How NOT to ruin a wedding day (or, on backing up your images)

Okay, my fellow photographers. I have a bone to pick. An axe to grind. A soapbox to stand on.

I. Am. SICK. of seeing news reports like this: photographers that dont back up images Seriously, people, this is basic stuff. There is NO EXCUSE for not backing up your images. This is BIG DEAL. You should NOT be a wedding photographer if you are unable or unwilling to backup your images- multiple times- for EACH and EVERY wedding. That’s a super important sentence, so I’m going to say it again.

You should NOT be a wedding photographer if you are unable or unwilling to backup your images (multiple times) for EACH and EVERY wedding.

Unfortunately, this is not always something taught to new photographers- so it ends up being learned the hard way. But it doesn’t have to be!! I know that this can be a little intimidating when you’re starting out. <3 So, here’s some easy steps to how to avoid ruining your business- and someone’s wedding day:

1. Never reuse a card on a wedding day

51zpLtjnp0L._SL250_NEVER. Get enough cards to cover MORE than enough so that you can get home and do multiple backups right away from the original cards. Better yet, get enough cards so that you don’t even have to reuse them until you’ve DELIVERED the files to the couple. I use Trancend cards (yes, they are reliable), and they are only $32 for a 32GB CF. $32!!! (here’s the SD versions) Seriously, a handful of those could save you thousands in legal fees. If you haven’t got enough cards, don’t buy anything else until you buy enough cards to cover your butt.

2. Never let your cards out of your sight on the wedding day

Part of why I use such large cards is that the risk of a card getting lost (or damaged by repeatedly being inserted and removed, which is a leading cause of card death) is MUCH smaller by simply leaving the card IN the camera. By leaving it in the camera, I know EXACTLY where that card is at all times. If you’d rather use a number of smaller cards instead, that’s fine. Just make sure that they are SECURE. Personally, I feel better having them on my person at all times- so if I were to use smaller cards, I would keep my card pack in my waist bag. In a CLOSED or zippered pocket. For example, here’s the case that I keep my extra cards in. It folds up tight and velcros shut.

3. After the wedding, do NOT stop along the way and leave your stuff in your car

Otherwise, you are asking to be robbed. (same goes for leaving gear in your car any other time!) imageIf you MUST stop (for example, if it’s a out of town wedding and you’re staying at a hotel), KEEP YOUR CARDS ON YOUR PERSON. Preferably, bring along a laptop or some such to backup the images at the hotel so you have at least one copy. Obviously, gear and liability insurance is also a HUGE protection for your business and absolutely is vital. But bear in mind that many insurance companies will not cover theft from a car– and almost none of them will cover theft from a car left unlocked.

4. Back up those images the MOMENT you get home. To MULTIPLE places. 

Personally, I use external HDs with docks, so that while I edit for the next couple weeks, the images can be on:

1. My computer’s local HD 2. The two external HDs (one of them then gets stored outside of my own home, in case of a fire) 3. The CF/SD cards themselves (until the wedding is delivered to the couple)

<– Here’s the $25 Plugable docks that I use. They are super simple, just plug in the USB to a PC and off you go. Here are the $100 Seagate HDs that I use. I choose $100 3TB drives to accommodate my 20 weddings a year, plus various sessions. (There are also smaller drives if you prefer- a 1TB one is $50 or so) –> By the way, if you use LR, be sure to also backup your LR catalog, so that your editing is backed up. That way, if something happens to your original HD, you’ll have all the photographs AND your edits and you won’t have to start all over. (this is partly why I have a separate LR catalog for each wedding- so that I can store that catalog file with that wedding’s images on all my drives)

5. Get one of those backups OUT of the house

imageAs I said, I do this to prevent loss of image due to fire or theft. It’s like grandma told ya- never keep all your eggs in one basket! A good option is to simply keep a HD outside your home- for example, in a safety deposit box or with a trusted family member or friend. I keep one at my mother’s home. Another option is cloud storage. Zenfolio, Dropbox, and Google Drive all offer JPEG and RAW storage- Google Drive being the cheapest of the three. Personally, I use Zenfolio, simply because I also use their print sale feature to sell prints to my couple’s family and friends. (if you’re looking into Zenfolio, you can get 10% off any plan with this code: T5M-EEF-1N8)

