Hard Truths told by Real Photographers
Giving your digital files the love and security they deserve.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
"My computer crashed...I lost all my photos..."
"We moved and I can't find the flash drive of our wedding..."
"My basement flooded and our box with our CD is ruined..."
"My sister-in-law never gave my disc back and now she can't find it..."
"My computer got stolen out of my car...they took everything..."
Welcome to digital media, my friends. Welcome.
I'm going to talk to you candidly, yet seriously, about digital files. The good...the bad...the ugly...and the "I'm gonna barf, this is so bad" ugly. Let me preface this post with a note: this does not just apply to photos taken by a professional. This applies to photos you take at home, on your phone, at work, the ones your soccer moms take...this applies to all photos and digital media, in general. Because they matter!
Nowadays digital media "is life". There isn't a human out there that doesn't want their digital files. They want to Facebook them, Instagram them, and make DIY Pinterest projects out of them. And that's great. We love that! Hell...we do it too! BUT...what happens when you're done Facebooking, Instagramming, and trying to transfer a photo to a block of wood? More than likely, those photos stay buried online in a Facebook gallery, the disc gets lost, you move and can't find your disc/usb, or worse...your computer crashes and you lost your files...your house gets broken into and your computer gets stolen (this legit happened to a client of mine). Basically...shit happens.
So what do I do? I'm just a mom with pictures of my kids...I'm not a professional. Do I even need to back up my photos?
YES! When you're done reading this, go get WHATEVER your photos are on, and get busy! See that computer you're working on? Some day, in roughly 3 years, that thing's gonna die. Seriously. It will not last forever. The average life span of technology (computers, phones, hard drives) these days is 3 YEARS. 3 years, guys. THREE. Don't ask me specifics about brands, because I don't know. But I do know, that as a whole, in general, 3 years. Sadly, 3 years passes absurdly quick, especially when you have littles. DO NOT let 3 years of precious family photos you've taken, or anyone has taken, catch the plague of the "blue screen of death". Do not let your memories captured in images disappear with that hard drive. Because you'll never EVER get over it.
Wow, you're passionate about that...did something happen?
As a matter of fact, yes. Before I became a professional photographer, I had so many photos of my life stored onto numerous computers, because I didn't know any better. Every single one of them crashed. It was the early 2000's. Computers were still trying to figure out themselves back then...and they crashed...and all my photos went away. As much as I'd like to think that losing my 20-25 year old life in photos was a good thing, I'm so saddened by it. You know what I do have? All of the processed prints I had made...
So...how do I back up my photos?
Because I trust nothing, I would do a few things. I literally do all these things for my personal photos...is it paranoid? Yes. Is it overkill? Maybe. Is it worth it? 100%. We have an EVEN MORE extensive backup system for our business! We <3 safe images.
1. PRINT YOUR PHOTOS! Print them all! Not just the photos taken by a professional...not just your Christmas cards...all of them! PRINT your photos! Put them in frames, put them on your walls, put them in albums, put them in a jumbled water-safe storage tote...just do SOMETHING with them! Not just because I think you need to print them for pleasure, but because they might be the only copy you have left! Our parents don't have digital files. They have prints. And we love them, don't we? We can thank our parents for printing photos for our #TBT on Instagram...right?
But what about the photos on my phone? You can download apps that will send your phone photos directly to a lab for print! One of our favorites is the Mpix app.
2. Buy an external hard drive. You can get these for relatively cheap (because in the scheme of things, storage is cheaper than lost memories or paying THOUSANDS to have items recovered by data recovery specialists) at your local Target, Walmart, Best Buy, etc. They can range anywhere from $49-$200ish depending on the size you purchase. I, personally, don't like to buy extremely large hard drives. I'd rather buy multiple hard drives in the event that one crashes, I don't lose everything...only SOME things. Basically, I don't like to keep all my eggs in one basket.
*Tip - buy a hard drive for every year and label it.
3. Buy ANOTHER hard drive. Yes. You read that right. Buy two hard drives. For every hard drive you store files on (photos, home files, music, personal documents) buy another to backup the exact same files. The hard truth is, it's not IF hard drives will fail, it's WHEN. Like previously mentioned, hard drives have a general life span of about 3-4 years. It's rough to hear, I know. Some can last longer...some can last days. Some fail on their own, some fail after time, and some fail because your son knocked it off the kitchen counter and it fell to it's death and won't turn on any more. So you MUST have a back up.
3. Burn a disc. While I do think the age of discs are sailing away into the past, I do think it's easy to burn a disc and put it in a cool "Trapper Keeper" type disc binder and to keep in your file cabinet at home. Can I do a flash drive instead? Sure...but I think they get lost easily. But that's just me. However...making an extra flash drive (or disc) and securing them into a safety deposit box at the bank is 100% worth it for those major life events.
4. Online Cloud Storage. The holy grail of file safety. Keeping your files in a safe cloud environment is like wrapping your memories in a heavenly land of bubble wrap. This is worth every penny. Did you know your Amazon Prime account comes with free cloud storage for your photos?! WHAT?! Not only can you watch the Amazon Prime Original show Catastrophe (because you should...it's hilarious)...you can also STORE YOUR PHOTOS! In a cloud! And get access to them when shit goes down! I know. It's crazy...and you should spend the whole weekend uploading. Don't have Amazon Prime? That's fine! Look into Backblaze, DropBox, Google Photos, etc. There are thousands of them out there just waiting to protect you.
We can all agree that digital files are incredible because they open up a whole new world of creativity and showmanship. We're a culture of hating limits. We love to expand, share, and create, yet we're limiting ourselves by not printing and protecting our photos. If we're going to be historians for our future generations, then we need protect the digital files and more importantly, print it...because at this rate, we'll be lucky if we have an old cell phone to show photos off of it.
If you or anyone you know have questions on protecting and storing your digital files, please let us know! We're happy to answer!
Now...go back up some stuff!