A Photographer’s Nightmare- Keeping Your Files Safe | For Photographers

christa_rene_photography_1816I have other things on the list to blog, but really didn’t want to wait to share this topic! In the last week, I had a scare with an external hard drive failing. Shoot. Does it get worse for a photographer????

First off, this is a little humbling since I share how I messed up and could have easily avoided it! Thankfully, everything worked out! But I cut it close and will NEVER do that again!

Little background: Instead of storing all the original files on my computer hard drive, I use external hard drives. Computer hard drives are only so big, so raw photos will fill up the hard drives really quick which is why additional storage is needed.

Surprisingly, this is the first time I’ve had an external hard drive fail. I keep ALL the raw files from weddings, so I go through external hard-drives quickly, which probably is a reason they don’t normally fail since they never get too old before I’m using a new one.

Thankfully, my sessions are safe. But it really made me worried. And I lost the originals to one smaller portrait session (not a wedding! Thanks goodness!). I stood at the Best Buy Geek Squad counter for too long and honestly wasted a LOT of time which could have been avoided! BUT, the client will still get their photos just like I send every other client, and I’ve included how below!!

Here’s a few ways to keep your files nice and safe in the case anything wrong happens with your files. It only takes one time!!

  1. Online backup. I started using Backblaze about a year ago, and it’s amazing. It constantly backups your computer hard-drive and any external hard drives you plug in, and is a very reasonable cost! I’ve recovered stuff using it before, and it’s very simple to use!
  2. Keep sessions on two separate external hard drives. I have smaller 2 terabyte external hard drive that’s easier to take on the go if needed, and also a large 4TB drive that stays at home and serves as a backup. I only use the larger drive in the case something ever goes wrong with the smaller drive!
  3. When you import to Lightroom, build smart previews (learn how here). This was the lifesaver for me. This not only allows you to edit without the external hard drive plugged in, but you can export the photos as JPEGS. My drive failed, but everything was backed up EXCEPT the original files to one of my sessions because I didn’t give it enough time to backup to Backblaze, and made the mistake of not copying them over to the 4TB drive. However, I had already imported and built the smart previews on all the photos I was sending to the client. So guess what?? I can still edit, then export the files as JPEGS like normal (these JPEGS are large enough for even large prints!), and I’m all set. Yes, I’d feel way better if I still had all the originals, but this saved me from a long email explaining I messed up, and having to re-shoot the session! So my workflow for this session doesn’t change at all!
  4. Deliver client photos on an online gallery. I use PASS and can’t recommend it enough! Not only do my clients love it since it’s nicely organized and looks beautiful, but it also serves as a backup of the final images for me, and stores the files for 10 YEARS!! YAY!


Here’s some tips so this never EVER happens with a wedding!!! I shoot with a camera that has an SD card slot, and a CF card slot. I use a very large CF card so I never have to change it during a wedding. The SD cards are only 32gb, so I normally go through 3-5 of them (I take a LOT of photos and the file size is very large on my camera). So if any of the cards corrupt (I’ve had SD cards corrupt a few times- it does happen!), I already have a backup. Then, I bring my laptop and smaller external hard drive to the reception and begin importing the SD cards to the smaller external hard drive I bring (Julia sits with it and imports! She’s the BOMB). Once that is finished and I get home, I copy those files over to the larger hard drive, and then back it up online with Backblaze. I keep the photos on the cards as long as possible, so the next day the wedding photos are literally in 5 different places (smaller external hard drive, larger external hard drive, online backup, SD cards, CF card)! That means I can sleep at ease! Eventually I have to format the cards for more sessions, but I’m leaving the raws in 3 different spots!

So what did I do wrong with this portrait session? I didn’t copy it over to the larger drive, or make sure Backblaze had backed it up before formatting the cards the session was on. I formatted all my cards for the wedding since I’d need the space, meaning the photos were in ONE spot! That’s NOT safe (as I found out!)!!

I’ll admit I got lucky this time, and never will take that risk again! I hope this was helpful in some way, and a reminder you can never be too careful storing images! It’s SO humbling to admit I should have been more careful, but I often learn the hard way and don’t want you to! As always, please don’t hesitate to email me if you have ANY questions! I hope this helps you keep your files safe!

Have a great rest of your week, friends!!






A Photographer’s Nightmare- Keeping Your Files Safe | For Photographers



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