The Importance of Backups

Don’t do what I do… do what I say! I know, I sound like a dad here. But it’s true. I like being out at a game on location rather than behind a computer. The problem is all the photos I previously captured are sitting right there on a hard drive. The problem? Hard drives fail. Sooner or later it’s gonna happen. It happened to me last week. I prefer to be out shooting a game but my backup strategy was not sufficient.

Thankfully, I have a Drobo, which is an array of four hard drives, so when the one failed I just had to replace it with a new one. That was what I thought until I did this and another drive in the array started to show a red light, too! My first reaction was sheer panic, thinking my whole array and over 450,000 photos were now in serious risk of being lost. Holy cow!

A reset of  the Drobo was called for and resolved the quirky issue. However, it sure made me think long and hard about the quality of my backup procedures. I am still thinking about it and am making definite actions to be sure my backup protocol is as foolproof as possible. Losing photos is not something I want to experience. Yep, I am sitting behind a computer now. It is not my favorite place to be but it is important for my backup plan to be successful.

Here is what I am implementing in my backup strategy. First, as I have in the past, I upload photos from my cameras to my MacBook Pro and a SanDisk external SSD. Then, when I get back to the office, I will copy the folder of photos onto two external drives that are mirrored to one another. Then I will copy the photos to my Drobo. This will provide three backups, which is highly recommended. I then reformat the SanDisk SSD to reuse. As time moves forward and the mirrored drives become full, I will move one of them offsite in case of fire or theft.

My file naming procedure is different from most photographers I talk to who just use the year and date for their shoots. I prefer an abbreviation as a prefix and the date in this format: YYMMDD. So a football folder looks like this: FB171104 and a Women’s Soccer like this: WS171104. Then each photo is a sequenced number behind the same filename scheme. My reasoning for this is that I can locate all the folders and photos from the same sport at a quick glance. I do not remember what I did on a specific date let alone which sport was being played that day. The date is important but not the most important to me. This file naming sequence has worked for me for over a decade.

My 16TB Drobo will soon be maxed out. I am preparing for this by getting ready to purchase a 24TB G-Tech Raid. My Drobo has worked well, but it is not the fastest drive to work with in my opinion. I am pleased with its redundancy but am willing to try something new and better. The G-tech seems like the next step for me.

Are you backing up adequately? Can you find the files you need when you need them? Are they safe and secure?

A New Use for My Old Laptop Hard Drive

Earlier this year my laptop died. Yep; dead as a door nail. Kaput.

I was not happy since I spent much of that day working on a presentation only to get home and not be able to even turn on my laptop. Huge bummer! I feared the worst at first thinking my hard drive bit the dust. That wasn’t the problem. This laptop wasn’t even two years old when it failed. I was frustrated and angry, vowing never again to purchase an HP laptop.

Two very good things came out of this tragedy. First, I made the decision to buy my first Apple, a MacBook Pro, which I am extremely happy to own! I was worried about compatibility issues and the learning curve, but was pleasantly surprised to quickly realize neither of these two issues was going to be a problem. Sweet!

The second good thing that came out of this laptop failure was only realized recently. The laptop still had its hard drive intact. I knew that it was not damaged because I was able to safely copy everything off of it and install all the files on my new MacBook Pro. I also saw an advertisement online for the OCW external hard drives. They are enclosed in a hard plastic case with a heat sync to disipate any heat. I also saw they offered a kit to convert your own laptop hard drive into an external drive.

I was not sure if my exact drive would work, so I got onto an online chat with one of the reps. She was very helpful and looked up the model of my hard drive. Very quickly she got back to me, reporting that my drive would indeed work. Awesome! So, I purchased the kit and waited for it to arrive at my front door.

A few days later it arrived. I got to work with the kit. I had to remove one piece from my hard drive that helped hold it in place in the laptop. Then it was just a matter of inserting a few screws to assemble the drive in the hard plastic case. Now, with a USB wire I can attach the drive to my computer as an external hard drive with over 300GBs of space available! (Source:

I use this external hard drive to automatically create a backup when I am importing photos into my laptop with Lightroom. I also keep my favorite LR catalogs on this drive so they are with me wherever I go. I really like this new use for my old laptop hard drive!

