How I Back-Up and Store My Photos

March 30, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

LaCie External Hard DriveLaCie External Hard Drive

In honor of World Back-Up Day I thought I'd share my back up strategy.

You may have heard of the 3-2-1 rule of thumb for storing archive images. Three different copies, two different types of media, and one off-site. This was so that when your hard drive inevitably fails (yes, this is a when not if) you have it saved on another device, and off-site so that in the unfortunate event that your home or office is burglarized, catches fire, floods, or some other disaster, you have a copy somewhere else. Now, with cloud storage as an option, my back-up strategy is:

Zenfolio: Selects Organized by Genre

PhotoShelter: Selects AND Originals on PhotoShelter - Organized by Date

External Drive: Selects

Let me walk you through my workflow.

For starters - I do not format cards until I have processed the photos. Most photos I process the same day or next day, but if it's an event like a wedding where I might be working on the photos for a week or two, I keep the images on the card, upload them to my computer and an external drive and sometimes even PhotoShelter to ensure that I don't lose any photos before they are even delivered to the client!

Once I have my selects, (aka images I have culled, edited, and processed) I put them on an external hard drive and on zenfolio (an unlimited jpeg plan) and PhotoShelter. I additionally put ALL the original photos (unlimited RAW and jpeg) on PhotoShelter.


Why don't I save originals to an external drive?

The short answer is, it's not necessary and it's not reliable.

Also as hard drives become outdated (easy rule of thumb is if the cable is outdated. What good is a 2009 firewire hard drive if none of your current machines can connect to the device), I transfer them to newer hard drives (hopefully with less chance of failing).

But PhotoShelter is so expensive

With the unlimited plan, I now have cloud storage for all of my RAW files. Yes, it is expensive. At the time of this post $540/year. But, that's less expensive than a single 12TB G-RAID hard drive. And as cameras keep producing larger files and faster frames per second, if you are saving all your originals on external drives, you would easily spend over $540, it's well worth having an unlimited cloud storage solution.

Isn't there a one-stop solution?

In many way, I wish there was a one-stop solution. PhotoShelter for photographers does not offer video. While I don't capture much video, I have needed it from time-to-time for clients, and it's also nice to store some personal videos which zenfolio can do. Zenfolio's search feature lacks compared to PhotoShelter. But zenfolio's website building is much more visually pleasing on the client side compared to the digital-asset-management "look" of PhotoShelter once you get into the galleries. Zenfolio only offers unlimited jpegs (though you can pay extra for RAW storage, per GB) where as PhotoShelter includes RAW images as part of their unlimited plan.

Another benefit of having multiple storage solutions is the organizational method. On zenfolio my images are stored categorically: Sports >> Baseball << MLB. Where as on PhotoShelter, my images are stored chronologically by year. On external drives I may have a 2021, 2021-2022, and 2022 labeled drives, where MLB (all summer) is on the annual drive. But NBA (crosses over the calendar year) is on a 2021-2022 drive.

My favorite LaCie hard drives are only $165 and are still part of my back-up strategy.

What about BackBlaze, Carbonite, etc?

Those are great back-up systems for backing up your computer and file in general. But I love having a dedicated photo back-up method.


What about really special photos?

For my most special photos (a few select wedding, baby, and historical family photos). I follow a 20-20-20 (or something like that) rule. I have them on my computer, on zenfolio, on PhotoShelter, on a hard drive, on a thumb drive, on iCloud, on dropbox, and a physical print as well.


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I am a sports photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. I primarily photograph sports (action, events, and portraits) ... and my feet.




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