soon as I get home from a shoot, I plug my SD cards and both external hard drives into my computer and use PhotoMechanic to backup the RAW images. The awesome thing about PhotoMechanic is that it’s fast, and I’m able to do a double backup right away, which saves a ton of time.

2. Organized Folder Structure

When you take thousands of photos and have multiple photoshoots, the last thing you want to do is be lost inside your files when you are ready to edit and deliver galleries to your clients. I like to keep it really simple and organize folders on my external hard drives by date, client, and file type like this:

  • Year > 00-Month > 00Day Client Name Shoot Type
  • 2023 > 08-August > 8.24.23 Kim & Caleb Wedding

Then inside of that client/project folder, I’ll organize the actual RAW images…

  • 8.24.23 Kim & Caleb Wedding > RAW
  • 8.24.23 Kim & Caleb Wedding > CULLED
  • 8.24.23 Kim & Caleb Wedding > EDITS

Now personally, I do not change the names of my RAW files when I import them from my SD card. For a couple of reasons!

  1. If the files on my external hard drive were to fail for some reason and I had to plug in my SD card to connect the images to Lightroom, it would throw an error.
  2. If I ever lost files or seemed to have gaps in my RAW files on my hard drive, I can compare what’s on the hard drive to what’s on the SD card and easily spot what is missing.

All of the files go into RAW on import

I cull the images in PhotoMechanic 6 by rating them with 1 star. Then I filter the rated images and copy them to the CULLED folder and import to Lightroom. (I also have a lifestyle/boudoir catalogue and then I create a separate Lightroom catalogue for each and every wedding)

After the gallery is edited in Lightroom, when it’s ready for export, that is when I rename the individual files and put them in the EDITS folder.

3. Regular and Automated Backups

Never rely on a single copy, or even two copies of your files. Implement a redundant backup strategy by creating multiple copies of your data across different drives as I stated above, AND use automated backup software to regularly synchronize your files between your computer, portable SSD drives.

I’m also a little crazy and keep all of my SD cards in a fireproof safe in addition to having multiple hard drives and a cloud backup system. You do not have to do this, especially if you are just starting out. But if you are able to invest in new SD cards, at least for every wedding, and keep them for a year or two after you’ve delivered the gallery, it’s worth the extra piece of mind.

4. Encryption for Security

Photographers often deal with sensitive client data and personal images. To protect your files from unauthorized access, consider using encryption. Many portable SSD drives offer hardware encryption options that add an extra layer of security to your stored data.

If you use a Mac, you’ll want to erase and re-format your new SSD via Disk Utility, and you can encrypt your external hard drive there!

5. Maintain Drive Health

Like any piece of technology, portable SSD drives require care to maintain their performance and longevity. Avoid dropping or exposing your drive to extreme temperatures, and regularly update the drive’s firmware to benefit from improved features and bug fixes. Store your gear in a fireproof, waterproof safe. Always eject your hard drive before unplugging it from your device.

6. Cloud Integration

While portable SSD drives offer physical storage, integrating a cloud-based backup solution provides an off-site option for added security. Services like Google Drive, Dropbox, Backblaze, and Amazon Drive allow seamless synchronization between your local drive and the cloud.

7. Disaster Recovery Plan

No matter how robust your storage strategy, disasters can strike unexpectedly. Develop a disaster recovery plan that outlines steps to take if your portable SSD drive is lost, damaged, or stolen. This might include having secondary backups, utilizing cloud storage, and maintaining an updated inventory of your stored files.

Also — include how long you store files in your contracts. I personally guarantee 6months cloud storage with my client’s online gallery. After that time I charge an archive fee to retrieve and send files. These files may be available up to 2 years after the project date.

8. Regular Data Migration

Technology evolves rapidly, and storage formats change over time. To prevent your files from becoming inaccessible due to outdated storage solutions, periodically migrate your data to newer drives and formats, ensuring compatibility with future hardware.

In the fast-paced world of photography, where every snapshot holds a story, implementing effective storage and backup practices is non-negotiable. Portable SSD drives have emerged as game-changers, offering the speed, reliability, and convenience photographers need to safeguard their visual legacies. By following these best practices, you can preserve your work for years to come, ensuring that your client’s memories remain as vivid as the day they were captured!

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