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.
The photos I take for people are memories that will last them a lifetime.
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?
Where should you start?
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.
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 generally always connected to the internet somehow.
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.
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.
My Backup Strategy
How do I make sure I don’t lose any client images, or my own?
At this point you may be interested to find out how I backup my own photos.
I will start by sharing my own 3-2-1 storage locations.
My primary storage is my desktop workstation.
All my recent raw files (unprocessed digital negatives) as well as finished JPEG photos are stored on here.
As soon as I get home from a wedding, no matter how late it may be, I will unload all the memory cards onto the desktop.
I then make a copy from the desktop onto a NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive which is also located in my home office.
So that’s two types of media covered.
I then use a combination of cloud services.
Once I have processed the raw files into final photos I will save them onto my Microsoft OneDrive which is a folder on my workstation which syncs to the OneDrive cloud service.
I have two separate folders in my OneDrive, one for personal photos and the other for weddings.
Both sets of photos are synced to OneDrive, the personal ones are also uploaded to Google Photos to be combined with photos I take on my mobile.
So, for each photo I take the RAW files are in 2 locations and the JPEGs are in another 2/3 locations.
This strategy has saved me at least once where the hard drive in my workstation has failed.
So, 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.