Backing up photos is one of the most important things you can do as a photographer. It’s poor form to have your images on only one hard drive. If a disaster happens and you damage your computer, or someone steals it, your work is gone forever. Thankfully, there are several ways to backup your images. Online cloud storage and external drives remain the most popular. But there’s one method of backing up your photos that people often overlook.
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Backing up Photos with Cloud Storage
Cloud storage has become the most popular way of backing up photos in the modern era. As everything is digital nowadays, having the ability to sync photos across multiple devices is helpful for a photographer’s workflow. From Google Drive to Dropbox, all the mainstream cloud services offer robust, industry-standard encryption for your files. But they’re not perfect. The top dogs don’t use client-side encryption, meaning they can access your photos should they wish. And they’re also not immune to middleman cyber attacks. So, while they’re generally safe, there’s always a chance of something going wrong.
If you want total control over who can access your files, I recommend going with a cloud service that offers zero-knowledge encryption. Some of the best options are:
Also, while it’s rare, some files can become corrupt over time. I’ve used cloud storage for over five years, and I can no longer open some files. We’re talking about one or two images from a collection of thousands. But imagine if that one image was your favorite photograph? It would be heartbreaking.
Backing up Photos with an External Drive
The old-school way of backing up your photographs was to copy them from your computer’s hard drive and back them up to an external hard drive. Hard drives are small enough to travel with, but there’s one major downside to using them: they don’t last forever. Depending on how much you use it, you may need to replace your hard drive every three to five years. If you don’t keep on top of maintenance, it may fail you one day and your backups will be lost. SSDs are more reliable, perform better, and last longer, but still not forever.
The Overlooked Method of Backing up Photographs
With cloud storage and external drives out of the way, what other method can photographers use when backing up photos? Prints. Now before you all scream, “Do you know how much it would cost to print all my photographs?” that’s not what I’m suggesting.
Amongst the masses of photographs we create, every photographer has their “gold collection.” 10 or 20 images that they’re totally in love with and that highlight the peak of their photography skills. Backing up photos or not, you should print every a-star photograph you create. Digital screens will never do as much justice as a quality print with a premium matte finish. You can smell the photograph, you can feel it, and you can immerse yourself inside it. Sounds deep? Try it. You won’t disagree.
But beyond that, a physical print is the perfect backup and companion to the digital version. You can hang it on the wall if you want to bring extra life to your home. But honestly, I would frame your printed backups and store them away either in your home or, if you have the money, a vault. Because when your cloud storage provider hits a roadblock or your hard drive goes to heaven, the printed versions of your most prized photographs will remain intact for you to enjoy for as long you’re around.