How to Back Up Your Pictures

by | Nov 5, 2015 | Tips & Tricks | 1 comment

Have you ever lost pictures due to hard drive failure? Do you have a backup system in place just in case? Is online storage a good backup option?

There’s been a super helpful thread going on over on the General Photography Forum called Online Storage Options that I thought would be great to share here on the blog. One of the community members, @joshua_ong from Australia, started the topic with this great question:

I am a member of the Lenspiration Community and have posted several photos on the Image Editing and Photo Critique forums. Now, I’m posting several questions on this forum because I thought that it probably fits best here. After my hard disk spoiled in July 2015, I was looking for other online storage spaces to store my pictures. This hard disk stored eight years’ worth of pictures and videos, and I guess I had trusted it too much seeing that I did not have a backup for it. I’ve been storing my pictures in Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and Dropbox. Does anyone here have any other online storage options for storing pictures? I know Mr. Staddon has used Picasa Web Albums to store some of his pictures. Is it free? If so, how much is the available storage space on Picasa?

What would your answer be? Here’s what my response was:

Hey @joshua_ong, I’m very sorry to hear about your hard drive failing! I lost most of my pictures from the year 2009 due to that same problem, so I can begin to feel for you, though I couldn’t imagine loosing everything since 2008! God bring you through as you continue trusting him, learning lessons, and laying up treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust (nor hard drive failure) will corrupt.

I do not rely on online storage for backups at this time because it is expensive and time-consuming compared to external hard drive storage.

When I back my pictures up, I do not back up the edited versions. I back up the original with it’s Lightroom-generated XMP sidecar file. Because I shoot RAW on a Canon 5D Mark II, my originals are regularly over 20MB in size. So now you can see that, because of the size and volume of my pictures, online storage would become very expensive very fast, and it would take a long time to upload to the Internet.

Instead, I use an external hard drive system. I store my pictures on one hard drive, and then back that hard drive up onto a second hard drive. I store the second hard drive in a separate location (ideally in a fire-proof safe).

Using multiple external hard drives might seem expensive up front, but I can purchase 3TB hard drives for about $100 US dollars, and one hard drive will last me for several years (even when I shoot tens of thousands of RAW images a year). The price of hard drives is always going down too. And using hard drives, I do not have to rely on Internet connectivity to access original files from the past.

It’s interesting that you noticed that I stored pictures on PicasaWeb. Those pictures are small JPG files I posted for display, so that folks could see my work on the Internet. I share, not store or backup, images in many places on the Internet.

Storage on PicasaWeb is free per picture up to a certain file size (up to 16 megapixels or something like that). This is another reason why I do not use online storage. I believe these are the prices for PicasaWeb:

In conclusion, I suggest you look into using two external hard drives for storing and backing up your original photos!

Other members have since shared their own perspectives, advice and experiences. For example, @buddingphotographer references a place online that offers 1TB of free storage space! @sarahleephoto also shares her story of loosing 11 years of photos and what company she used to get them restored at a reasonable price.

Do you have your own bit of advise or experience to add to the discussion? Click here to join the discussion!

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