Ways to save your digital photos from disappearing forever
I’m old enough to have learned photography on film cameras – not because I’m a hipster but because digital didn’t exist back then! I still have almost every photo I’ve ever taken… from a cute kitten when I was 11 to my teenage family holidays, my son as a baby and of course my gorgeous bunnies!
If you are from an era when mobile phones didn’t exist then this simple guide is for you! Or perhaps you have recently married and purchased only a DVD or USB of your wedding photos?
We all have these precious memories and many people don’t really think about how to keep them safe. Or they mean to do “something” but don’t get around to it before the unexpected happens.
I have many conversations every year with people who are distressed after losing treasured photos and videos of their children and family events. Obviously, as a professional wedding photographer I have a duty to safeguard not just my own precious memories, but those of my clients.
This article is an explanation of my own backing up procedures that can be easily replicated by anyone, even if they are not very technically minded.
Backing up my laptop
Clients images are cloned to Verbatim USB portable external hard drives and the laptop hard drive. I usually have three copies on site at Ollievision Photography. One copy is sent to Backblaze in San Francisco in case all on-site copies are lost.
I remember the tragic case of a photographer who lost everything in a house fire a couple of years ago, his home was destroyed along with all his electronics. Tonight I’ve been chatting to a photographer in the USA who has been burgled. She lost everything, including all her equipment, when she went out for a couple of hours. She had no online backup service either.
I’ve been using Backblaze Online Backup for around 4 years now. The service runs in the background constantly, sending new and amended files to their servers. My laptop broke down a couple of weeks ago and the first thing I did was log in to Backblaze and look at all my photos safely sitting on their server! Backblaze costs $95 for a 2 year subscription or $5 a month.
A Word About USB Flash Drives (the little ones!) Some people recommend these for backup but they are not designed for long term storage. One of the most misleading trends in the wedding photography industry is for photographers to supply images on “fancy” USB drives that look like something the client would keep. USB drives are for transporting digital content from the photographers computer to your computer. Everything you get on a USB or DVD that’s important should be copied onto a PC straight away.
According to the Backblaze drive testing data, 80% of computer hard drives last 4 years. Which means that 1 in 5 hard drives are destined to fail over a 4 year period. If it hasn’t happened to you yet you have two choices:
- do nothing and wait for your drive to fail or
- take action now to secure your data
Backing up my phone
I have two backups for my Samsung phone. The videos and photos are automatically uploaded to my Dropbox account. It syncs them when I come home using my wireless network. This only takes a few minutes to set up. Sign up here for a Dropbox account then install the Dropbox app on your phone. You should find an option to upload all new photos to Dropbox in the settings.
Recently I bought a Meem. This is a USB phone charger that has built in memory. All you have to do is use it instead of your usual phone charger after installing the app. It’s so easy to use! Prices range from £60 to £110 depending on your phone. It copies your contacts, texts, photos & videos.
Another simple safeguard is to keep your phone in a case. This reduces the risk of breakage when it’s dropped.
My friend Jen has run over her iphone and lost years of memories. Apple say the data on it can’t be recovered. Jen didn’t know that icloud has to be configured in order to work, so there’s no copy of her family photos and videos. We have been advised that it is not currently possible to extract the data locked inside a dead iphone. If you’re in the Yorkshire area and think you can do it let me know!
The Meem charger I have for Samsung is available in an iphone version.
My aim was to keep this guide short and sweet in the hope that you’ll take some of the measures I’ve outlined. Then when something happens to your phone or computer you’ll breathe a sigh of relief when you remember the steps you took in 2017 to ensure a copy was made.
Happy backing up!
If you have more simple tips to share please add them in the comments section.