File Backup Strategies for Photographers




Redundancy, Redundancy, Redundancy …


was 13 years old when man triumphantly walked on the moon. One of the finer attributes of NASA and the space program at the time was the concept of redundancy.


It was one of the reasons that Apollo 13, despite all of its incredible challenges, made it back safely. There was a backup for every system, and even the backups were frequently backed up. In the harsh and unforgiving environment of outer space, nothing was left to chance.


You should be treating your digital files the same way. This lack of redundancy in properly archiving your digital files is one of the weakest links in digital imaging for photographers.


Your images are too important!  Make your archiving system redundant and back up AT LEAST TWICE on different media.


I cannot tell you how many horror stories I’ve heard from clients who’ve had all of their images on a single hard drive – and it failed. They, of course, lost ALL of their files – all of the blood, sweat, tears, expense and creativity that went into creating those images was gone forever.


So, what to do?


Here is a 3-Step approach that should take care of everything, placed in order of importance:




•  Step One: Back Up Offsite


I consider this step mandatory – and it’s easy!


One of the best ways to backup and protect your images is to use an off-site web-based backup service, such as iDrive (this is what I use) or Carbonite. For about $100 a year, you can back up your entire computer. It’s “cheap insurance”!


Not only that, but since it’s offsite, your images are protected in the event you lose your images at home due to theft, accidents or natural disaster (fire, flood, etc). Don’t put this off – do it today!


•  Step Two: Back Up Onsite


Here’s a suggested (and relatively inexpensive) way of backing up your images onsite:


1. You have the original files on your computers’ hard drive.


2. Buy an External Hard Drive or Flash Drive. They’re available for anywhere from $20 on up, depending on features and the amount of information to be stored. Personally, I use a RAID Hard Drive, which backs up to 2 separate hard drives – all in one unit (more “redundancy”!).


3. Back up your important images to the External Hard Drive or Flash Drive.


By the way, if you are on a Mac, upgrade to OS 10.5 or later immediately! The “Time Machine” feature is worth the price alone. Not only does it back up your complete computer, the OS, Data, and applications, including multiple hard drives, but it allows you to go “back in time” to retrieve a file that you’ve deleted days or even weeks ago.


•  Step 3: Backup Onsite and Store Offsite


A better solution for your absolutely critical images is to buy multiple external hard drives and store them off-site, such as a safe-deposit box.  I use 2, rotating them about once a month.



So, here’s an example of how I make sure I’m “backed-up”:


First, I’m on a computer that’s A) using iDrive (with automatic backup) and B) has an External RAID Hard Drive connected to it via USB.


Next, let’s assume I’ve got a file on my computer called “MustSave123_M.tif” – – I want 3 copies total (double redundancy), and I’ve already got 2 copies (redundancy) saved: one on the Internal Hard Drive of my computer, plus one on iDrive, which is saved offsite.


Finally, I’m going to save this file to a designated spot on my External Hard Drive – – Now I’ve got 3 copies (4, if you take the RAID Hard Drive into consideration).  Not only that, but as I rotate the external hard drives, my 3rd (and 4th) copy is (eventually) offsite.


It’s better to be a bit messy and backed up than to not be backed up at all!


If you get busy (like we all do!) and don’t have time to look through your External Hard Drive to find a specific location to save a file, then try this: Create a Master Back-Up Folder on your Desktop, and save files that you want to “back up” directly into this folder as your day progresses.  I call mine “Clean this up!!!”  – – that’s because my Master Back-Up Folder serves 2 purposes:


1) I can organize when I’m less harried, and …


2) I’m assured of “redundancy” as I’m in the habit of saving this Master Back-Up Folder to my External Hard Drive daily.



Bottom line, be like NASA – be “redundant”!


Don’t use just one strategy, use more than one – better safe than sorry!






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•  By the way, this is all based on my Photoshop book designed for photographers, “Not just another Photoshop Book”available exclusively on Amazon:


Questions? Please contact me – also, feel free to comment and tell your photography friends!


Thx again, and cheers,


John Watts 🙂


New to Photoshop? Need a “Lesson Plan”? Read this Post!




•  Are you brand new to Photoshop?  A total beginner?  Or, are you just digging into the program, and not sure what to do next?  Or, are you having challenges with the “basics”?


•  Do you need guidance – a “Lesson Plan”, if you will – on how to learn Photoshop for Photographers?

If so, read on …

•  Photoshop is indeed a complex program – but as a photographer, you’re only going to need to use 10-15% of the programs’ functionality to achieve your best results, and the rest can pretty much be ignored.


•  Why listen to me?  Here’s a brief bio: –   Bottom line:  if you want the ABSOLUTE BEST output from your files, especially for high-quality digital photographic printing, then I’m your guy.


•  This post is the result of a powerfully simple question from Helen C., shown below.  In my answer, I’ll show you the 3 points integral to the suggested “Lesson Plan”.  If you follow these in the order shown, it’ll greatly assist you in developing a strong foundation in (and working knowledge of) Photoshop.



So, here is the original question:


Hi John,


I’m almost a total beginner at Photoshop, with almost no experience at all.  Where do I start?  Do you have any classes for that ailment ?




Helen C.





And my answer (the 3-point “Lesson Plan”):

Howdy Helen,


Well, hey – – you’ve come to the right place – this is right up my alley – consider this a Photoshop “Lesson Plan” for beginners  🙂



1)  The first thing I’d suggest is to attend my FREE live & online “Photoshop 101” Meetup webinars there are 5 of them total, 1.5 hours each, and we have them every 2 to 3 weeks copious notes are always included. We have photographers attending from all over the nation!


You’ll find even more information about them here, too: – they’re a systematic plan to help you learn PS properly. Think of these as the “I-just-got-Photoshop-now-what?” seminars – even if you don’t attend them sequentially.


2)  If attending “live” is an issue (OR if you want to watch & study recordings of past Meetups that you’ve attended), I’ve archived a boatload of free recordings of recent “Photoshop 101” Meetups here (all 5 classes, with links to downloadable notes):


3)  In addition, I also have my blog (which is where you’re reading this).  This is the “educational” website for my business – here, you’ll find answers on specific subjects to “fine-tune” the learning process, learn some of my “philosophies”, and more:




Note that the 3 items mentioned above are ALL “free” …


•  As far as the learning process is concerned, they require effort on YOUR part (hey, nothing worth doing properly is easy, right?)  …


•  BUT, I can still steer you in the right direction (via the Meetups / recordings / blog / email) with suggested “homework”, and so on.  I can keep you focused on the goals of learning this crazy program – think of me as a “Photoshop  Coach” …




Once you’ve explored the “free” side of the educational tools …


•  I’ll show you other ways you can learn Photoshop that involve “greenback$” (hey, a guy’s gotta eat, lol!), such as:

        1. My Photoshop Book (available on Amazon)
        2. Online Small Group Workshops
        3. Online One-on-one Instruction
        4. And so much more – – 

 … ALL are more than reasonably priced.




In closing:  If you follow these 3 points in the “Lesson Plan” to assist you in learning Photoshop, I strongly believe that you’re setting yourself up for success!




•  Was this information helpful?

Sign up for my free monthly newsletter here …


•  By the way, this is all based on my Photoshop book designed for photographers, “Not just another Photoshop Book”available exclusively on Amazon:


Questions? Please contact me – also, feel free to comment and tell your photography friends!


Thx again, and cheers,


John Watts 🙂


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