A lesson most photographers learn the hard way is to have backups, and not just one, of their photos. There is nothing worse than a card or hard disk failure and loosing irreplaceable photos. I learnt the hard way when a hard drive filed on me a few years ago. Thankfully I was able to recover the vast majority of the files but I did loose a fair amount which could have been avoided by having an additional backup. But you can protect yourself by implementing a few simple procedures.
Firstly you need to identify any Single Points Of Failure or SPOFs in your backup process. If you only have one copy of your photos that is automatically a SPOF, if you have 3 copies but they are all kept in the same place that can also be considered a SPOF as if your belongings were stolen or there was a fire or similar that could result in all the copies being lost.
Once you have identified a SPOF you need to identify a way to either remove it or negate it as a risk. Below are the various backup processes I have in place from the point of taking the photo and beyond, including the SPOFs I avoid.
Memory cards: I shoot using Canon 5D3s which have dual card slots (one SD one CompactFlash) this allows me to dual shoot. I always shoot raw to the Compact Flash and Jpg to the SD due to card write speeds. By dual recording I automatically remove the SPOF risk of shooting to one card which could fail at any time. If I was using a camera that doesn’t have two card slots I would regularly change my memory card keeping a maximum of say 100 photos to a card. This would ensure if you did have a card failure at say a wedding only a small proportion of photos would be lost. I would also be sure to switch card part of the way through key periods such as the ceremony and speeches so again each was across 2 cards.
Raw copies: I transfer my photos from my memory card to a hard drive, which in turn is copied to a second hard drive creating 2 copies. I then create a third copy on cloud online storage. The cloud storage eliminates the SPOF with all copies in the same location. If you choose a reliable cloud provider (I use Amazon as I get unlimited image storage included in my prime membership) they will also keep off site backups. I choose to use two hard drives at home as downloading from the cloud can take some time. Cloud is only really suitable if you have fast fibre broadband especially if backing up raw files, if you have slower internet I would seriously consider having another hard drive backup that is stored in a fire/water proof container.
Final images: My backups for the final jpeg files I provide to clients is very similar to my raw files. I keep two copies on hard drives at home, a copy on cloud storage and then a final copy on my website. I use Zenfoilo for my client galleries which again offers unlimited storage and is itself backed up daily.
As you can imagine I have a very large pile of hard disks which I label according to time periods so I know which are which. But I would far rather than that pile and have the reassurance that I always have multiple copies of all my files and images.
As a final point don’t scrimp money on card or hard drives as you will pay for it in the long run. With memory cards buy the big brands and from reputable retailers. The only card I ever had fail was a big name but purchased off eBay. My bargain ultimately wasn’t as it proved unusable and at the time I couldn’t get a refund as from a private seller. Now personally I only ever buy Sandisk cards. Hard drives again, don’t scrimp and check reviews. I spend hundreds on hard drives each year but that is far cheaper than the thousands you could spend trying to recover data from your sole hard drive if it fails. I also don’t use hard drivers larger than 1TB at the moment. They last me approx 3-4 months so I’m using 6-8 hard drives a year currently.
So time to evaluate your backup processes and what you can do to improve them so you can eliminate that worry of loosing your only copy of important photos.