Why You Should Back Up Your Photos - Cramer Imaging - Quality Fine Art Photography
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Why You Should Back Up Your Photos

Why You Should Back Up Your Photos
While most of the fine art photography you will be ordering from Cramer Imaging will be a printed format, what of your other precious photos: memories you have saved from your trips, family get-togethers, birthdays, holidays, vacations, and more?  If you're like most people, many of these are on your phone or your computer.  What about your wedding photos?  Did you get prints or did you get a CD/DVD with the pictures stored on it?

What happens to all your photos if something goes wrong with these storage devices?

 Professional portrait of a girl sitting on a rock by a waterfall professionally photographed by Cramer Imaging in Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Idaho
If you don't back up your photos, you can lose precious pictures of your children at their earliest stages of life.
The loss of precious memories, in the form of photos, can be traumatic for some people.  In this modern digital age, such a loss is far easier and more common than before.

When I was young, the only real way to have photos was to have traditional photo prints.  These prints were not the kind you print with a printer which puts ink on a page, but these prints were on photosensitive paper that changed as it was exposed to light.

You only lost your photos if the physical copy(ies) were somehow damaged or misplaced.  Often you could redevelop the negatives or return to the photographer for more copies at a cost.

Now, this kind of loss did happen frequently.  Things like house fires, natural disasters, minor flooding due to an overflowing washing machine, or just not watching your three year old when he decided to go through your photo album were all ways people lost their precious photos.  Even the best kept and preserved prints slowly succumbed to the ravages of time rendering what was once a vibrant color photo into a dull and sickly yellow.

Professional wedding portrait of a bride and groom against snowy background photographed in Idaho Falls, Bonneville, Idaho by Cramer Imaging
Wedding photos are also traumatic to lose and irreplaceable once gone.  Back these precious photographs up too.
Now everything is stored digitally. We think we can keep our photos safer but in reality we don't actually keep them safe.  They're even more at risk.  Most people store photos on their computers or phones and nowhere else.  Now your phone is just as vulnerable to all of the dangers that destroy paper photos, but also everything that causes your phone to die.

Cramer Imaging's professional quality landscape photograph of Upper Mesa Falls on the Snake River near Harriman State Park, Idaho
Vacation pictures can also be lost forever if not properly backed up.  Even on your phone.
Have you ever dropped your phone in the toilet or lost it?  Have you ever just had your computer die?  Do you know anyone who has gotten a virus that could only be cured by a total wipe and reinstall of the operating system?  People even lose photos after doing a phone upgrade.  Sure you can usually transfer them, but sometimes bad things happen and something gets missed.

Some people store information in the cloud.  Of course, "The Cloud" is just a computer somewhere where the information is saved.  It is nothing special, and if you don't have control of your data, someone can take it from you any time they want to.  Sure maybe your cell phone provider will store such data for you.  What happens when you change providers?

Making Copies

You should make a copy of anything you want to save. If your phone breaks, what happens to all the photos on it?  Sure you can can transfer them to another phone if your old phone works well enough to make the transfer.  Of course, if it suffers an event that renders it in small pieces or gets damaged in water, you might be out of luck.

Cramer Imaging's graphic of the importance of copying your photographs in multiple formats: print and digital
Have backup copies of your photos in both electronic and digital formats.
Maybe you have your photos saved on your computer or somewhere in the "cloud."  Where ever you have your pictures (or any important files for that matter), you should have them backed up.

In fact, you should back your photos up at least twice and, if possible, one of those backups should be stored safely somewhere other than where you live or work.

For example, if you have a lot of images stored on your computer, you should also copy them to something other than your computer like an external hard drive, a writable CD/DVD/Blu-Ray disc or a flash drive.  This is your first backup.

Your second backup should be to the cloud or to a second hard drive, CD/DVD/Blu-Ray or flash drive that you keep somewhere else like a family member's house or in a safety deposit box.

Why all the extra effort?  Because bad things happen.  This is a fairly typical practice in nearly every larger institution.  It is known as offsite backup.  The principle is that something bad can happen at any one location, but is far less likely to happen at two or more locations.

You also need to take into account your method of backup.  Every storage medium has good and bad points to consider.

