Have you backed up your photos?
My Computer died.
And nothing could be saved from my hard drive.
Given how dependent most of us are on technology, if these two sentences don't strike fear into your heart, I need to check your pulse! What would you lose if that happened to you?
Amongst the things that I had lost were thousands of photos I had never gotten around to backing up. But I’m calm right now, much to my great surprise. And here’s why: I’ve finally created a great system for ensuring that doesn’t ever happen again.
Photography is therapeutic for me. It’s a creative outlet where I can capture little moments out of our life. Therefore, I take A LOT of photos—thousands and thousands every year on any one of my three cameras. But what I have noticed recently is that the photos I thought I cherished so dearly, have somewhat lost their value. I was shocked, but in reality it should come as no surprise. When something is in abundance, we tend to value it less.
Because I take so many photos, not only does each photo become less important, but the organization of those photos is a tedious (and not eagerly anticipated) task because I have to go through all of them and then sort through and find the ones that capture the moment best. There’s got to be a better way of finding those precious memories stuck deep beneath the clutter of the thousands and thousands of photos.
With the photos that haven’t been lost to this hard drive incident, I am getting this process sorted out once and for all. I’ve set to work on creating a system to deal with the hundreds of new photos I edit each week which I’d like to share with you.
Step 1: CURATE AND DELETE. AND THEN DELETE SOME MORE.
I still take a lot of photos and I won’t be reducing the amount I take. However out of the fifty photos I took of little Z’s first pony ride on my iPhone, I will keep maybe at the most, five photos. And then I will delete the rest - yes even the good ones. Five photos are more than enough to convey the story. The eleven sunset photos that I took with my iPhone will be reduced down to just 1. Why do I need to keep the ten attempts to get the perfect shot? The same applies to the photos from my big cameras. Get that delete muscle working. I promise you it gets easier the more you do it. Now, whenever I review my photos, I immediately assess which should be deleted instead of saving it for later.
Step 2: BACK THEM UP
I save to Smugmug as soon as I have edited the photos on my computer—no questions asked. I have used them for 4 years and I love the ease of uploading, downloading and sharing with family and friends. It is totally worth the money spent to have a photo-specific backup host because I take so many photos. I back up my iPhone photos monthly as well.
Step 3: UPDATE FOR THE FAMILY ALBUM
For the past 5 years, each year I have made a family photo album with the highlights. At the end of each month I aim to sit down and choose the best from the month and add them to the yearly album. Disclaimer: I am not perfect. And sometimes don't do it each month, but because I am deleting consistently (see step 1) the overwhelming task of sorting through photos is now gone. It’s easier to choose the best, what we want to highlight each month when I don’t have to dig through thousands of photos with people’s eyes closed, blurry kids (yes I do still take blurry photos!) or ten of the same shot. I manage to get down to four-hundred photos per year. Bonus my kids love going through these albums.
Step 4: MAKE A SECOND BACKUP
Making a second back up is essential for me, especially since I began family photography in 2010. Personally for me, this step is still up in the air as I am unsure how I would like to proceed in the future. Previously I backed up to CDs or an external hard drive. We have free unlimited online storage from our telecommunications provider and so currently I am uploading only the photos that made it into our family photo album. However I am a little uncomfortable with only having online backups. Can I trust them 100%? Technology changes so quickly so I am unsure how to proceed with this one. However, I do not have good experience with external hard drives - they have failed me in the past.
Step 5: DELETE PHOTOS OFF YOUR COMPUTER
Now that I have essentially 3 copies - 1. Smugmug 2. Family Album 3. Cloud service from our telecom provider (and maybe an external hard drive) I feel more than comfortable to delete all photos off my computer. I deleted all the photos from 2016 once I had my 3 backups in early 2017. My laptop and desktop will run more happily and if something does happen to them again - my photos are ALL safe in three or four different locations. So that means I only store a maximum of one year worth of photos on my computer at a time.
Just typing this out makes me feel a lot more relaxed when it comes to my photos. I can delete most photos, and keep only those that we truly treasure. I have decided I am not going to spend my time and any more money on storing photos that we hardly look back on. With this system I can stop worrying about whether I have backed them up enough times. I want more emphasis put on a small number of exceptional photos so that the photo albums become prized possessions of our family. Now, instead of having thousands of photos sitting on my computer doing nothing I’ve dealt with them and I amfinally losing the guilt of not doing anything with them.
Please share with me how your deal with your photos. Email me if you would like to share your ideas here on the blog.