“Hard Drives are only ever in one of two states…failing or about to fail” ~ Unknown
Now I’ve no idea who it was said this but it’s something that’s stuck with me and I’ve no doubt has contributed to my paranoia about backing up, but then as a photographer I don’t think I’m alone. Certainly the experience of having a hard drive fail on me earlier in the year didn’t help…despite Apple’s Time Machine saving the day.
Workflow is something that’s very personal born out of previous experiences & recommendations but also something that’s forever evolving in the search for the perfect solution. Speaking for myself I’ve been looking for a better way of doing things for sometime now as I’ve come to realise that the attitude of “That’ll do” maybe isn’t the way to be.
My Backing Up Workflow
Over the past few months I’ve made a few changes with my Workflow….both in Post Production and with Backing Up, so I thought I’d share my own Backing Up Workflow with you here. Now I understand that we all do things differently but this is what I’m doing (at the moment) and I’ll bet you any money it’ll change again at some point in the future; such is the way in the digital world.
Point of Capture
More and more I’m shooting tethered to my MacBook Pro with images going directly into Lightroom but of course there are also the shoots when I’m shooting directly onto the cameras memory cards so here’s what I do in both of those situations:
Direct to the camera
One of the many things I love about shooting with a Nikon D3 is that there are slots for two (2) memory cards and consequently a few choices as to how to the camera uses them. One way is so that you have the second card act as an overflow so you have more space to store files as you shoot and another is to have RAW images appear on one card and the same images in JPEG format written to the other.
Now I always shoot in RAW so what I do is choose the other option which is to have the camera write identical images on both cards so immediately at the point of capture I have a backup. Setting up the D3 to perform this backup is really simple and accessed via the SHOOTING MENU:
Before I was shooting with a Nikon D3 I used to use an Epson P5000 Multimedia Player to backup the cards immediately at the end of the shoot but to be honest it seemed to take forever so I stopped using it. I know now that Epson have since updated this unit to the Epson P7000 which is a massive improvement and very popular so who knows in the near future I may well go back to using one.
Whenever I’m shooting in the studio and more increasingly ‘on location’ I’m shooting with my Nikon D3 tethered to my MacBook Pro with images going directly into Lightroom, but the one thing I’m not keen on is the fact that the images are not written to the memory cards. So to make sure that I’m as safe as possible I have an external Hard Drive attached to the MacBook Pro also. This 500Gb Hard Drive is partitioned, giving over 400Gb to Time Machine and the remaining 100Gb to image files.
Basically as I shoot, images appear in Lightoom and those original files are written onto the MacBook Pro’s Hard Drive. As this happens I use a piece of software called SuperDuper to then Backup those original files on to the external Hard Drive, so now I have two(2) versions of the same image. Finally, every hour the whole system is backed up using Time Machine incase the unthinkable happens:
This whole process happens automatically leaving me to just keep shooting and the only thing I manually do is to make another Time Machine backup when we’re all finished and packing up.
Importing & Backing Up
Ok so once the shoot is over the next stage is to get the images into the main computer for sorting through and Post Production.
I use a superb piece of software called Photo Mechanic for importing the image files directly into a folder on my desktop which I have named ‘PM_IMPORT’ and the reason I use Photo Mechanic for importing the files is that it’s blisteringly fast. I used to import files directly into Lightroom but always found it a slow process plus another advantage of Photo Mechanic is that I can import from more than one card reader at a time.
*Note: If I’ve been shooting tethered then the files are imported directly off the MacBook Pro’s external Hard Drive which I connect to the iMac.
Ok so to explain the above workflow diagram…
- Image files are imported off the memory cards and/or the external Hard Drive via Photo Mechanic into a folder on the desktop called “PM_IMPORT”
- I’ll then sort through these RAW files selecting the ‘keepers’ and it’s these ‘keepers’ that are then imported into Lightroom.
- All of the RAW ‘keeper’ files are then backed up onto the Drobo, and Time Machine is activated manually to create an entire system backup.
- The folder in which all the RAW files from every shoot are stored is backed up ‘off site’ automatically using Carbonite; a superb online utility that uploads your files to a secure server when your computer is inactive…that way it doesn’t interrupt your internet speed if you’re browsing the web, using email etc…
- Finally I burn a copy of the RAW files onto a DVD and store this in a Fire Proof Safe, and also make a copy of that DVD and store it off-site.
* I also have an external Hard Drive that is used to automatically back up Time Machine using SuperDuper.
* Backing up onto DVD used to be all I did but having heard that DVD’s might degrade over time I thought it about time for a new way of doing things)
Once this whole process has gone through, then and only then will I format the memory cards and/or delete the files off the MacBook Pro’s external Hard Drive.
Now there are things that I do at a later stage once I’ve gone through all the Post Production such as exporting all the edited images to their own folder and backing this up on the Drobo, Time Machine and Carbonite. That’s something I do since I had a catalogue corrupt in Lightroom and all my edits were lost; like I said workflow is born out of experiences 🙂
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So there you have it, my own personal backing up workflow which like I said at the beginning I’m sure will change over time but for now I’m quite happy with this.
BIG thanks to everyone on Twitter that recommended some of the utilities that I’m now using such as Carbonite and SuperDuper; awesome bits of kit!
Sure there’ll be ways that you do things very differently to the way I do, and that’s great because there’s no real right or wrong way so long as you backup in some form or another, and that being said it’s always great to get some feedback, so if you have any questions, comments or maybe some recommendations then as always feel free to make use of the comments section below.
ps> I was going to ask if you thought that doing this amount of backing up made me paranoid but then decided against it as you were probably talking about me last night anyway to your friends saying exactly that 🙂