Photo storage in general is a real challenge. Now, think about traveling with all (or some) of your photos and you’ve made the challenge more complicated. There are some amazing articles written about photo storage in your home office. There are a lot of different places in which your photos can live. Photos can be on your hard drive, on your memory cards, online, on CDs, on DVDs, on floppy disks, printed out and more! It’s important to choose a backup workflow with which you feel comfortable, and one that fits in with your budget. I will be sharing a few tips and tricks that will get you started to ensure that your photos are safe and organized during your next trip.
Right after a shoot, I take my photos off of my card and put them on my MacBook’s SSD drive, and they automatically start uploading to Dropbox. I create a copy of those photos to an external hard drive. Then, I upload everything to Amazon Prime Photos. Lastly, I upload everything to Google Photos. This is fairly automated because of synced folders and programs to help with the uploading process.
- Dropbox sync: Files in my Dropbox folder automatically upload to Dropbox
- Google photos: Files on my hard drive’s “Photos” folder automatically upload to Google Photos
- Amazon Prime Photos: I trigger this upload manually, but the uploader saves progress and indicates whether or not the files have been previously uploaded.
Accommodating process hiccups
Sometimes you don’t always have Internet when you’re traveling. Ensuring that you have as many physical copies as possible is a good start in case of a disaster situation. Without access to Internet, I keep physical copies on my memory cards (as long as I have enough space left to shoot), my SSD and my external hard drive.
My personal experience has been battling with slow Internet. Uploading 20 GB can sometimes take forever. In these cases, I’ve relied on my physical storage until I have access to fast enough Internet to process my upload.
Details of my process
Let’s break down storage size limitations with my setup:
- Temp Storage (#1) SD cards: 3x 32 GB memory cards (or roughly 3,840 RAW files)
- Local storage (#1) My SSD: Limit of 500 GB
- Local storage (#2) My external hard drive: Limit of 2 TB (or roughly 80,000 RAW files)
- Cloud storage (#1) Dropbox: Limit of 1 TB (or roughly 40,000 RAW files)
- Cloud storage (#2) Amazon Prime Photo: No limit for JPG and RAW files
- Cloud storage (#3) Google Photos: No limit (but compresses photos)
Now, let’s look at how I organize my photos. I create folders after each shoot so that I can identify them at a glance, or in Lightroom. It looks something like this:
—2014-02-22 [Mountains] […]
—2016-11-15 [Valley Forge Park]
It’s important to note that my catalog is stored locally and on Dropbox. In case of a restoration, the catalog and all of the edits can be restored with the photo files.
When my local storage or Dropbox starts to fill up, the oldest photos are deleted from my SSD and Dropbox. So in my example above, 2012 will be the first to go. Next, 2013, 2014 and so on. They will always be accessible through Amazon and Google Photos. When the 2 TB drive is starting to fill up, buy another and repeat! I feel comfortable that this is enough for my situation. There are additional redundancy options below. This solution has been my go-to for a years worth of travel and photography and I haven’t needed to replace anything. I’ve shot almost 11,500 photos with a mix between RAW and JPG while traveling. I brought 12,500 photos with me from previous years.
This storage workflow will actually work for your home office or traveling office. 4 TBs of physical storage will buy you 160,000 RAW files. That is the equivalent of shooting 438 photos per day every day of the year. If you’re traveling for as long as a year (like me!), this solution would work perfectly for all of your files.
In a disaster situation, you may need to restore some (or all) of your photos. Let’s say your bag with your laptop and physical hard drives is lost or stolen. Luckily, you should have everything relevant backed up everywhere and all of your files backed up somewhere.
First, you would need to replace your equipment. If you have any type of travel insurance, some of this expense will be covered. You are also able to find gear insurance programs that will cover more of the replacement cost. Next, download everything from Dropbox and Amazon into the same location as the location in which your old photos were located. This may take a some time depending on your catalog size and your Internet connection. After your files have been restored, you pull your Lightroom catalog down from Dropbox into the same location as before. Your photos should be restored as they were. If needed, double-check your file and catalog location. Lightroom is powerful enough to remap folders as well.
Other backup options and services
You can back up the contents of your entire hard drive. This will only work with your most relevant photos, but also serves as a backup for all of your other files and documents. Compare Crashplan vs. Carbonite vs. Mozy vs. Backblaze.
Amazon Glacier is another cloud storage option that is rather affordable. If you’re using this for storage, the cost is nominal ($0.004 per gigabyte/mo). For a 200 GB catalog, you’re looking at less than $10.00 for the year. Uploads are $0.05 per 1,000 requests. If you’re pushing up 10,000 files, you’re looking at $5.00. You can also set this up as a network drive and access legacy photos if you ever needed to access legacy photos.
There are services like Arq that help with making uploading to multiple services simple and in 1 place.