Do I Really Need To Backup My Photos?

by Apr 25, 2021

If you’re starting out as a motorsport photographer, there’s one key thing you need to do on a regular basis, and that’s backing up your photos.

Not having multiple copies of your images across hardware and the internet is the number one rookie mistake. Because let’s face it: digital photography is amazing, but unlike film rolls and print images, once the digital photo is lost, it’s lost forever.

This is especially important for motorsport photography. If you took a photo of a landscape and lost the image, you could potentially go back to the same location and get another similar. However with motorsport, you are capturing a moment in time that can never truly be replicated again.

In action sports, you only get the one opportunity to capture the one moment. If you lose those photos for any reason, you can’t simply go and recreate those shots.

In addition, you want to be regularly backing up your photos for the future. You never know when you’ll get a request for something you’ve captured at an event previously. As an example, I often get requests for photos captured at events several years ago.

So how should you back up your images, and what are the best tools and software to use?

Cloud vs Hardware

Ideally, you want three separate copies of all your images, across three different places. I would recommend that you have one copy easily accessible either on your computer or an external hard drive. Another on a separate hard drive or NAS storage device. And one more on the internet/in the cloud.

Remember that as a motorsport photographer, the sheer volume of photos you capture during an event will be enormous. I’ll often capture between 80Gb and 150GB of image files shooting in RAW in a single day at a motorsport event.

For this reason, simply dumping all your photos on your laptop won’t do the trick. For one, there simply won’t be enough space, and for another, if you lose or damage your laptop, your images will be gone, too. If you do store images on your laptop, at least make sure it’s an SSD (solid state drive) as these are typically more stable and reliable.

Cloud storing (that is, backing up your files on the internet) offers a lot of flexibility and it’s dead easy to use. However, once you consider the amount of storage you’ll need, the costs might add up pretty quickly.

Having your own backup hardware is cheaper and often more convenient, but you need to manage that much more carefully.

That’s why what I tend to do is use Dropbox to send and backup the image files delivered to customers while also utilizing several NAS (network attached storage devices) to store and back up my files. Finally, I also use a portable hard drive system to maintain backups so I’ve always got at least 3 copies of all my image files and I can always get them back if need be.

This may appear like overkill to you, but this foolproof system allows me to always have the images I need at hand, and I never lose files. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be the one tell a customer they’ve got no images from an event. Regardless the reason.

Best Cloud Options for Photographers

If you’re trying to choose the best cloud option to store your images online, Dropbox is a reasonably priced solution. Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive could also work; Smugmug is another good place to store, showcase, and sell your images all on one site.

However, once you start storing Terabytes worth of data, then I would suggest that you look at Amazon Cloud Services to save on costs.

Best Hardware for Storing Your Photos

Volume, volume, volume: I always make sure I have enough memory cards so I don’t need to format them during an event.

I have enough cards to cover a four-day race meeting so that I can keep all my files on my cards (as well as on my computer) until I can get back to the office to complete the backup of all my image files to my NAS system and portable hard drives.

Always carry as many memory cards as you can afford to make sure you never run out of storage, and that you’ve got plenty of backup space.

Another solution is to have multiple hard drives with you to back up your files as you go. However, this can be time-consuming in the fast-paced environment of a media center, particularly while you are trying to get photos out to customers quickly.

How to Organize Your Backup Photos

Last but not least, your photos need to be well-organized. Don’t just dump everything into the same folder, drive, or card – finding the photo you need quickly will be impossible if you do this. Use a system, stick to it, and organize your images to prevent future headaches.

For example, I use a daily photo folder system that allows me to easily identify the event I’m looking for.

I use the following structure so I know exactly which photos belong to which event:

YYYY-MM-DD EVENT NAME – EVENT LOCATION

For example, an event in March at Sydney Motorsport Park might look a little like this:

2021-03-25 Test Event – Sydney Motorsport Park.

You don’t need to use my system, but do create your own and stick to it if you want your images backed up, organized, and ready to go whenever a customer or an editor comes calling.

How do you backup your photos? Have you had any mishaps with lost photos, and regretted not being more cautious? Drop a comment below and let me know!

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Rhys Vandersyde

Rhys Vandersyde

I've been working as a motorsport photographer in Australia since 2012, building up my business InSyde Media. I am very fortunate that I have been able to work at all sorts of motorsport events including Supercars, F1 and WRC all over Australia and New Zealand. Also, check out my personal website where I document my travels and a few other things.

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