Sunday, April 25, 2010

My Approach to Backing Up My Photos

I had a great question posted to my YouTube profile asking how I backup my photographs. Now before answering it, I would like to say that as usual, there are many methods to handling files which may be better or worse than how I do this. Nonetheless, I've personally found that my approach works quite well and allows me to quickly find photos that I've backed up, whether recently or years ago. Bottom line, feel free to read what I've posted and modify the system to suit your situation or style.

Let me begin at the point where I've shot some pics and I'm ready to download them into my system. I use a card reader, but depending on your preference many cameras can also be hooked up to the computer via USB cable. If you use that method, be mindful of how much juice your batteries have left, or use the AC adapter for your camera if you have one, to avoid running out of power part way through the copy and having to recharge and do it all over again.

Ok, so I'm almost ready to copy. In the "My Documents" folder I have a another folder called "Photos" and yet more folders that each represent the camera models I own. Within each camera model folder I have folders representing the year, and within each year folder is where I create the folders that store the image files. I name these folders using the following convention: mm-dd-yyyy - description of shoot

For example, a folder would be named "04-25-2010 - Macro of budding flowers". And I prefer to repeat the year even though it sits in a folder that already represents it, because I find that on occasion I do copy entire folders from my backup drive to my computer system in order to edit and work with the photos, thus the full date helps me clearly identify where it belongs when I return (and update) the files to the backup drive. Here's a more visual representation of the file structure I use:

My Documents
                    01-02-2010 - Snow storm
                    03-20-2010 - Falcon on tree
                    04-25-2010 - Macro of budding flowers

Speaks for itself, but at this point I copy the image files from the memory card and paste them into the appropriate folder. Again, this is a personal choice, but I've never been a huge fan of using the software that comes with the camera to manage the copying of files.

Backing Up
My choice for storing the files is to use external USB hard drives, of which I have two that I keep mirrored in case one of them fails. I use no special backup software and merely drag and drop the pics from my system to each of the drives. Thankfully I'm very religious when it comes to this activity, so this turns out to be very little effort for me to upkeep. Once the files have successfully copied, and assuming I no longer require them to take up space on my PC, I delete the files.

And there you have it. It's certainly a fairly manual process, but perhaps the programmer in me likes the level of control I have this way.


  1. Time to tidy up my picture file as what you're doing. And maybe add a folder for pictures "Keepers" for pictures I like the most. Thanks for the tip.

  2. You're very welcome itchie! Glad you found it useful!

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  4. Good post, thanks! I built a custom script (using rsync) on Mac OS X that keeps backups of my photographs mirrored on three different USB hard drives (one at a time). I have the ability to go back few backups, just in case I have deleted something important. However, those three backup drives are all in the same place. Even if I can geographically disperse them a bit, it still doesn't mean that my photographs will be safe in the event of a natural disaster or accident. So, my laptop has most of them too. I'd love to see an affordable cloud storage service where photographs can be backed up and retrieved when necessary. Have you heard of any?

  5. Hi xtremebytes! Glad you enjoyed the post. Sounds like you have a great backup rig going. Unfortunately I don't know of any specific cloud storage services. I'm personally not a fan of them for various reasons like cost and I have to admit there's a trust factor, but I'm sure a few are quite reliable. After doing a quick Google search for "online backup" and "cloud storage", many services pop up. One called iDrive came up a few times though, but I couldn't say much about them other than they provide a 5GB account for free and a 150GB one for about $5/month. Not too bad if you only store the photos you really want to have access to versus every single photo taken.


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