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Photo Catalogs and Storage (to be continued)

If you take photos, you’ve probably spent some time wondering about the best ways to store them. If you’re hoping to earn money from your photos, you’ve probably spent some sleepless nights thinking about the best ways to store them. I see questions on this topic all the time, and I’ve spent countless hours thinking about my storage process and workflow.

I think I’m going to poll a few photographers I know to get their thoughts on the process(es) that work for them. One of the problems I’ve seen online is that people don’t explain their systems very well. The answers can be vague, incomplete, and full of acronyms or confusing references.

I’ve got the basics of my system down, and I’m still not entirely thrilled with it. For example, if my apartment burned down tomorrow, I’d lose 95% of my photos. I have my entire catalog backed up to redundant hard drives, but they’re all in my apartment, in separate rooms (not really rooms, but not next to one another).

I’m overly stoic about this at the moment because I don’t have any photos tied to client work that I’d be on the hook for reproducing. I would lose the photos that make up my portfolio, though, and that’s not acceptable. I need to refine my system for ensuring that my best photos are a) backed up to the cloud and b) backed up off-site. I may never get to the off-site solution. I keep meaning to look into whether there are small safes that would stand a chance in a fire.

Ideally this is what I’m working towards:

  1. Main external hard drive automatically backed up or mirrored to an identical hard drive. I’m using slow conventional hard drives for that because in theory I do my resource intensive work on an SSD or Thunderbolt drive and then move them to the slow drives. I say in theory because I often work straight on the slower drives, which is a bad practice, but my editing isn’t too intensive. Label the paired drives.

  2. Automatically and regularly back the main drive up to the cloud. I’m not doing this right now. It’s a critical step that I need to get more methodical about.

  3. When mobile, immediately back up memory cards to my Western Digital My Passport SSD. Keep the cards separate from the hard drive in case of theft or loss. I need to find and stick to a mobile cloud backup option, one that allows me to backup over night when I have a reliable internet connection.

I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and I still have questions. Or I’ll stop and wonder if there’s a better, faster way to do things. For example, I use Lightroom for my catalog. Inevitably, when I switch to new hard drives, the photos mapped to old hard drives become “missing”. I want to be more confident that I can quickly locate those photos. Also, I’ve noticed that Lightroom has glitches. If my internet goes out or if I unplug a drive, the storage destination sometimes switches to my laptop’s hard drive. I’m sure I’ve imported to that drive without being aware of it. Finally, I don’t know the science behind the storage of metadata and edits. I use Lightroom because it maintains that information for me, but I imagine it would be an unpleasant experience to have to re-establish a catalog from a cloud backup.

I hope to post more on this soon.