How to Back up Your Photos


One of the most important aspects of being a professional photographer is keeping your client's photos backed up and safe. One never knows when so and so from 2006 is going to ask for IMG_1245.jpg from that random event. A true professional should be able to find a specific file in a matter of hours and deliver the highest resolution copy to whomever asks.

This photo of Sterling Sulieman was featured in COSMOPOLITAN. I took it in 2010 and the article came out in 2012. I originally had photographed this series to be black and white but the magazine wanted the color version. Good thing I backed up the RAW files! If I hadn't had the color versions my work would never have been published in a worldwide circulating popular magazine. See the importance?

I could tell countless stories of how many times clients have come back to me YEARS later asking for a specific photo. As I've started a family over the years I've learned the importance of backing up our personal photos as well which brings me to this post.


So you're not a professional photographer but everyone has photos. Wether you're shooting your kid's soccer game on your iphone, your fiance in Rome or that super important selfie of you and Ellen Degeneres, saving your memories for later is crazy important. When I photograph newborns I always stress the importance of creating a back up system for new parents because the last thing you want is to lose the first photos you ever took of your children.

Here are some help tips to back up your photos. For simplicity purposes, let's stick with cell phone images as that tends to be what people have on a wider scale. 

1.) Find a Photography Program or an App and STICK TO IT!

Consistency is key. You will get confused if you start backing up your files with the Photos App for Apple and then move to Google's Picasa. I use Adobe Lightroom for all my professional images and Apple's Photos App for my iPhone photos. 


2. ) Organize your images by date!

After you have chosen your weapon of choice, it's important to create a consistent process of organization so you are never confused and can find your files from years ago very easily. One way I've learned over the years is to organize photos by date. You can always go back to your calendar or remember a birth date to help you find images fast. Here is the folder hierarchy I use when organizing my photos.

2016>August 2016>2016_08_16

 This is a screenshot of my Finder. You'll see it's not PERFECT but it works for me!

This is a screenshot of my Finder. You'll see it's not PERFECT but it works for me!

Backing up is important but one of the most important facts usually missed while backing up is having your files in multiple locations. I usually have my professional images in 3-4 places at any given time. A.) My Memory cards don't get wiped until all the files are backed up on my computer and harddrive. B.) I upload all the original files to my computer and then an external harddrive. C.) I think back up the RAW files to the Cloud. An

3.) Back up to an EXTERNAL HARDDRIVE! 

After you have downloaded the photos to your computer it's time to start copying them to multiple places. External Harddrives are tried and true resources for securely backing up your data.

I have used Western Digital My Books for years and never had a problem with them. I make a carbon copy of what is on my computer on my externals. I can usually fit about 6 months of photos on a 2 terabyte drive, but if you're not shooting as much or with a Digital SLR these bad boys can last you for years. And they will! They also come with a 2 year warranty so if anything starts to sound out of whack, just call Wester Digital's Customer Support and they'll send you a brand new one.

I back up my photos every week but you could do every other week or once a month depending on how many photos you take and how much time you want to commit to the process. But know! A lot can happen in 30 days. If your photos are only on your computer and the external harddrive sitting next to it and your house burns down (I pray that doesn't happen) - well, you've lost your data. That's what brings me to backing up your photos to the cloud.

If you want to get real crazy, make carbon copies of your external harddrives and store them in a secure location off site from your office or computer. Some people I know have a safety deposit box of harddrives just in case. But know that these harddrives use dated technology that will change eventually. Who knows, USB ports may not be a thing in 10 years.

4.) Back Up to the Cloud!

It's 2016! There is no reason why you should not be backing your photos up to the cloud. With most smartphones today, you don't even know that it's happening! But you can run out of space quickly which why I think it's important to invest a little bit of money and get that extra storage space. Again I stress the importance of consistency. If you're going to use iCloud then commit to it for the rest of your freakin' life. If you want to use AMAZON Backup Solutions, STICK TO IT!

We use SmugMug for our professional images and iCloud for our iPhones. However, I just switched from Android where I was using Google Drive for my back up solutions. I'm going to leave all those images there and back them up to an external harddrive for now until I have time to transfer everything over.

Wanna get real crazy? Back up to 2 different cloud solutions. Why not? Space is cheap!


Last but not least - print your photos!! I don't care if you use our professional printing services via an amazing lab in San Fransisco called BayPhoto or if you run down to Target and print out 200 4x6s. Print your shit out. You never know what will happen to your computer. Or if Apple will suddenly DISAPPEAR one day and take all your photos with them. You never know! 

We love Blurb and have used them for professional projects and personal. They have books starting at $14.99! It only takes a few minutes to create and the quality is top notch. Print a few of these bad boys for your physical back up solution and rest assured you can cherish the images forever. Print more than 1 copy and mail to your friends and family! 

Let's recap. First; find an app or a program on your computer that you like. Adobe's Lightroom, Google's Picasa or Apple's Photos are all great programs - pick one and stick to it! Second; Organize your photos by Date. Come up with a good plan and commit to it. It'll make your life so much easier years down the road. Three; back up your photos to an external harddrive and be consistent! Don't let too much time pass between backups or you'll be hitting yourself in the face when your computer crashes and you haven't backed anything up for 2 months. Fourth; back up to the cloud! If you're just using a cell phone for photo taking, purchase that extra space on your systems platform and let it do it's thing. But check your settings and make sure you're backing up the high resolution images! And last but not least - PRINT PRINT PRINT!! There's nothing like a physical print of a photo to make it that more special. Bring large and small and enjoy knowing even in a digital apocalypse you're photos will be safe.

One last fun project I'm working on ... my mother created this blue album of photos back in the day, cuz that's what you did before the internet and cell phone photography. I loved looking at it as a kid and was worried it would get lost or destroyed by accident somehow so I borrowed it from my father. I scanned all the images and started creating a new version of it with BookWright, page for page, to print and give to my brothers. Here's a screenshot: 

Let me know if you have any questions with your backup solutions. I'm more than happy to help. I sorta get nerdy about all this stuff - can you tell? It's super important, especially in this day and age so get to it! The best time to start backing up is yesterday!!

Happy Shooting!