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Backing up your wedding photos

chimney sweep at wedding

Don’t rely on luck to keep your wedding photos safe

Using digital cameras for wedding photography has many benefits but, as with all electronic data, your photos can be lost in an instant if something goes wrong. Computer hard drives, CD’s and DVD’s are all susceptible to damage and failure without warning. Computer manufacturers will state the estimated lifespan of their hard drives, typically 2-3 years, and don’t expect them to last forever. CD’s and DVD’s can get scratched, destroyed in a fire or just deteriorate in the wrong conditions.

An important part of my job as a wedding photographer is to backup everything up, several times on different media, to make sure that nothing gets lost. After each wedding, the first thing I do when I get home is to copy all the images from the CompactFlash cards on to my computer. From there I back up again to a separate hard drive, and I also have backup software running continuously, which will make a further copy onto a third hard drive within an hour. The CompactFlash cards are then stored with the images still on them, in case there have been any problems with the transfer. I can then sit down and relax.
The next day, or as soon as I can, I’ll burn a copy of the RAW files on to a set of discs. When I’ve checked my back ups, I then feel happy about erasing the CompactFlash cards and using them again. The processing of the images can take a while, often a full day. As soon as that is completed I’ll backup everything again as jpegs, to two discs and two external hard drives. One copy of the discs is stored off the premises.

This may all sound slightly obsessive, but the consequences of losing someone’s wedding photos are pretty awful. Problems are not that rare, the online photography forums are full of people telling stories of hard drives making nasty grinding noises before shutting down forever and going off to the great data storage depot in the sky.

I keep copies of all my clients’ wedding photographs for at least a year, and guarantee that in my contracts. Having several copies of everything means I sleep better at night. I also recommend that clients make their own copies as soon as they receive a disc, then store it with a family member or a trusted friend.

If you want to backup your own wedding photos these are some of the main options:

  • Copy on to another disc, probably the simplest solution. If your computer doesn’t have this capability ask a friend or take it in to work. Store your copies in different locations.
  • Get an external hard drive and copy on to that. Use it with back up software and all your other stuff is covered too.
  • Use an ‘online’ or ‘remote’ back up service. Several of these offer limited free storage, or make a very reasonable annual charge if you want more space. Carbonite, Mozy and Apple are a few of the many services available.

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