How to get make sure you never lose your wedding photos…
… and how to get them back if you do!
Most of this advice is relevant to all digital photos, though obviously if we’re talking about photos you took yourself then you can’t go back to the professional photographer to see if they have a backup.
If you have already lost your photos then there is a section dedicated to that further down.
How to keep your wedding photos safe
There is an easy, single word answer to this problem.
However, if you are not particularly tech-savvy then that is easier said than done.
At least once per year I get an email from a past couple asking if I still have their photos as they lost them.
I’m a techie. I come from an IT background so making backups is second nature to me.
Even before my professional reputation depended on making sure I never lost a client’s photos I have always been meticulous about making sure my photos are available in at least three different places.
Why you should backup your photos right now
Think about your most important digital photos.
These could be your wedding photos, photos of your kids when they were babies or perhaps the last photos of a lost relative.
Where are those photos right now?
If you can only think of one place then now is the time to take action.
From time to time I see people posting on local Facebook groups, pleading to get a lost or stolen phone back because it had all of their baby photos on it.
I also come across people whose hard drive failed on their laptop and they are desperately searching for data recovery experts to help them reconstruct their family photo album from the dead drive.
What would you do if your computer failed, or your phone was lost?
Start with the 3-2-1 Rule!
This is going to sound a little geeky, stick with me :-).
If your photos are currently only stored in one location, you need to think of two more.
Common IT practice is to adopt the 3-2-1 rule:
Maintain 3 copies of your data on 2 different types of media with 1 of those being off-site.
The 3-2-1 rule is intended for businesses as part of a business continuity plan, though the same can easily be used for backing up your precious photos.
Remember that whatever backup strategy you adopt, it is not a one-off task.
You need to keep doing it for new photos too.
How to backup your photos right now
If the 3-2-1- rule sounds a little intimidating then don’t worry, I have a few simple tips which you can do now to protect those precious memories.
Photos on a USB stick
Many photographers deliver wedding photos on a USB stick.
Whilst USB sticks are generally pretty reliable, some can corrupt and become unreadable.
They are also easy to lose, especially if you let friends and family borrow it.
If that’s your one copy then I would suggest the first thing to do is put that USB stick into your computer or laptop and copy them across to your hard drive.
So that’s two copies already.
Now for the third, I would suggest the cloud.
Storing Your Photos in The Cloud
‘The Cloud’ is basically internet-based storage.
For this I recommend Google Photos.
Google Photos, quite frankly, is fantastic.
Basically all you do is download and install the Google Sync app to your computer, tell it which folder your photos are in and then, that’s it.
Your photos will be uploaded into Google’s cloud and will be accessible wherever you go.
The app will keep monitoring your photos folder and will automatically upload new ones.
So there’s your three locations, two different types of media and Google Photos has taken care of the off-site for you.
Photos on your photographer’s online gallery
We photographers have to pay a subscription for the services which host our online client galleries.
Generally there is a limit to the number of photos we can store at any one time.
For that reason, your photographer will not keep your wedding photos online indefinitely.
You need to get those photos downloaded to your computer ASAP.
Once they are downloaded you can make copies to your own USB drives.
You can also follow the steps above to get them onto Google Photos or any other cloud service.
If your photographer has locked out downloads on the gallery then you will need to get in touch with them to work out a way for you to get the files onto your computer.
Photos on a mobile phone
Easily lost, stolen or broken; your mobile phone is a terrible place to keep your precious photos.
Fortunately, smartphones are usually always connected to the internet.
This is something you should be taking advantage of.
There are plenty of services available, including the previously mentioned Google Photos, which instantly upload every photo you take the moment after you take it.
What this means is that if you are taking photos on a trip and then lose your phone, you will still have all the photos up to the point where you lost it.
Generally these services are free, or very low cost, so to me this is a no-brainer.
My advice, get the Google photos app installed right now!
Photos in the Cloud
You might think that having your photos stored in the Cloud, i.e. on a service such as Google Photos, Dropbox or Microsoft’s OneDrive means they are totally safe.
They are not.
Whilst they are not susceptible to the usual risks of local storage, cloud services are still easily foiled by user error.
All it takes is for one wrong click whilst your navigating your cloud photos and all could be lost.
However unlikely it seems that you might mistakenly delete all your photos, there is no reason not to keep your own local backup just in case.
Most cloud services give you the ability to download all your data.
It may take a while so perhaps start it going before going to bed.
Photos on your computer
We’ve covered a lot of these already.
Cloud backup is the easiest option here.
You can also take regular backups onto a USB hard drive.
You can then stuff that drive into your sock drawer in case of emergencies.
That’s all great, so how do I get my photos back?
So now we’ve covered how to make sure your photos are safe, let’s have a look at how to recover them after a disaster.
How to Restore Your Backed-Up Photos
If you lose one of your local storage devices then simply copy the photos across from the other once you have replaced the lost drive.
Do this as soon as you get the new drive so that you still have your second copy.
To restore the photos from the cloud you need to log into your cloud account and it should be a simple case of hitting download.
Worst Case Scenario – How to recover photos when there is no backup
All this talk of backing up is great, but what happens if you have already lost the photos and hadn’t made any backups?
Depending on the situation, even if you didn’t make backups then there may be options.
Corrupted Drive or Memory Card
If your computer’s hard drive or memory stick has become corrupted then I would advise taking it straight to a data recovery specialist.
Don’t try to recover it yourself as you may cause more damage if you don’t know what you are doing!
This will be potentially costly, so you have to ask yourself how much your photos are worth to you.
Lost Mobile Phone
It would be worth looking into whether your phone was making cloud backups that you weren’t aware of.
Apple has iCloud. Google sometimes pre-installs Google Photos. Other phone manufacturers have their own inbuilt backup software.
Speak to your phone provider’s support to see if this exists. It may be a long-shot but worth looking into.
Bonus info :: The JLM Wedding Photography Backup Strategy
For those who are interested in a practical example, here is how I make sure I never lose your wedding photos.
During the wedding
My cameras all record every photo I take to 2 memory cards simultaneously, so if one card fails there is another copy.
After a wedding or shoot I don’t go to bed until all the photos have been loaded onto my computer.
As soon as the raw files are loaded onto the computer there is a bit of software that sends the files straight off to a cloud service called Backblaze.
I also copy the files to an additional backup drive connected to my home office network.
Then I go to bed.
Long term storage and backups
Once the photos have been delivered they remain available for 12 months on the client’s gallery.
I also keep the files indefinitely on my own PC, as well as cloud backups on OneDrive and Backblaze.
So, even though I don’t advertise myself as a 24/7 photo backup service, I like to think that if any of my clients were to lose their photos then they can come to me for a spare copy.
In conclusion, don’t neglect your backups.
Make copies now, because if you don’t you will regret it later.
See ya next time.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article about backing up your photos. If you are looking for more wedding advice why not have a look through some of the other topics I have covered in my Wedding Advice blog.