Back in the days of film, photographs were stored either as negatives, slides or prints. They were physical things that you would always have unless somehow they were lost or physically destroyed. In the digital age, images are a watery mix of virtual 1s and 0s that can be erased or corrupted in the blink of an eye. Accidentally drop a 1TB hard drive on the floor and you could be saying goodbye to over 30,000 images in one go. And even without dropping your hard drive, no one really knows how long it will last. 20 years? 50 years? They haven’t been around long enough for us to find out yet…
This means the modern photographer has to consider file storage very carefully. Luckily, there are now several different affordable storage options on the market, which, when used in combination, should help you safeguard your photos for many years to come.
Below, we take a closer look at the four main types. We recommend you keep three copies of everything, with images saved across two different types of storage, kept in more than one location. This is commonly known as the 3-2-1 rule, and every photographer should follow it.
Store Images on Portable Hard Disk Drive (HDD)
The vast majority of the world’s photographs are stored on a portable hard disk drive, or portable HDD, just like the one found on your computer or laptop. Portable HDDs are cheap and compact, which is why they’re the storage solution of choice for many. However, they’re also fairly fragile and may stop working if dropped or knocked, meaning a back-up is an absolutely essential.
Store Images on Solid State Drive (SSD)
A solid-state drive, or SSD, is used in SD cards and USB sticks, as well as some more recent computers and laptops. Unlike an HDD, it has no moving parts, so is less fragile. This makes SSDs a more reliable storage option, especially if you plan to transport yours regularly.
Solid state drives are a lot more expensive than regular hard drives, especially for larger capacities, putting them out of the reach of those on a tight budget.
Store Images in Raid Storage
A RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is several hard drives linked together in a single casing. There’s enough data spread over the drives that should one fail, you have enough data on the other drives to create a full restoration.
It’s then easy to remove the broken drive from the casing and slot in another. Most businesses use RAIDs, but they’re now more common for home use, and relatively inexpensive.
Store Your Images in Cloud Storage
Many photographers are now turning to the Cloud to store their images. Shots are uploaded to a remote server and stored for a small fee. Some Cloud sites even offer several gigabytes of storage for free like Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, Box etc. The Cloud is generally accepted to be more secure than a hard drive, and data can be accessed from anywhere in the world. The downside is that it can take a long time to upload and download images over the internet, and you need to be in a package with unlimited data. The other downside to Cloud storage is that you have no control over the security of your shots.
4 More Ways to Store Images:
Burn to DVD
A DVD can hold 4.7GB of data, so they’re still a good option for anyone shooting a relatively small number of images. They can also be used as an extra back-up for particularly important data such as wedding image
Print Out Your Pics
If storing your images as 1s and 0s makes you nervous, why not print out your images and store them in a sealed container in your attic.
If you want to back up a few very important shots, you could always email them to yourself. An email usually carries around 20MB of files, so you should be able to attach around four hi-res JPEGs.
As an extra back-up, don’t erase the data on your memory card until you absolutely have to.