Photographers Need to Diversify Their Backup Solutions

Photography has never been a more widespread hobby than it is today. With the advent of modern smartphones and their excellent camera capabilities, anyone can take photos of those special, serendipitous moments. And, naturally, post them to social media immediately afterward.

The average user doesn’t mind having all their photos uploaded to Instagram, Flickr, or Tumblr, and leaving it at that. However, it’s at this point that professional photographers and serious hobbyists begin to diverge from mainstream needs.

When you’re passionate about reviewing, editing, and printing your work, you want to give serious consideration to long-term backup solutions. Especially if those photos constitute your main source of income. Amid all the rapid advances in technology, you need a diverse strategy to cover this need.

The digital problem

Just like photography itself, the issue of preserving and archiving pictures definitely predates digital technology. Professional photographers have always been concerned about how exposure to light can lead to deterioration in print quality over time. Poorly controlled relative humidity temperature can also ruin negatives themselves.

Digital photography dispenses with those concerns altogether. Sure, you still have to consider them when you make prints. But the content itself exists in digital form, saved on a disk from which you can generate new copies.

However, the device itself on which digital media is stored is still subject to the elements. It may not be as vulnerable, but neither is it a foolproof solution. Also, the increasing quality of digital photos means that each image takes up more space, which wasn’t an issue with film.

A range of imperfect solutions

It would seem that modern photographers wielding high-end DSLRs or mirrorless systems have traded one set of problems for another.

Social media accounts and free third-party hosting services likely have limitations on quality, size, or bandwidth. They also don’t guarantee perpetual backup of your digital content, ruling them out for a serious photographer.

You can invest in an external hard drive. This is certainly a useful piece of gear, and over the years, they have come to offer increasingly high capacity. But with many photographers preferring to shoot in RAW format for optimal quality, image sizes can balloon to 50 MB or more per shot. Even a 1 TB or bigger drive will eventually run out, and they deteriorate over time as well.

Online file storage solves those issues neatly. You combine the convenience of cloud-based access with the dedicated backup of a personal hard drive. However, you rely on the internet. And recurring costs need to be factored into the pricing of your services.

Remember CDs and DVDs? A relic of the 90s, these formats are also available as a backup option. They are cheap on a per-byte cost basis because they’re made of plastic. With reasonable care, they tend to last longer than hard drives, though not forever.

A diversification strategy

Faced with all these imperfect options, there’s really one backup solution that stands out for digital photographers: a strategy based on diversification.

Investors diversify their portfolios across asset types as a way to manage risk. The loss of data for casual users may be just an inconvenience, but for serious photographers, it’s a real risk to their reputation and quality of work.

Backup your images to the cloud. Save some on a hard drive. Burn them onto a disc. Maybe even print and archive a few, because in the worst-case scenario, you could scan them in the future.

Using a diversity of digital backup options is the best way to ensure that your high-quality photos will be around and accessible for many years to come.


Gene Hanley