File Backup Strategies for Photographers


Updated 04/02/24




Redundancy, Redundancy, Redundancy …


was 13 years old when man triumphantly walked on the moon. One of the greater 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 can be 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.


05/01/23 – – Please note that I practice what I preach!   The 3-step approach outlined below absolutely saved me when my older computer recently crashed –  AND at one of my busiest times of the year.  I was literally up, running & operational as a business on a new computer within 1 business day – huzzah!


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!


1) 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 the data on 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!


2) By the way, if you are on a Mac, upgrade to OS 10.5 or later immediately! The “Time Machine”  and/or “iCloud Backup” features are worth the price alone. They’ll back up your computer, data, and some applications offsite (including multiple external or internal hard drives).


•  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.


•  Step 3: 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:


You can create a Central Back-Up Folder on your Desktop, and temporarily save files that you want to “back up” into this folder as your day progresses. 


I call my Central Backup Folder “Clean this up”  – – that’s because this 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 almost daily (it just takes a few minutes!).


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

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





 Want to see this post in action?  Check out my “Photoshop 101” series of FREE online & live Photoshop Meetups – available nationwide:


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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:


•  More on Master Files here:


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


Thx again, and cheers,


John Watts 🙂



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