6. Speaking of cloud storage…

imageEven if you go the route of having all the RAW backups being on physical drives, please consider at LEAST having the finalized and delivered JPEGS in cloud storage. This assures that even if the couple lose their USB/DVD, you have a easy way to get those files to them quickly. File types and storage options will continue to change, and online backups to the cloud are a great way to make it easy to keep up with those changes. (<——- BTW…i that not the cutest gif EVER!?!? :D)

7. One final note on slots and cameras:

Although it may not financially be an option now for everyone (believe me, I 100% understand that!), I urge you to consider saving up for a dual-slot camera your next upgrade. Although it is rare, card corruption while shooting DOES happen, and you can double your chances against loss by having a camera that records to two cards at the same time. Additionally, with a dual slot camera, you can use both large and small card “methods”- one large card as a backup that stays in the camera all day, and many small cards to divide up the days so your eggs are split into many baskets. :) Personally, I use the 5dmrkiii. I’m not going to lie- at $3,300, it took a loooong time to save for it- but I love knowing that I have the safety of the dual slots (not to mention, the awesome ISO range and autofocus improvements!). Many cameras now offer dual slots, and I encourage you to make sure that your next camera has this vital feature. (If you already have a dual-slot camera, PLEASE be sure to USE this option. As long as you’re recording the same type of file to both slots (for example, M RAW to both) you shouldn’t see ANY slowdown in record time. There is no reason NOT to use this important feature!) – Well, that wraps it up!

Please, fellow photographers, share this with EVERYONE you know that shoots weddings- especially new photographers.  

Shout out this message to the photography forums and groups, e-mail it to your interns, and share it to your wall.

Make this message heard:

Let’s end the madness! Back up your images!

photographers that dont back up images

(please bear in mind that may of the above links are affiliate links, so I do receive a portion of sales from those. However, all of the items I’ve listed here are ones that I personally use and 100% believe in, and I am sharing this information to help fellow photographers, not to make money)

11 comments
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  • Jason - I agree 100% Heather – no excuses for this happening. Every photographer should read, understand and follow this post. Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • Matt - I was so angry when I saw that original article yesterday, there is zero excuse for not backing up images, ZERO! Great advice, anyone shooting weddings needs to take responsibility for their client’s cherished photos. My tip for on the day, shoot duel cards and once a set of cards if full, one goes in your pocket, the other goes in your camera bag. That way if you get mugged or your camera bag gets stolen you still have a set of images.ReplyCancel

  • Alyssa Schroeder - Great advice! I don’t even understand why anyone would bring their main working laptop to a wedding, or anywhere. This is why I love having dual card slots. I shoot on 16GB and then have usually an entire wedding on 64GB that stays in the camera the whole time. It helps being caught up on editing work, having one job complete before the next too. Not always possible, but its partly why I don’t shoot back-to-back days. Too much room for error.ReplyCancel

  • Lyn Ismael-Bennett - Great article, Heather!ReplyCancel

  • Sam - Great advice, definitely very useful information on backup very important files.ReplyCancel

  • Isabelle - Great post, very good advice!ReplyCancel

  • Jessie - Cheering you as you stand on your soap box!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Schilling - How sad for these couples. I hope all new photographers take this advice to heart, and proving the links and tips is really a great resource.ReplyCancel

  • rahul - The Truth. Back up, back up, back up!!!! Its that simple.ReplyCancel

  • Becca Dilley - If you read all of the coverage, the photographer has not even told her couples yet (or hadn’t as of this morning). Why would you talk to the media and not your clients?

    Because she just isn’t a professional.

    Making it more important than ever for professional photographers to continue to do excellent work for their client, both behind the camera, and behind the computer.ReplyCancel

  • What’s In My Bag - […] we’re on the topic, PLEASE take a few moments to read this article I wrote on the subject of backups and how to keep wedding images safe as you’re s…. I detail the backup tools and hardware I use, so you can be sure to never experience a data […]ReplyCancel

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