Backing up your Wedding Photographs
So imagine this. You’ve hired someone (me) to spend the day with you and photograph your wedding for you. I then go home and edit your photographs, sending them all to you on a handy little USB flash drive a few weeks later for you to look through and treasure forever. But then, one day, you can’t find the drive. Or you drop it into your tea (true story), or your dog chews it up (true again) or it becomes corrupted (yep). What do you do then?
After panicking for a little while, worried that you’ve lost all the photographs you treasured, you remember that you were sensible and made a backup somewhere. However, I know that you probably didn’t because you got too busy writing thank you cards, and deciding what to do with your wedding dress now that you don’t need it any more. How do I know this? Because each year (actually five times already in the first half of 2022!) I am contacted by clients who no longer have access to their photographs, and did not make a backup and now they’re upset at the thought of only having their friend’s blurry phone pictures to remember their day by.
Please, please, please. I urge you. When you receive your photographs you must make a second copy of them somewhere. I do hold a backup here in my office, but I cannot promise do that forever. One day I will retire, and eventually I won’t be around at all. Not only that, but technology fails. Although I use high quality equipment it is still absolutely possible for one of my own drives to fail.
How should I do it?
Step 1 – As soon as you receive your USB flash drive in the post, stick it into your computer and check that it actually works. Have a quick look through the photographs and make sure you can see them all and there doesn’t seem to be any issues with them. Very rarely they can fail soon after their first use so making sure you have a USB flash drive your computer can access is vital. If there’s a problem I can send a new replacement immediately.
Step 2 – Make a backup copy of your photographs! This is incredibly important. So, how do you make a backup? There are loads of ways really, and they all involve simply copying all of your photograph files from the USB flash drive I sent you to a second location. The primary goal here is to have at least two copies, and if one copy can be in a different physical location to the other, even better. The following would all be sensible options:
- Copy them to a second USB flash drive, so that you then have two.
- Copy then to your laptop or desktop computer.
- Buy an external hard drive and copy them over to it (along with all your own stuff at the same time).
- Store them in the mysterious-sounding ‘Cloud’.
- Not exactly a backup as such, but why not make an album of physical prints that are much harder to misplace?
Personally, for all my own non-wedding work, I prefer to use a combination of Dropbox cloud storage and I keep a second copy on an external hard drive at home. Think of Dropbox / iCloud simply as a computer storage device that’s somewhere other than your house. It integrates seamlessly with your desktop computer (on my Mac it shows up as a drive that I can simply copy my stuff to), I have it on my phone via an app and my iPad too. I can access everything I store on there from any device, anywhere in the world as long as I have internet access. It’s pretty handy. And it’s a great place for your wedding photograph backup. It’s also great for storing documents and stuff for when you’re traveling. There’s no need to take printouts of everything when you can easily access them on your phone on a street in New Delhi. If you’re a Mac or iPhone user then iCloud is pretty much the same thing.
I pay for my Dropbox because I need more space, but you can sign up and get 2GB of storage free. On the USB stick I send you there is a folder of full-size images, and another folder of smaller copies. Those smaller ones are still perfectly sized to be able to make a print that is at least 30cm at the longest edge and will be absolutely fine for just about everything. If your wedding was a smaller elopement you can copy that entire folder to your free Dropbox account and that way, if you lose your USB flash drive, you’ve always got that backup copy. If your wedding was larger there might be more than 2GB of files, even in the folder of smaller images, so you might have to upgrade your Dropbox account to accommodate them. It’s definitely worth it though.
I’m not sponsored by Dropbox by the way, I have just used them for a few years any have always found it to be a great service. You could also use Apple iCloud but I found that to be a little more fiddly. I don’t store my wedding work on Dropbox for the simple reason that the files are so large it wouldn’t be practical. I fill roughly one 2TB external drive per year, and when it is full I keep it in a safe and start using a new one. Because I’m a belt-and-braces kinda guy I also save your images down to a good old-fashioned DVD disk as a backup to my backup.
I didn’t back up my files – what can I do?
As I mentioned earlier, I keep copies of all of all of the weddings I’ve photographed here in my office for as long as is practical. If you have lost your USB flash drive I should be able to replace it for you. In the first instance, the best thing to do is to contact me so that I can confirm whether or not I still have your files available and, if I do, I can send you a replacement for a small charge to cover the costs.
Backing up your wedding photographs is so very important. I know it’s boring, but please take the time to do it. If you’d like me to make an album for you, containing actual photographic prints that should last for many, many years, you can get that done at any time. Take a look here.