I have a saying that states, “There are those that back up and those that will!”
This is such an important subject, that I decided to not only write the steps down but also to record a video of my process. If after reading this and viewing the content, you lose your images for lack of backing up, there will be no one to blame, but yourself. Your images are too important to not listen to what I am saying.
There is a lot of confusion on backing up properly. We receive messages and see the post on FB a lot in regards to the subject. 
Usually not a week goes by that I either receive an email or someone in one of our classes tells me that they have had a hard drive (HD) fail and now they are wondering what they can do to save their precious memories.
This tutorial is too important to wait until later to read or watch. So sit down, take a moment, and learn to make sure your images are truly safe. They are worth too much to not! 



Recently, I had a conversation with a person that had all of their last 3 months’ worth of photographs on a memory card and their card went bad. The result, their friend’s wedding, and their own daughter’s graduation photographs were lost. I sat there and thought to myself, WHY do people not listen to me about the backup process?

In our classes, on our photography tours and  on PEN, we consistently speak of backing up your images. Yet, for some unknown reason, I cannot seem to understand, it still seems to fall on ears that believe it will not happen to them.
I am writing this the day after I had another HD malfunction. That HD lost EVERYTHING that was on it. Was I stressed about it? NO! Why? Because I knew I had everything not only backed up in one location but three including an off-site HD just in case.

My system is as follows:

On my main computer at home, I have two separate HD’s. Most people have one. In this case, you will use a portable HD’s that can be plugged into your main computer. After shooting, I immediately download images to my first drive. I do not wait, and it is the first thing I do when I get back from a photography session. Then I copy the folders to other HD’s immediately and without a break so I do not miss them accidentally. See more below.


While traveling also be consistent. 

I carry a travel HD with me at all times when on a photography trip. I use a small SSD drive as SSD drives although expensive, are much more reliable and fast. Another great option is the Rugged Series HD’s from Lacie. You can drop these things and they will still work and are waterproof!

I also carry a lightweight laptop. I do not download to my laptop and prefer to keep it clean so that it works fast. However, I do use it to edit on the road and plug my portable drive directly into it. If you prefer not to carry a laptop, the new LaCie Copilot HD is awesome. You simply can place your SD card directly into it without a laptop and back up your card. Although it is an expensive HD at around $350, it is built very well and after all, how much are your memories worth?

During my travels, I back up nightly and NEVER delete or reformat or reuse a memory card until I am back home and I am CERTAIN all is backed up properly in my system. Remember, the key is to be CONSISTENT!

This 1tb SSD HD is very small and lightweight. 

The new LaCie Copilot has built in ports to allow you to directly download your SD cards and your phone on the go! 

Use more than one memory card while traveling.

When traveling I do not shoot all my images over a trip on one card UNLESS I am using both slots in my camera that EACH record the images. In that case, you really are still using two cards. 

Many of the newer cameras have this feature and you can record images to two cards at the same time which helps in the case of card malfunction. However, it doesn’t help in the case of a camera being stolen or dropping in a lake! By spreading my images over a few cards, I know all my images are not in one place if something goes wrong. I suggest splitting your travel images into two or three cards. If you were to accidentally lose a card prior to back up, at least all of your images from the trip are not gone. 

I keep my images on the memory cards in a different location than my HD. As an example, in my main camera bag, I may keep the memory cards, but I will carry in my other my HD or hand it off to Ally. By separating them, in case of loss or theft I once again have not lost my memories!

Turn your memory cards backward in the memory card holder after use if you have not downloaded yet to all of your HD’s you intend to. In this way, you know that card is off limits to shoot on or to format. This will help you to keep from doing so accidentally. After all the downloading takes place, I then reformat my cards and place them right side up and know they are ready for use in an instant. 

Download as soon as you are home. 

I personally use three HD’s at home at all times. I start with a 4tb portable LaCie HD that is known as a RAID system. This simply means that it is two hard drives in one casing that mirrors each other so that data can be recovered in the event of HD failure. In this case, it’s almost as if I have 4 drives! The LaCie HD’s also come with FREE data recovery. You pay more, but you get what you pay for. I find that protecting my images and memories are truly important and worth the extra money spent without question. 

The portable LaCie RAID HD is plugged into my main computer at all times but it can be unplugged if I need to grab in a hurry in case of an emergency. 

We had a fire approach our home within about 20 yards once and we thought we were going to lose it. After you go through an experience like that you tend to have a plan in place. I am letting you know to get your plan in place NOW before it’s too late.

I always start by downloading to the RAID system first. Then I immediately copy those files and folders over to the other HD’s on the main computer. In this way, my system is consistent, and I am much less likely to miss something being downloaded.

As I do work on my computer, I also use the LaCie RAID system as my main location to save work to first. Then, before I leave my desk, I drag and copy any new work I have done to the other two HD’s on my main computer. In this way, I am consistently on three separate HD’s at home, PLUS the mirror system of the RAID HD. As I mentioned, if I had to grab it in a hurry, in an emergency such as a fire, I can simply grab the one portable HD and go.

The LaCie RAID system is extremely reliable , offers a mirror of the main drive, and free data recovery! Plus it is easy to grab in an emergency.

Monthly Back Up for Off-site

Off-site storage is just as important as backing up to a couple of HD’s at home. If you were to lose your home to fire, your memories are still safe. If you were to lose your computer to theft, you still are safe. I know of a professional photographer that had 10 years worth of work completely backed up. Her place was robbed and they took her computer AND her fireproof safes with the portable back up hard drives in them. ALL her images are gone.

At a minimum of once a month (I used to do every 6 months but feel it is too risky) I have another portable HD that I store off-site. I bring that home and I update with all the new items I have done. When you drag folders over, if for any reason you are duplicating, a message will pop up and state that you have those files and would you like to replace. Simply just click no and move on. As my organization is by year and month it is easy to know what I have that is new that needs to be backed up.

The Cloud

Although I feel storage to the Cloud is also a very viable option, I do caution people not to use the Cloud as their only source of backing up data.

The first issue with “Cloud” storage for a photographer or videographer, is the amount of time it will take you to get your back up system up and running. As an example, I was looking at backing up to the Cloud 4tbs of data. The estimated time to get everything backed up was 4236 days! YES, DAYS! Now as internet speeds continue to get faster and faster, I believe this will be a much more viable option. 

If you do not have much data or want to start with current data as you move forward, that may be a better solution. The companies such as Backblaze and Carbonite once set up, will automatically back up any new data as you add it to your main HD. Amazon and Google also have storage plans.
Another issue with this being your only backup solution is the fact that there is no guarantee these companies will be in business in the future. You may think a company like Amazon is set to stay, but are they? We do not know what the future holds. Aperture was editing software that was an Apple product. Out of the blue, they decided to stop supporting it and it left thousands of people scrambling to get their images out of it before it was gone.
Online storage also could be susceptible to hacking. I know these companies do everything they can to try to ensure that does not happen, but can they guarantee it? I will never trust that anyone but me should have access to my files or trust them to be the ones in charge of my memories forever being safe.
For myself, the bottom line with the Cloud is to consider it one option as part of your back up solution but not to use it as your only solution.