I don’t know about your experiences, but in mine I have lost digital images due to hard drive failure. Now to be fair, it has only happened once. I lost a NAS drive in the late 1990’s – of course it had 2 years of pictures of my eldest son. Irreplaceable pictures at that. So, I learned my lesson and learned to fear the next time that such a catastrophe will happen. Since that time I have lost hard drives twice – but not a single image. Today I’m going to share a backup method I started using this weekend that has filled a void in my backup strategy. This backup method integrates wonderfully with Lightroom and is basically automatic, so I know I’ll use it. First, let’s cover some basic backup strategy.
There are great resources for creating a backup strategy and making sure your precious files filled with 1’s and 0’s are not lost to acts of nature, acts of man and acts of yourself. Clearly there are some basic keys to a safe backup that everyone must use even if there are finer points that are different between methods. In it’s simplest form, a backup strategy involves the following:
- Multiple copies of each image file.
- Testing working copy of each image file before erasing camera memory card.
- Minimum of two backups in addition to working copy – one on-site for easy retrieval and one off-site for protection.
- Minimum of one backup using long-term parameters – a file type and a storage medium that will be available well into the future.
There are many other items to consider when creating your workflow. These include keywords, collections, categories, etc. However, none of those workflow items involve a backup. So, let’s review these four items and I’ll share what I use.
1. Multiple Copies – Lightroom has the ability to make a second copy of an image when you import them from your camera. However, Lightroom stores all of the copies by the date of importing. Thus, if you import images today that you took the last three days, they will all be in one directory labeled with today’s date. My preference is to store images on my hard drive by year, then by month and finally by day. I find it will be easier to recreate a catalog if the need ever arises. Over the last year I have begun using Image Ingester by Basepath. This software allows me to make three copies of every image: a) a first copy exactly as it is on the SD card, no RAW conversion or compression, b) a second copy compressed (if I want) via Adobe RAW, a DNG and / or JPEG in my Lightroom storage area and c) a third copy of the same images put in the Lightroom storage area. I can store them in any type of directory structure I want and name them however I want. Image Ingester then opens up Lightroom for me where I import the images using the ‘ADD’ function. It merely adds the image to the Lightroom catalog, but the copying is already done so it’s almost instantaneous. This isn’t my new tool, though, that is yet to come.
2. Testing a Working Copy – I typically view the images quickly in Lightroom to be sure they got properly copied and the previews can be generated. Typically, if the preview is generated by Lightroom, I know the file must be ok. Not perfect, but I can always to go to the first copy from Image Ingester and re-process those in Adobe RAW to bring into Lightroom again.
3. Two Copies – One On-Site and One Off-Site – I just described my on-site backup through Image Ingester. What I didn’t explain was that I also use Time Machine on my iMac and so the image file on my hard drive is backed up again. However, those are both on-site and we have to store something off-site as well. I have been known to make DVD’s and store them at my office, but that is slow and now with larger digital files, takes many, many DVD’s. This means I don’t do that often anymore, so my off-site backup is faltering. However (HERE IT COMES!), I started using Mosaic which is an online service. I encourage you to check out their video. The bottom line is that it was developed by two Lightroom users and works great within. You can choose images to backup as in all your images, only those with a pick flag, or those with a variable number of stars (more than 1, more than 2, etc.). You can even choose backups by collection. JPEGs are automatically uploaded for a specific purpose, but the RAW file (or full size JPEG) is also uploaded and becomes your backup. I have chosen to only send my images that are rated 2 stars or more. This means I am keeping those that are most important to me, even if they aren’t the best images (those are 5 stars). It costs $10 per month for 400GB of storage (if you pay all 12 months up front, which I did and seems silly not to). They have larger plans, but I figured 400GB is a good start. There’s another benefit – an iPhone, iPad app is free to download which let’s you view your lightroom images stored in Mosaic. It is a great app and a way to share your images. Oh, and real time changes? If you add a new image (or for me, change the rating from zero stars to say, 3 stars), Mosaic will immediately begin sending up the file. Mosaic even sends up a replacement image if you add additional development. This seems like a great tool and I’ve loved it so far….
4. Long-term File Type and Storage Media – To be complete, I’ll finish. This is often overlooked when making backups. A backup of a proprietary Cannon or Nikon file may be ok, or maybe not. If the company goes out of business you may find that your proprietary RAW files loose the ability to be read and manipulated. Adobe has created a digital negative file (DNG) with open standards and it is slowly being accepted by the archival standards. JPEG is another form, while lossy, that has been around long enough to pass the standard’s test. TIFF while a great format, is not necessarily a great backup standard. Also, in the same way a 5 1/4 floppy disk has not been used for a very long time (as have 3 1/2 floppy disks), CD’s and DVD’s are slowly leaving as Blue Ray and the next technologies take over. This is another good reason for Mosaic or a similar cloud based solution. They upgrade their services to the most current storage technology as time goes on, but your digital file is still there and ready to retrieve if needed. Now is a good time to mention that Mosaic is built using the Amazon service, so it is as good as their hardware and technology – which is pretty good.
Long and short – make a backup, make it quick and make it often. Make more than one copy before you erase the SD card and store one somewhere away from your computer – preferably a long ways away – preferably in the cloud…..