Backup your wedding photographs

I was prompted to think about this over the last couple of days following an email from a former client who wondered if I’d be able to re-instate a folder of her photographs into Dropbox so that she could share the link with some family who she had originally missed out – presumably she asked me do this as she didn’t have access to the folder any more.

This made me ask the question, “How diligent are the brides and grooms that I work with at backing up their images?” Like many good wedding photographers, I am absolutely paranoid about making sure that your images are safe from the moment that I’ve taken them through to you confirming that you’ve received them from me, be it on disc, USB stick or via download. In this post I’m going to start off talking about how I ensure that your images are secure and then move on to share some thoughts about how you can look after them well into your old age!

Let’s start at the beginning of the imaging chain – in camera. The cameras that I use have two card slots and as I take the photographs they are simultaneously written to both memory cards, creating an instant backup. I replace my memory cards every two years – throwing away 200 gigabytes of high speed memory cards isn’t much fun, but (touch wood…) I’ve never had a memory card failure and it seems a relatively small price to pay.

After your wedding, I get back to my home / hotel and import your wedding photographs into my Macbook that night. Once they’re in the computer they are then copied across to a portable hard drive and that is then locked in the car glove box. Only at this point will I format the memory cards ready for my next job. Why does the portable hard drive go in the car? The computer is in the house and I work on the basis that it’s unlikely that my house will be broken into and my car stolen on the same day – that would be more than bad luck. There are other scenarios that also come to mind, probably the most devastating being fire. I live in an old timber-framed cottage and there’s a lot of wood in the building. If there’s a fire, I want to be worrying about getting my family out of the house, not scrabbling about for computer equipment!

With the advent of good, high speed broadband, I’ve also started using a ‘cloud’ backup system and once I’m happy with that and have done a couple of trial restores, I’ll probably ditch the portable hard drive, safe in the knowledge that I will be able to access the backup of your wedding photos from anywhere in the world.

Your requirements are going to be slightly different to mine – in addition to wanting to make sure that you have a safe, accessible back up of the high resolution colour files, you’re also going to need to keep an eye on how technology develops over the next 30 or 40 years. It’s hard to imagine right now, but one day, those jpeg files could well be the equivalent of Super 8 or VHS and there aren’t many of us who can still look at movies in those formats today!

So what do I suggest for you… As an absolute minimum, make a second copy of the high resolution colour files that I send to you and store them offsite: pop them on a USB stick and leave it with a family member who lives elsewhere. All types of memory can lose efficacy over time so I’d also suggest that you create a brand new USB stick / set of discs at least every 5 years. Remember – this a minimum recommendation. Why not do it every fifth anniversary? Look through your photos with a glass or two of champagne and then create a fresh backup.

Better still pop the photos into a cloud storage solution. Dropbox and iCloud, although free, only have limited storage and there may not be enough room for them. Google drive currently let’s you have 20GB free of charge so that’s one option. I’ve just started to use Backblaze and for $5 per month, I get automatic, unlimited backup of everything on my computer, it runs in the background and if I change a file, it will also keep the previous version(s) for 30 days. For the equivalent of about £3 per month it’s a no-brainer. If you go down the Backblaze route, remember to assign your account to the new computer when you update your machine.

Now, that other issue of changing formats. There’s no hard and fast rule here as I don’t have a crystal ball that will let me see how we’re going to be viewing wedding photos in 40 years time – 40 years ago, you had an album with 20 group photos against the same background and 1 image of the happy couple grimacing next to a wedding cake – time’s moved on and it will continue to do so! I think that the key thing is to remember that when a new format starts to take hold, there will be cheap, effective solutions available to convert existing image formats – there are billions upon of billions of jpeg images in the world at the moment and most people are going to want to hang on to them in some shape or form. You just have to be diligent and take the time to do it.

I hope that there are some useful things in this post and with a bit of luck you’ll still be enjoying your wedding photos in 50 or more years time.

 

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