Backing Up Wedding Photos

Just a few years ago, I only shot with film and didn’t give much thought to backing up my computer files. Neither did my wife Natalie. Until the day I borrowed her laptop for a school presentation- and left it on the metro.

I was hysterical and despite calling the lost and found and obsessively posting ads on craigslist to PLEASE return the laptop, it never returned. And with it went hours and hours of work on school papers Natalie had worked on, family photos and countless other things.

Now that I shoot a lot of digital and it’s my actual job, I have backups upon backups upon backups. So do most photographers. But this post is for my clients, and any couple who has just received their wedding photos. It’s not their job to be uber careful about their digital data and often times, they have no idea where to start.

If you just received your wedding photos, most likely, your photographer sent them all to you on a DVD, CD, or thumbdrive. Consider these your originals and assume you will never ever be able to contact your photographer again. So you want to keep the originals in a dark, dry, place where they will be safe. Make sure the container the DVD is in meets archival standards. Even though I personally worry about technology changing faster than a DVD can degrade(think about vinyl, to tape, to CD to MP3’s) having your originals in a safe place is a good idea.

Now that you know how and wear you want to store your DVD, it’s time to upload those images to your computer. Whichever program you use to keep photos(lightroom, iphoto, picasa, etc), use this to upload your photos but also drag and drop the original files to a folder on your computer separate from the files you upload to your photo program. Some photo programs can overwrite your original files if you decide to edit them(like resizing them to print if you have permission from your photographer). So keeping another set of untouched files is important.

Don’t stop there! One last and really important step is left. Backing them up to an external hard drive. There are a billion external hardrives out there, but my favorite, and the one pictured above, is the Iomega eGo Portable Mac Edition. It’s top rated on CNET, has drop protection(super important at least for my family) and is bright red so if you have a laptop and are always moving, it’s easy to find again and backup. But frankly, almost any external hard drive is going to be fine. If you want to be uber amazing and careful, having two external hard drives is always a good idea, but not imperative. So using your hard drive or computer’s backup software will backup your whole computer. I personally have a mac and use time machine. It happily backs up all my data to my hard drive. But to make super sure my wedding photos end up safe and sound on my external hard drive, I move the files from the original folder you dragged from the DVD and have not touched, and drag it to my external hard drive. So you will probably have two folders on your external hard drive. Your computer backup and a separate folder that says ‘Wedding Photos’.

So here’s a list of where your wedding photos:

  • Your DVD/CD/Thumbdrive in a dark, dry, safe place.
  • On your computer in your photo editing software(lightroom, picasa, iphoto) because it was imported
  • On your computer in a separate folder you don’t touch. These are the originals from the DVD
  • On your external hard drive that was automatically backed up by your external hard drive software or computer software
  • On your external hard drive in a separate folder from your automatic backup
  • If your super careful? They are also on a second external hard drive

So it may seem like a lot of work, but it’s super important to do. And with all backups, doing it now and forgetting about it? Not a good idea. Just like your mix tapes, in a few years, you will most likely have to transfer your photos to another format. And if you get a new computer? Same thing. But considering these are your wedding photos, it’s totally worth it.