The Benefits and the Risks
Remember the old days, before digital photography? The days of film photography. The photographer would have put rolls of 35mm film in his SLR, (that’s Single Lens Reflex) camera. After the shoot he would have developed the films in chemicals, cut the negatives into strips and stored them in translucent pages. We did have to look after our negatives but they were fairly robust.
How things have changed! Of course there are many benefits that come with digital photography. Now days we pop a high capacity memory card into our DSLR, (yes, Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera, or the latest incarnation in digital photography, Mirrorless Camera and shoot til we drop! With continuous shooting modes up to 10 frames per second and more, it’s not unusual for a photographer to finish a Wedding Photography day with a couple of thousand images or more. It’s not that we need so many images, but it fairly much ensures that we capture that crucial moment, or in the words of the great Henri Cartier-Bresson, “the decisive moment”. But what do we do with all those photos? And how safe are those precious digital image files? I’m sure we have all heard of the nightmares of, if not personally experienced, corrupted memory cards and discs.
Here’s what I think. And more to the point what I do to safeguard my digital files.
Camera Memory Cards
First things first. The little memory cards that fit into our cameras, that the photos are recorded onto, are mostly fine, but on occasions they fail! Most consumer level digital cameras have one memory card slot. The manufacturers don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world if a memory card happens to fail in a consumers camera. To be fair, it’s probably a reasonable balance between cost and risk for them. So if the worst happens and your memory card does become corrupt, and it’s the only one you’ve got, there is a fair chance you have lost all of your photos. Though there are experts that can sometimes recover lots of data from a corrupt card, so there’s a chance that all might not be lost.
At a professional digital photography level however, we don’t take that chance, so our cameras are all equipped with slots for two memory cards. It’s up to the photographer how he or she uses those two card slots. They can be used as extra capacity, but to safeguard your images I use my spare card as a backup. The camera records to both cards at the same time, so if the main card fails, I have a second copy of every image.
As well as this, I only use the best quality cards from recognised manufacturers. Some unbranded cards might be just as good, but I don’t take that chance. I also avoid very high-capacity cards. Why would I want to shoot all day on the same card and risk losing a whole day’s shooting when I can swap the card out from time to time? Then if the worst does happen, I only have to depend on the backup card for part of the shoot.
Backing Up to Disc
When I get home from a shoot. Actually as soon as I get home from a shoot! I copy the contents of my memory card to my computer. Now I have three copies of each image. Then I back up my computer hard drive to a remote drive. Four copies now; two memory cards, computer hard drive and backup drive. I don’t delete the images from the memory cards until I need to use the cards again. That could be anything from a week later, up to 6 or 8 weeks later depending on how busy things are. But hang on, I did say I could have a couple of thousand images after a full wedding shoot.
A Photo Cull
This really is too many images to manage. Fantastic though today’s modern cameras are, sometimes focus or exposure can be missed. Sometimes people blink at just the wrong moment, and sometimes we just capture an expression the person might not be so proud of! Often, when shooting on repeat mode we get numerous images that are virtually identical. There is no need to keep all of these images. So the first job in the process is to carry out an image cull. I tend not to be ruthless here, despite having the security that, as this is done at an early stage, all the original files are still on two memory cards.
Selection of the Best
The next step is to make a selection of all the best photos for upload the online client gallery. This is a bit like a cull, but in reverse. Unselected are kept for now, but not used. For the images that will be uploaded, yet another level of security is introduced as they obviously become another copy, held online, of the best shots, should anything happen to my physical drives.
After 6 months to a year, when the job is completely finished, or at an annual declutter, I archive all my selected and used files onto two remote discs and delete unused material.
Book a Professional
I wanted to share this information to my clients and customers so that they can be clear and confident about what happens to the work that we will create, or have created together. I also wanted to share it with anyone who is thinking about hiring a professional photographer, but is perhaps worried about the expense, and perhaps thinking, “I have a friend who has a camera”. If that is you, I would urge you to think carefully, not only about the creative benefits of having a professional photographer but also about the security of your pictures. If you are planning a wedding, there is only one chance to capture your big day. As I said, digital photography is great, but it does come with risks. Probably relatively small risks, but real nonetheless. I have the risks covered. Make sure your photographer, amateur or professional, does too.
If you would like to discuss digital image security please comment below. For more information about my Wedding Photography, Portraiture, or Event Photography that you would like then please get in touch.