Winter Projects

Winter is hanging on with ferocity here in the Poconos of northeast Pennsylvania. The sun is shinning nicely today but we were in single digits last night and there is still a lot of snow around!

This makes me think of all the photo projects I should be doing while the weather is cold. One, for example, is tidying up my external hard drives. I originally used two different external hard drives to store my digital photographs. Then I bought a Drobo since it redundantly backs everything up and is so easy to use. The Drobo is just plug and play–plug a new or bigger hard drive in and start storing and backing up photos. It’s sweet!

The problem was that my external drives now contain many duplicate files as well as some new photos that need to be migrated over to the Drobo. I did this on my first external drive to be able to back up my broken laptop and restore on my new laptop. That was a 500 GB drive. Now I have a 1 TB drive to work through. I started last night and it is slow going. This is definitely a winter project!

I hope to be done fairly soon so I can gain some much needed space on my one drive and then use the other exclusively for backing up my new MacBook Pro. There is always something to do!

Don’t Wait – Reformat that flash card now!

I am a procrastinator and this gets me into trouble in a variety of ways. And as a photographer it does not pay to be a procrastinator.

Take, for example, the simple task of uploading photos from a flash card to a computer. This is a simple step and only takes a few minutes, so why wait to do it? As soon as you get back from a photo shoot it makes sense to start this process. Then, once the photos have been transferred and backed up, reformat that flash card. Don’t wait!

Here’s the danger. Let’s suppose that you have an unexpected photo opportunity early one morning that came from out of the blue. You didn’t know it was coming and your flash cards are full. Did you back up the photos on these cards? Is it okay to reformat these cards or are there important photographs on them that need to be transferred? See the problem? If you had just transferred the photos right after the last shoot and reformatted the cards you wouldn’t be facing this annoying dilemma.

So don’t wait. Process your photos, back them up, and reformat your flash cards as soon as possible. One day you’ll be glad you did!


Here’s a question: Do you keep just your keepers from each photo shoot or do you keep all of your photos?

Photographers have all sorts of strategies in keeping, distributing, and storing photographs. Some only keep their keepers and delete everything else from a shoot. Others, like me, tend to be more like pack rats and keep everything. What is your method?

Here’s the thing, in my opinion. Software seems to get better each and every year. So what might seem like a rather mundane photo today might be editable in the foreseeable future. Besides, I believe that even my non-keepers and really bad photos allow me to learn from them. Seeing them beside my keepers also has a way of keeping me humble!

I do not think there is a right or wrong way in this discussion, but we photographers certainly have opinions. So what is your opinion? Keep just the keepers or keep them all?

Digital Photograph and Folder Naming

Do you have a plan in mind when naming photos and folders?

A person with no plan is going to pay sooner or later. And a person who changes file naming schemes often is also in for deep trouble. I am experiencing some of this pain right now. I am nearly finished moving all my photos over to my new Drobo, but it’s been a real chore. It was difficult only because I changed how I named my folders. Now, I wanted everything to be consistent so I had to rename quite a few folder names. It took much more time than if I had just maintained the same naming scheme all along.

Here’s what I do now. When I import a photo shoot into Lightroom, I rename each photo by assigning the date first and then a sequential number starting with 1. The file name looks like this: 20100323-23  This way I will never have a file name with the same name as another one.

I also name the folder with the date of the photo shoot and a descriptive name. Something like: 2010-03-28 Middle School Musical. This makes it easy to find a folder by date or name.

There is no real right or wrong way to name files or folders, but find something that works for you and stick with it!

Update on My Drobo

My new Drobo has been in active use for over a week now and I am very happy with it. I first heard about the Drobo on TWIP–This Week in Photography, a weekly photo podcast. These guys were raving over the Drobo and I was slowly but surely running out of backup room on my external hard drives. So I saved my money and just purchased my own Drobo.

