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Photography Tips: Saving Photographs – Part 3

By Tim Grey

It is a tragic experience when you hard drive crashes. It’s a professional concern in many industries, but when you spend hours, days, or months taking shots for a project and you lose them all? You can’t just recreate that work.



Welcome to Tim Grey’s final instalment of Photography Tips: Saving Photographs!



As a quick reminder, catch up, or, if this is your first visit, the first part of this series covered frequency, redundancy, and the concept of “separate media” and part two discussed offsite storage, redundant redundancy, and variability. Let’s move right into the final and third post:



Photography Tips: Copy Instead of Move


The concept of protecting your photos and other data goes beyond what might normally be considered part of a backup workflow. Include other habits that can help make sure you are helping avoid data loss.



One of those habits involves copying your photos when, in theory, you actually want to move them. For example, when I download images from a digital media card, my true intent is to move the photos from the card to my hard drive, so the card will then be empty and ready to use for capturing new photos. However, if something goes wrong during the process of moving my photos, I might lose photos. To minimize risk, I copy photos from my media card (and make a second copy at the same time as part of this process) rather than moving those photos.



When I’m confident that my photos have been safely copied to two storage locations separate of the media card, I feel comfortable formatting that card in my camera so new images can be captured. Similarly, when I return home from a trip and want to move photos from the hard drive I was using while traveling to the larger hard drive I use as the master storage location for my photos, I don’t actually move those photos. Instead, I copy the photos from the traveling hard drive to the primary hard drive.



The idea here is to preserve additional backup copies of your photos for as long as you reasonably can, in order to ensure as many options for recovering photos in the event you experience a hardware failure or other issue leading to data loss.



Photography Tips: Extended Retention


As noted above, I make a point of copying photos when I might otherwise intend to move them, so that I am essentially creating a backup in the process. When I have images that in theory I might otherwise delete, instead I move them into a backup folder or rename the folder to indicate that it is now a backup rather than “original” data.



Taking that process a step further, I also retain those “extra” backup copies for an extended period. In fact, I don’t have a specific schedule for deleting the extra backup copies. Even after I’ve copied photos from a temporary location to my permanent master storage location, and have made one or two backup copies of that master storage, I still retain the “extra” backup copies as an additional precaution. The only time I actually delete the “extra” backup copies is when I need to free up hard drive storage space.



In the meantime, the extra backup copies of my photos provide a bit more confidence that I have backup copies of all of my important photos and data.



Photography Tips: Consistency


Perhaps the most important habit when it comes to a workflow for backing up your photos and other data is consistency. I have seen far too many photographers lose precious photos even though they had defined an excellent approach to backing up their photos. A backup plan is meaningless if you don’t actually follow that plan. If you define a backup workflow that meets your needs, and then use that workflow consistently, you’ll have the confidence that there is very little risk of losing any of your photographic images.



About Tim Grey


Tim Grey is a photographer and educator who enjoys traveling the world in search of interesting experiences and photographic opportunities. He has written eighteen books for photographers, has published more than one hundred video training courses, and has had hundreds of articles published in magazines such as Digital Photo Pro and Outdoor Photographer, among others.



Tim also publishes the daily (and free) Ask Tim Grey eNewsletter, the monthly Pixology digital magazine, and a wide variety of video training courses through his GreyLearning website. Tim teaches through workshops, seminars, and appearances at major events around the world. You can learn more at



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This article is intended for educational purposes only and does not replace independent professional judgment. Statements of fact and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) individually and, unless expressly stated to the contrary, are not the opinion or position of Tru Vue or its employees. Tru Vue does not endorse or approve, and assumes no responsibility for, the content, accuracy or completeness of the information presented.