How to Back Up Your Photos

If you’re wondering how to back up photos, you’ve hit the gold mine, my friend. Whether you are a photographer looking to streamline your workflow or someone who just received a professional gallery, today you’ll get a step-by-step walkthrough to make sure your images are safe and sound.

Now, there might be a million ways to share how to back up photos, but this method is my tried-and-true after every session. It helps me sleep soundly at night knowing my client galleries will never be lost, while also keeping me an organized queen if I ever need to access the photos for any reason. 

But before we dive into the how, let’s start with the why, shall we?

If you are a photographer… you’re going to want to make sure your images are safe. Not just once, but ideally three times. This means choosing three different methods of backing up your images so that in the case of damage or loss from one device, you won’t be rolling around on the floor crying because you lost precious moments of our client’s life that you just can’t recreate. Did that image make you cringe? Yeah, me too. But no worries, with my method, you’ll never have to face that situation! 

If you had professional photos taken… you can’t expect your photographer to store the images forever. Professional photographers spend ample amounts of cash making sure your photos are protected in various storage devices, as well as online gallery platforms. Every photographer has different policies on storing images, so it’s better to have your own game plan to keep your images safe and easy to access. It’s a good idea to store them in up to three places as well. 

Have I convinced you that it’s super important to store your images? Okay good. Now let’s move on to my recommended storage devices! Some of these are a bit more niche and recommended for photographers, but others are very user-friendly and easily accessible for anyone who wants to back up photos!

Five Ways to Back Up Your Photos

1: USB flash drives and SD cards. These are some of the most well-known types of photo storage devices and are often the cheapest option. Most photo sessions need less than 4GB of storage, while larger galleries like weddings sometimes require up to 8-16GB of space.

2: Solid state drive (SSDs). These are my personal recommendations! While they’re a bit more expensive, they are faster, have flash-based memory, and more power efficient than hard drives (keep reading for this one!). These new generation storage devices come in a variety of sizes from 1-2TB.

Recommendations from a pro -  Sandisk and the Samsung T5 or T7!

3: Hard drive disks! If you aren’t familiar with these, they provide mechanical storage and have a spinning disc inside. For that reason, they are very sensitive when moved, and I won’t recommend traveling with them because they corrupt more easily than other options. They are slower than SSDs, but also larger and a cheaper option for more storage space. Plus, these bad boys have been around for a hot minute so they are often a go-to! 

My recommendations - Seagate and Western Digital (2TB to 8TB in size)

4: Online galleries! If you’re a photographer, online galleries will be your new best friend. There are often monthly/yearly costs with these, however, most offer easy-to-use delivery systems for your client galleries. If you are a client, you might have noticed that your gallery link was delivered and hosted through one of these online platforms, where you photos are safe for a certain amount of time (often up to one or two years). 

Some of the most popular options - Pixieset, Pass Gallery, Pic-Time, Smugmug, CloudSpot

5: Online cloud based storage! Ah yes, we can’t forget about the cloud when we talk about how to back up photos. You most likely already have access to this if you have a smartphone or laptop. These are relatively cheap and allow for limited time storage! Oftentimes, they fill quite quickly with larger image files.

Options in the cloud - ICloud, Backblaze, Google Drive

But now what?

Okay, so now you’ve got your storage options. Select 2-3 types of devices you’ll be storing or images on. Because remember, hard drives fail. It’s expensive to recover failed hard drives. So when technology fails us, the best way to be prepared is with a back up.

And finally, it’s time to get organized! Because what is the point of backing up your images if you can’t seem to find them anywhere?! Here’s my workflow for labeling and organizing files. 

Inside each of your storage devices, you can create digital folders. Start with creating folders for each year and label them accordingly. Within each year folder, separate your images by month or by occasion. For example, you may choose to label all shoots in June within the same folder, then continue to break it down by family, couple, or brand name. Or you may choose to separate all weddings into one folder, families into another, and so on. 

While digital labels are clearly important, let’s not forget to create physical labels as well! When you’ve done enough shoots, you’ll be thankful that each storage device is clearly labeled. You might want to label each drive by year or time period of the images on the drive. Lastly, if the storage device is full, slap another label on there, too! This way you won’t spend time opening the drive just to realize that you can’t use it. Store your storage devices somewhere safe! 

From my desk - If you are looking for the perfect label maker for your storage divides, check out this one on Amazon! It’s the exact one I use.

And because I can’t explain how to back up photos or its importance without making one last suggestion. Print your images. As I said before, technology fails. And while sometimes technology doesn’t stand the test of time, printed images always will. Plus your images aren’t meant to live in a storage device or only ever appear on a screen. Order prints, create canvases, decorate the walls of your home, and let your photos fill your surroundings with some freakin’ joy!

Recommendations for printing... 

Consumer-grade print labs: Places like Costco, Shutterfly, and Mpix offer good quality image printing at a more affordable price point. 

Professional-grade print labs: Most photographers offer high-quality prints through their online galleries at a bit higher of a price point (but you know what they say, you get what you pay for!). 

Albums: Consider printing an album for your photos especially if it was a special occasion like a wedding! Most photographers also offer high-end albums that are very customizable and made to last through generations. Other options at a lower price point are Artifact Uprising, Mpix, and Shutterfly as well! 

Now you know not only how to back up photos, but also why you 100% should!! But if you have some questions along the way, don’t hesitate to contact me! I’m always happy to guide clients through the process of protecting their images. And if you’re a photographer looking for more tips and tricks on how to stay organized, find clients, and create a sustainable business, head over to my photography mentorship page!