How Businesses Store Data

Traditional professional backup methods include tape drives.  The tapes can hold a lot of data and are insanely expensive.  Though they are incredibly reliable and can handle fairly rough treatment, they aren't an option for most people looking to backup personal information or photographs.

Since this option is beyond the budget of most consumers, let's check out a few options which will be a little more comfortable on your wallet.

Backup Options for Consumers

There are a few options available for photography backup storage.  These options include cloud storage, external hard drives, writable media, and flash media.

Cloud Storage

Now you can certainly use the cloud as your offsite location and may enterprise institutions are doing just that.  Do keep in mind, however, that most of what they're storing only needs to be stored for about 5 years or so, most people keep precious photos for generations.

Since no cloud storage company has been around for generations yet, they are untested for such long periods of time.  Many cloud storage companies offer free accounts with a certain small volume of storage for free.  When dealing with photos and videos, this space is consumed extremely quickly.

For larger volumes of storage, they're also pay services (usually monthly) meaning you pay for the storage and continued access to your photos.  When you stop paying your data goes away.  This isn't a problem if you're running a business and have a regular backup schedule.  If you're trying to keep precious photos for a very long time, cloud storage may get very expensive.

External Hard Drives

External hard drives are nice.  They are fairly robust and can withstand moderate to rough handling.  Most portable external hard drives can even handle a short drop onto carpet without dying.

Stock photograph of a blue and white USB external hard drive disk on a black background by Cramer Imaging

Regular hard drives are great for your immediate on-site backup.  Regular hard drives do have internal moving parts and can fail both electronically and mechanically so be aware.

Solid state hard drives are more popular.  They are vastly more expensive but they're a bit more robust toward rough handling and temperature extremes.  They are a little less reliable in general use, so if you're setting one on a desk and simply saving to it, you will find them less reliable.  They also "wear out" faster if you write to them a lot.  Mechanical hard drives can handle far more writes to a given area than a solid state drive.

Writable CD-Like Media

Writable CD/DVD/Blu-Ray discs are a good cheap way to archive data.  Though writable Blu-Ray drives are still a little unusual at this time, they're not exactly rare.  DVD drives are also are starting to go out of fashion in new laptops and very low end desktop computers but they're still very common.

Be aware that such writable CD type media have a fairly short lifespan.  Depending on where, how, and when that particular disk was made, it may have a 5-20 year lifespan so make sure to re-copy your disks periodically.

Stock photograph of a CD or compact disk on a black background by Cramer Imaging

These disks tend to degrade slowly causing some read errors or a problem in a photo here and there.  A quick google search can lead you to further information on this subject but, from what I've read, it's almost impossible to predict which discs will fail earlier and which will fail later.  There is some correlation to price, but not really enough to justify the more expensive CD's.

Note that this only applies to consumer grade writable media.  Your commercially produced DVDs or music CD's have a much longer lifespan due to a vastly different method of production.  That method is much cheaper if creating thousands or millions of copies of the same disc but is not cost effective if only producing a couple of copies.

Flash Media

What most people think of as a flash drive is a small key-chain sized dongle which plugs into the USB port.  This is true but not the entire category.  SD and Micro SD cards would fit into the same category.

All of these drives are basically the same as solid state drives.  They're more expensive than CD type media, but can be rewritten more easily than re-writable media.

Stock photograph of a yellow flash drive, thumb drive, or jump drive on a black background by Cramer Imaging

They suffer from the same weakness as a solid state drive in that they tend to wear out with many writes to the same area.  They are made more cheaply than a solid state hard drive, so the failure rate is a bit higher.  They don't fail slowly like CD's, but just stop working one day or simply lose the data.  They're small so they can be stored easily, and cheap enough to have several on hand.

Copyright Disclaimer

However you choose to back up your photos, be sure not to violate the copyright of the photographer.  This means that if your wedding photographer didn't give you permission to do so, you will be in violation of copyright law if you copy those photos even though you are in them.  Likewise scans of professional portraits would also likely be a violation.

If you want to back your photos up with scans, then you need to clear any scans of professional photographs with the photographer BEFORE you make the scan.  Then, you will not risk having to delete your backup file after an unpleasant conversation with a lawyer.


Proper backup procedures will help to ensure that you won't ever lose your precious photo memories in an unforeseen disaster.  They will ensure that you will be able to enjoy your beautiful images for years to come.