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When you’ve worked hard to create some amazing photos the last thing you want to find out down the line is that they are lost, missing or deleted, especially if there was something you could have done to keep them safe!
In past times if you wanted to store your photos or videos you had to keep physical copies of them which brought about a set of problems. Stacks of slide photos could easily get moldy, scratched and ruined, and the same went for film; on top of which you would need quite a large physical space to actually keep them all in! This meant that moving your studio or home was more costly and made freelancing more complicated than it is today.
Fortunately in the modern world it is easier and safer to store your photos and videos in a digital format, but how do you preserve digital image files and what are the best ways to do so in the long and short term?
Preserving Your Digital Image Files for the Long Term.
If you’re new to the idea of saving your digital image files for the long term it can seem like quite a complicated mess to unpick but if you focus on using one or two methods then you’ll soon get the hang of it as it becomes a routine part of your workflow.
External Hard Drives – The Top Long Term Physical Storage Option.
If you need to save your digital image files then using an external hard drive is one of the best long term solutions that you can employ. There are two types of hard drives, internal ones and external ones.
An internal hard drive is what is inside your computer or laptop and can store a fair amount of digital image files on it, however, you are putting your files at greater risk than storing them on an external hard drive.
If your computer gets a virus or is hacked your files can be lost or corrupted. This could be disastrous if you needed them for a client or even just for your portfolio records. Internal hard drives also have very limited space compared to their purpose made external counterparts. Your internal hard drive is ideal for short term image file storage but for the long term you’re better off using an external hard drive.
Using an external hard drive gives you a huge amount of storage space and can keep your digital files separate from an internet connection – which is the most common way that viruses get onto your computer. External hard drives can also be moved or kept in safe storage once they are getting full. If you’re serious about keeping your files safe it is advisable to use more than one external hard drive so you have multiple backups of all your image files.
External hard drives are easy to use and you simply download the files as you usually would through a USB cable. The best models for use as a photographer or videographer also allow you to download the digital image files directly from your camera to the external hard drive.
There are few things that you need to be careful of when using an external hard drive such as power surges, which can corrupt the files, and dropping them! However, if you keep it in a safe place and use surge protectors your image files will be extremely safe and easy to access in the future.
- Seagate Backup Plus (4TB Storage): The Seagate Backup Plus is one of the most reliable external hard drives on the market and with up to 4TB of storage space it has plenty of room for your photos and video files. To put that in context, a 4TB external hard drive can save up to 1 million 12 MP photos or 2000 hours of HD video! With that kind of storage space the Seagate Backup Plus definitely has enough space to get you started! It’s compatible with Macs and Windows and you can download files directly from your camera using a standard USB cable making it a fantastic all round option for long term digital image storage.
Cloud Storage – A Secure Long and Short Term Online Storage Option.
Using the cloud to store your digital image files is one of the easiest and most convenient options that is immediately available to you. There are constrictions though that you should be aware of which means that if you’re needing to store large quantities of video or photo files then it could start to cost you some money to buy more space.
You can use the cloud storage services of any of the major tech giants including Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive. The cloud is a virtual storage space where you can upload your files to. The actual storage of your image files takes place on the servers of the tech giants so you don’t need to buy any extra equipment to use it.
Google Photos offers you an unlimited storage space for free and offers some extra services including print on demand photos from as little as 25 cents each. To learn more about the services you can check out the Google Photos homepage to sign up for free online photo storage services.
Flash Drives – Suitable for Both Long and Short Term Digital Image Storage.
This is one of the quickest ways to save your photos in the long term. Flash drives are tiny and can fit in your pocket and most photographers keep several in their camera bag to have a backup storage option available wherever they go.
One downside of relying on flash drives is that they are famously easy to lose or misplace and most have fairly limited storage space; making them more suitable for photo storage than video.
If you choose to use flash drives then you’ll need to label them effectively so you don’t end up with handfuls of unmarked flash drives with no idea of what’s on them!
Flash drives are suitable for long term storage but the safest way to use them is as a backup because it still makes sense to store your image files in other ways as well.
MicroSD Cards – A Great Choice For Transferring Images as well as Storing them.
MicroSD cards are portable, easy to store and have storage capacities of up to an impressive 1TB in some cases, which make them a popular choice among freelancing photographers. MicroSD cards can be linked directly to your computer to upload files if you need them or if you don’t have a slot then you can get a dock to house the transfer process.
One issue with MicroSD cards is that they may not always be compatible with older devices but if you use them as part of your storage strategy they can be a very useful addition. It’s probably not the best idea to rely on them solely however they do have their uses and can be a convenient way to store your image files in between other devices or in the short term.
Optical Storage (DVDS, CDs and Blu-Ray).
CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray used to be the go to option for storing photos and videos but as technology has advanced they have become quite outdated. Most CDs cannot store more than about 700MB of files while DVDs can offer up to around 4.7GB; both of which fall far short of the alternatives available today. Some double layered DVDs can hold up to 8.5GB of image files but even so it doesn’t compare to using a MicroSD Card or an external hard drive for storage.
To add to the storage issues, most modern laptops do not even have a DVD drive and many computers are ditching them as well in favor of other ports. As much as CDs and DVDS revolutionized the world in the 1990s and early parts of the 2000s, their time has probably passed and so if you’re looking to store your image files in the long or short term there are certainly better options out there which are more versatile, convenient and can store much more data.
How Long Should You Preserve Your Image Files For?
When it comes to storage it can be tempting to keep everything forever but if you’re a freelancing photographer you’ll soon find that you’re saving tens of thousands of photos, many of which will never be used again!
Of course when it comes to photos that you’ve taken which really stand out and you want to save for your portfolio then you should always store backup copies in multiple locations so that you never lose them!
However, if you’re working with clients and the job is done and you have delivered the photos to them, then there may be no need to store them any longer. If, for example, you’re working with a realtor taking shots of a property, once you’ve delivered the photos and the property has been sold then you can safely delete the files. It may be a good idea to store them for a few months just in case but generally speaking you’d be okay to delete them.
It does depend what genre you are working in though. If you are working as a portrait photographer then it’s common to keep photos going back for ten years or more because it can be helpful to go through your back catalog with a new client to find something that they like so you can work from that in the shoot.
In terms of your own photos it’s completely up to you! Many photographers like to look back at their work to get new ideas and to see what’s been working over the years.
Organization is Key.
Be sure that you have a good system worked out so that you can organize your image files in a way that you can easily go back and find what you are looking for! There’s no use storing thousands of photos if you can’t find them when you need to so be sure to tag and label them in sensible categories and with names that mean something to you. To make this easier you can create a database and store the images in categories, with dates and project or client names.
Setting up a good system early on will make your life easier in the future and knowing that your photos and videos are all safely stored will give you genuine peace of mind as you move forward.
Preserving Your Digital Image Files is A Crucial Aspect of Efficient Workflow.
Getting into good habits and developing an efficient system of storing your image files is a vital part of working as a photographer. The safest way to store your image files is to have them on multiple devices so that if something goes wrong with one you can still fall back on the others. This is especially important if you know you’ll be using the photos later for marketing, or you want to keep it as part of your long term career portfolio.
Do you use external storage devices or cloud storage as a photographer?