What is the most valuable thing that you have as a photographer? Is it an expensive camera or the lenses that you have accumulated over the years? Or maybe it’s your laptop? Unless you have no regard for your photos, they should be the most valuable asset you have from your photography. Whilst it might be expensive and inconvenient, a camera, lenses or a laptop can all be replaced. But those unique moments that you have been able to capture are irreplaceable. So are you taking the right precautions to ensure that if something does happen your photos will be safe?
Plan for the worst
I have always been paranoid about my photos. So I always considered myself as someone who was pretty good at ensuring that my photos would be safe both on the road and at home. If I’m on the road I back up my photos daily to three separate portable hard drive every night. I then keep them in separate places in case one gets stolen or corrupts.
As soon as I get home all of my photos are transferred onto my external hard drives which are permanently connected to my iMac. To protect them in case something goes wrong I also subscribe to Blackblaze (a backup service).
It could happen
In all honesty, I never actually thought that I would ever need this many precautions. In fact, just recently I considered cancelling my Blackblaze subscription as I have paying for it for almost 5 years without actually ever needing it. The thing about backing up and ensuring that you have a backup service like Blackblaze is that it’s like insurance. You may never need it but if the day comes when you do, you’ll be glad you have it.
A close call
I was editing photos on my trusty iMac from a recent shoot when suddenly in the afternoon my iMac shut itself down. At first, it didn’t cause me much concern as I just assumed it was in sleep mode. But as it slowly dawned on me after each attempt of trying to turn it on that something may be wrong, I began to realize that this might just be the end for my computer.
Through my backing up process, I knew that my photos were safe on my external hard drives. But I suddenly realized that whilst my photos might be safe, there was something that I had completely forgotten about – my Lightroom catalogue.
The way that Lightroom works is that it never changes your original image. Instead, Lightroom adds those adjustments to your photos. Think of it like layers on a cake. So, when you adjust something that adjustment is added to your photo and the details of it are saved in a data file called a catalogue. In other words, if you lose your catalogue you will lose the edits that you have made to your photos.
This is when panic started
I had made two major mistakes. Firstly, as my iMac was pretty old and a little slow to run, I had neglected backing up my catalogue (that little message box you get when you quit Lightroom). Because I just kept my iMac running and didn’t switch it off, I wasn’t sure when was the last time I had backed up my catalogue. The best-case scenario was that it was a month ago. Worst case scenario… well, it could have been 6 months. Which meant that any editing that I had done in that time would be lost and I would have to start again. This would mean editing thousands of images again.
The second and bigger mistake I had made was to not backup my saved catalogue somewhere other than my iMac’s hard drive. So, if I wasn’t able to recover it, all my edits would be lost forever. I have over 100,000 photos and the prospect of having to re-edit even a fraction of those didn’t appeal to me.
I tried every trick I could find online to get it working again and eventually booked it into Apple hoping that it could be repaired. I was told that due to its age Apple didn’t make parts anymore for this model so a repair wasn’t possible. The only option was to remove the hard drive and transfer the files onto an external hard drive. But there was a possibility that the hard drive could have been damaged.
What a relief
The great thing about Blackblaze is that it is a continuous backup service. Basically, once you have set what you want to be backed up, it automatically backs up everything in that drive anytime there is a change. The only caveat is that your drive has to be connected to your computer. If it isn’t for a period of more than 30 days than your backup is removed. As I said earlier, I had never used it since the day I subscribed. I hadn’t even logged into my Blackblaze account so didn’t even know how I would be able to restore my files.
In a final attempt at salvaging my Lightroom catalogue, I logged into my Blackblaze account and searched for the file that I needed. To my sheer delight not only was I able to find and recover my catalogue but I was also able to recover the very latest one that I was working on at the time of the crash. So, nothing lost at all.
The lesson of the story
Even for someone like me who thought they had covered all the bases; a potential disaster was narrowly avoided. So, the lesson is that always fear the worst. At any moment your hard drive could corrupt. Your laptop could get stolen and you could lose the memory card from your camera.
– Back up your photos on external hard drives
– Back up your Lightroom catalogue regularly and especially after you have made a lot of edits
– Back up your latest Lightroom catalogue on an external hard drive
– Back up everything somewhere else (either cloud storage back up or another hard drive to keep somewhere else)
This might seem over the top and you may never have any problems, but if you do, you’ll be glad that you were so thorough about backing up your work.
Note: The author is in no way associated or affiliated to Blackblaze or is promoting them. He uses it in this article as an example as that is what he subscribes to.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.