Backing up your photography is an essential part of any photographer’s workflow. I’d go as far as to say it’s one of the most important things you can do. Just imagine hard drive failure that results in you losing all your images? That’s something that should only take place in your nightmares…

It’s obvious that many of you understand the importance of backing up your images; this is a question I often receive through the CaptureLandscapes newsletter.

In this article, I want to take you step-by-step through my complete backup workflow.

Step 1: Import Images From Camera to External Hard Drive

I always travel with an external hard drive where I store my latest images. I call this my ‘work drive’ and one 3TB drive typically takes 1.5-2 years to fill up (depending on how much I shoot). When the drive is full, it’s ‘retired’ from travels and I purchase a new one to bring with me and use as my main work drive.

Each of my external hard drives has a main folder called ‘Photography’. Within this folder, I’ve got several subfolders that build my storage organization, which is also reflected in my Lightroom Library.

Since I’m using a MacBook Pro, I choose to import my photos via Apple’s native app Image Capture. This allows me to import images into the correct subfolders (which I’ve based on location & year).

I’m currently using a Western Digital Elements 3TB HDD and have been using WD hard drives for the past 5 years without having any problems.

Step 2: When Traveling, Don’t Delete Images From the Memory Card

The second step in my backup workflow is valid only when I’m away from home.

Despite using a Case Logic Portable Hard Drive Case to protect the hard drive, accidents may occur. Theft is also a possibility even if it’s unlikely. To avoid losing all my new images if I experience either of the above, I don’t delete images from the memory card until I’m back home and have backed up the work drive.

During a long trip, I might fill the memory card (with a 64GB SD Card this is rare, though). If that happens I’ve got an extra couple SD Cards safely stored in my camera bag.

Step 3: Copy Hard Drive to a Synology NAS

Synology’s Diskstation DS1817+ is the latest and most important addition to my backup strategy. This is an 8-bay NAS (Network-Attached Storage) that can be scaled up to 18 drives.

The genius part of the NAS server is that I can back up all my other external hard drives and when they’re ‘retired’ I can still access everything stored on them by simply logging onto my server.

How I Back Up My Photography

I’ve configured my Diskstation to automatically import all new files in the ‘Photography’ folder once an external hard drive is connected to it. This means that if anything happens to my external hard drive, I still have the files and don’t need to panic.

Having 8 bays/drives means that I have 8 slots where I can place hard drives. I currently have 2x Seagate 4TB IronWolf Pro hard drives installed which give me a total of 8TB storage. I’ll be adding another 6- or 8TB hard drive in the near future and keep expanding when the drives start filling up.

This is the most important part of my back up strategy and I highly recommend that you look into using a NAS server as well.

Step 4: Move Retired Hard Drives to Another Location

The final step to how I back up my photography is to store my retired external hard drives at another location.

Keeping both the backup and original hard drive in the same location is quite contradictory; yes, you’ll still have the files if one drive fails but if there’s a fire or a robbery, you’ll probably lose them both.

I choose to store my hard drives away from home to prevent this from happening (this could be at a family member’s house, your office, storage facility, safety deposit box, etc.) Should I be unfortunate and experience a robbery, fire or another catastrophe that damages my home, I’ve still got a hard copy at another location so I won’t lose my work.

Before I started using the Synology DS1817+, the downside to a separate location was that when a client requested a file stored on a retired drive I didn’t always have it easily accessible and it was time-consuming to get a hold of.

With the Diskstation, now all I have to do is log in to the server, find the file and download it to my computer. Easy!  (And I still have those original drives squirreled away just in case…)

Final Thoughts

I’ve used cloud services such as Juttacloud and Dropbox to back up images but now these are unnecessary since I can sync files between my NAS server and computer using Synology’s CloudStation.

An additional factor in choosing the NAS server (although perhaps not a problem if you have a great internet connection) was that backing up images to the cloud took a lot of time and I was never able to keep 100% of my disk backed up…

Doing a quick Google search will give you an abundance of backup strategies. The one I’ve outlined above works well for me but that’s not to say it’s the only approach nor the best.  However, if it gives you food for thought about your own precautions, mission accomplished!

I’d love to hear how what your backup strategy looks like. Do you use the cloud, a NAS server, external hard drives or something else? Let me know in a comment! 

How I Back Up My Photography