Excellent Backup Questions for Lightroom

Backups continue to be a widely written about topic. One of the issues with this is that all backups are treated the same. In fact, some backups are important and some may not be so important. Here we discuss these finer points and try to apply the old 80/20 rule.

Foray from Film into Digital

As I continue to get pushed along the sweeping current into digital and out of film, new issues emerge that I haven’t had to deal with. Backups are the main issue.

With film, I scan the negatives, and then import into Lightroom. I discard any of the rejects or images that I don’t assign a single star. I don’t worry about backing the digital files files up of the rejects, because I have negatives that can always be re-scanned. I do backup the ‘good’ images that are left, but only to easily recover them without having to re-scan. The thinking here is that if I reject it, I probably won’t need it, but if I decide I do, then I’ll scan it again. In all likelihood, even after re-scanning a reject negative I’ll still decide not to use it.

Digital Only – Applying a Film Technique

Several sites have posted recent articles on determining whether some backups are worth keeping. I stumbled across one at Inside Lightroom which talks about Why Do We Backup So Much? and it talks about backing up rejects – why or why not.

One of the ‘Eurekas’ that I had while reading this post was to apply my film technique to digital imaging backups with respect to rejected images. As I said above, I use the negatives as a backup for rejects because I can always rescan them and the life of a properly developed negative is substantial. As a footnote, I have negatives that are 30 years old that look the same as the day I developed them.

Application for Digital Images

So how does this apply to digital rejected images? I’ll give you an overview and then list the steps I perform. First, remember that DVD’s and CD’s don’t really have a long lifespan. They are prone to scratches, defects in the surface and degrading over time. However, they can still read even after being exposed to a magnetic field and they are cheap storage. Thus, I backup rejects on DVD as they are identified from importing into Lightroom.

That’s not the entire process, however. I use two storage drawers for DVD’s. The first is where I place the newly copied rejected images – Reject Backups. Then, I wait. Yes, you read the idea correctly, I wait. Should I ever need one of those rejected images, I go back to the DVD. If it is still readable, then I import the image back into Lightroom and move the DVD to the second drawer – Acessed Rejects. If the DVD doesn’t read, I discard it. This gives me a simple backup which, like the negative, will degrade over time and eventually be useless. But, chances are I’ll never need it anyway.

Using this technique still has one more problem – storage space. Eventually, the first drawer – Reject Backups – will get full. When that happens, I will discard the oldest DVD in the drawer. This limits my space requirements to one drawer of DVD’s. Also, discarding the oldest DVD shouldn’t be a problem, because I haven’t ever used it or it would have been placed in drawer two.

If ever drawer two – Accessed Rejects – were to fill up, then I would again discard the oldest one. The image that was accessed is now in the main catalog and should be part of the regular backup process.

Sound Familiar?

Does all this sound familiar? If you were like my family growing up and had at least one parent that was a ‘pack-rat’, then you would most likely have followed this same procedure with boxed up stuff stored in a closet. Our family regularly found boxes that hadn’t been opened since the last time we moved. That made it time to discard the box!

Reject Workflow Steps

This is part of my Image Rating and Selection Workflow.

  • Import images into Lightroom
  • Identify rejects
  • Identify all images greater than or equal to one star
  • Filter for the last download all images that are a) rejects or b) no star rating
  • Copy these images to CD / DVD
  • Delete images from Lightroom Catalog and Hard Drive
  • Follow remaining main catalog backup steps


It always seems to boil down to time, cost and benefit. There is little chance that you will need a rejected image ever in the future. To protect that little chance you don’t want to spend a lot of money and time, but maybe a little money and time is ok. This workflow for rejected images takes little time to make a single CD or DVD and those medium are still relatively cheap. The lifespan of the backup is limited, but should protect you for long enough to determine whether you will ever really use the image. The workflow is safe because you do have a chance to get the rejected image back and use it again. Finally, the workflow takes up limited space through a routine to get rid of the oldest rejected images – again a low cost use. The space needs vary by how many images you file as rejects and how often you shoot. You can set a drawer size customized to your usage levels.


I had been giving it more thought and the Inside Lightroom article seemed to help me get an answer.

Leave a Comment