I spent the past week moving my photographs from the external drives to the Drobo. This would have been an easier chore if I had maintained a consistent folder-naming scheme all along. But alas the end is now clearly in sight and I expect to have the transfers down in a few short hours.

I only have two 1TB hard drives installed in my Drobo and it is already 67% full! I will have to install a third drive into my Drobo in the near future. One nice feature on the DataRobotics website is what they call the Drobulator, which is a virtual calculator which allows you to see how much storage space you will gain with different hard drives. I used this to determine my next cost-effective and best storage space-addition drive will be another 1TB drive.

The Drobo was very easy to set up and install. I just installed the two hard drives into the unit, attached the power cord and the USB cable, and then installed the software. Now the Drobo Dashboard gives me a constant status of space available and other important information from the Drobo. I just watch the lights on the unit, which will turn yellow when it is time to add additional storage. I also receive email messages from Drobo whenever the unit has a message for me. Pretty neat!

I have not always been faithful at backing up my photos so I find the Drobo to be extremely helpful and even vital in my workflow. To maintain proper backups I strongly recommend the Drobo. It works well and is easy to use.

Backup Strategy

A photographer’s backup strategy is crucial. Without such a strategy we risk losing important photographs that can never be recovered? Sound scary; it should!

I’ve had one hard drive failure many years ago. It was only 20mb in size, believe it or not (I did say it was many years ago!) and it only contained documents that I had backed up to 3.5″ floppy disks. About a year ago, I had another hard drive problem. It did not fail, but it did cause me to lose some files–mainly my email messages, calendar, and some other personal management software. Much of it was backed up, but I did lose all of my email messages. But thankfully, I’ve never lost a photograph, at least not yet.

My previous strategy was to use external hard drives to backup my photographs. As time passed and more and more photographs began to be stored, I purchased a second hard drive. This worked until this year when one of the drives became completely filled. So now I have some photographs that are not being backed up. Yikes!

So, my newest strategy included purchasing a Drobo, but then I also had to upgrade my desktop computer. The new one just arrived today! What timing, too! It is raining cats and dogs outside and while I have many projects to do around the house, this project is a great rainy-day project.

I put the desktop pc together and attached the Drobo. I also made sure to install McAfee on the new pc, too. Then I hooked up my biggest external drive and started copying most of my photographs to the Drobo. The dialog box says that it is copying the photographs, but it is going to take a whopping 14 hours to complete!

I will still have quite a few folders to copy over to my Drobo from my second external drive and then my laptop. It will take time, but I will finally have a solid backup strategy in place once again. The only problem with my strategy is to implement an off-site strategy in case of a fire, tornado, etc. Then I will have a solid backup strategy and will be able to sleep at night.

What is your backup strategy? Is it solid? And are you using it faithfully?

Wondering how best to proceed…

Sometime next week I will be receiving shipment of a new desktop computer that I will devote exclusively for my photography. I will attach my Drobo to it so I can have all my photographs on the Drobo and my Lightroom catalog on the pc. Currently my photos are on two external hard drives and a few on my laptop.

My question is how to best proceed in moving the photographs over to the Drobo so that Lightroom can find them. Since I’ve done quite a bit of editing already on some of these photos, I am thinking that importing the catalogs is the best way to go.

Have any of you done this before?

I was waiting for the new pc because with Windows 7 I can view the Drobo as one complete disk. With Windows XP there was a 2GB limit for each drive. But now I have to find the best way to get everything over the Drobo and as efficiently as possible. If you have any thoughts on how best to proceed, I’d love to hear from you!

How Do You Backup Your Photographs?

We all know we ought to do it. It’s one of those givens–backup or beware!

Knowing the value and importance of something is one thing; it is quite another to actually do it. Backing up files goes right up there with going to the dentist or sitting in traffic. We all have to face these things but they certainly are not fun to do.

So, how do you backup your photos? Do you use an external hard drive? Do you use a Drobo or Raid system? Or do you cross your fingers and just hope for the best?

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about the Drobo and I think I might give this a try.

But what do you do?