File storage is not the fun part of taking photos.  It’s just one of the mundane tasks that I don’t look forward to but is HAS to be done.

Please, please, please, please, please back up your files.  I’ve lost (via a hard drive breaking, a card error, and computer crashes) files 3 or 4 times in my business and if they hadn’t been backed up they would be gone forever.  The thought terrifies me and breaks my heart.  If I lost all of the pictures of my children, I’m not sure what I’d do…so…I have taken some special steps to be sure that never happens.

You, of course, don’t have to use the same system I do, but just do something that is secure.  🙂

I am going to go over exactly what I do for my personal files.  (Business stuff would be a little more extensive.)  

 Step 1

First I take the memory card to my computer and upload the files. I do this as quickly after taking the pictures as possible.  Memory cards can corrupt fairly easily so I try to rely on them as little as possible.  (If you’re having problem with your memory card, skip to the end of this post for some help.) I upload them straight into a program called Lightroom but you could use any program or just create a folder on your hard drive.  (DO NOT delete the files off your card until you have completed the backup.)

My files are stored on an external hard drive (ex. pictured below) since I have so many photo files that are RAW (large, space hogs) and if I put them straight onto my computer, I would be out of memory way too quickly.  You can choose to store files on your computer hard drive or an external hard drive.  

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Step 2

I then have a second hard drive that I back up those same files to.  In other words, after my files are on the first hard drive, I then copy them to the second hard drive.  This ensures the files are in two places before deleting the memory cards.  

(Note: Hard drives are fantastic, time saving, super helpful, etc….etc.  BUT they fail.  And they fail kind of frequently.  You must be careful they don’t get dropped and they need to be plugged into the computer every few weeks to keep them in good condition.  I love them and use them all the time but I don’t trust them completely.  You shouldn’t either.  This is why we back everything up.)

Step 3

Online backup is my third step and final step.  There are a few options out there but I would recommend Dropbox.  Depending on how many files you have, you may need to pay a bit, but the peace of mind makes it worth it.

For a few dollars a month, you can backup everything on your computer and/or your hard drives.  Having an offsite backup system is the only way to ensure your photos aren’t lost if there was ever a fire or theft.

Some people choose to use their photo lab’s free account to save all of their pictures.  This can be problematic for several reasons.  If you ever want to use a different lab there isn’t always a way to get your photographs back “out.”  

Google Drive is another option but Google Drive does not save the highest resolution for an extended period of time.  In other words, your photos will lose quality.

If a Memory Card Fails (or has been accidentally deleted)…

Last of all, if you ever have have a memory card (or external hard drive that you’ve accidentally deleted or has failed (photographs won’t load, photos look corrupted, etc.) DO NOT USE THE DISK.  Immediately use a program that will help you retrieve photos.  My favorite is Stellar Data Recovery. 

My sister accidentally deleted an entire year of photos off a memory card a few years ago and this is the program I used to get them all back.  It is very simple to use.  First, select the location of the missing or corrupt files, in this case your memory card.  Hit Scan.  It may take some time but the program will give you a preview of any files it has found.  When the scan has finished, hit Recover and choose where to save the recovered files.  Voila!  You just saved your photos.  

Stellar Data Recovery reached out to me and offered me a license if I agreed to review their product.  Since I’ve been using it for years, I was happy to comply!

There are some affiliate links included in this post but only for things I use and love in my own business.  If I wouldn’t spend money on it–I wouldn’t ask you to!