You got your digital files, now what?

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As a professional photographer it is my job to not only practice safe photo file storage, but to be an expert in it.  I’ve spent long hours researching the best methods so if any of my backup options fail, I have another failsafe to make sure that nothing is lost. That’s what you’re paying for when you hire me as your photographer!

However I realize that not everyone has the time to figure it out so I wanted to put together a blog guide to help make sure that you store your photos safely.  Whether it’s your wedding photos or portrait photos, these tips are for everyone!  And they don’t have to be professional only photos!  These work with personal photos too! 

Before we get started my most important piece of advice? Do Not Rely on One Method Only! There’s too many chances for that method to get lost, corrupt, broken, etc.  

Footnote: I store all of my client photos for a year, after that I do not guarantee I have them.  I do not delete my folders, I just warn that if something happens to all of my backups that my couples at least have a backup system for their photos.

photo file storage

Don’t want to take the time to read through this? 

If you’re only going to choose one method for storing your digital files, I highly recommend going with Cloud Storage.  Not only can you access those photos on multiple devices, but that method requires little maintenance on your end.  Yes you may be paying a monthly fee, but at least if you lost your computer, your photos are still safe.  

I recommend going with the bigger names such as DropBox, Google, or Apple Cloud.  Depending on the operating system you’re working with (Windows vs Mac) one might be a better option than the other! But either way, if you’re only going to do one, this is the one I recommend!

photo file storage

First things First, Backup IMMEDIATELY! 

It’s incredibly easy to forget to backup your images once you’ve received them.  Your gallery has been delivered and you’re super excited to download and share all those wonderful memories!  It might feel daunting but I highly recommend backing them up as soon as you’ve downloaded them onto your computer.  Once they’re backed up, you don’t have to worry about it for a while and can enjoy them in all their glory!

Resolution is IMPORTANT! 

I deliver hi-resolution images that are ready to be printed.  I give you two options for download, one hi-resolution and the other low for social sharing.  When you download the files it’s important that you remember which is which, because resolution matters when you’re printing an image! 

Although the ‘social size’ looks great on a screen, it most likely will look VERY pixelated if you try to print something 8×10 or above.  So make sure that you’re storing the right sized file!  

Footnote: if you’ve decided to store your photos on facebook or another social media platform, they will compress your images to optimize them for digital viewing.  This means that these images are now too small for printing and have lost some quality.  Which is why when uploading to facebook, the photos don’t look as great.

Now let’s get into the methods I recommend

Invest in a Hard Drive 

Unlike USB, hard drives are a little more reliable and can be hard to lose (given that they are much bigger than a USB stick).

I highly recommend getting at least 500GB to 1TB of storage to make sure that you have plenty of space for storing those photos and other personal photos on that device.  Again, this shouldn’t be a one and done only solution but is a great way to make sure that if your computer corrupts, is stolen, etc.  That your memories don’t go with it! 

Depending on if you’re using Windows or Mac, there will be a different hard drive recommendation.  But regardless of the operating system you use, you will need to make sure to check that your hard drive is still working once a year and will need to upgrade it every couple of years.

Plus, storing photos on a hard drive means that you won’t be taking up valuable space on your main computer! 

photo file storage

Invest in Cloud Storage

Like I said in the beginning, if you’ve got to invest in one or the other for digital files, cloud storage is better in my opinion.  Mainly because you won’t need to upgrade the device or make sure that it’s not lost/stolen AND you can access those photos on multiple devices.  That being said, do NOT rely on it as your one and only storage, anything can happen so having a physical copy (prints) and a hard drive will ensure that if one fails, you’ve got a backup. 

The most user-friendly cloud methods I’ve found are Google, Dropbox, and Apple Cloud.  Mainly because you can pick and choose which photos you want stored.  There are more advanced storage methods such as Backblaze, but it’s designed to be backups for your WHOLE computer and not just individual files.  For me personally, I like to have my computers backed up elsewhere and don’t want my photos being mixed with all my other documents (although I do have full system backups as a precaution).

Lastly, Invest in Prints!

Recently I went through some family photos and scanned a LOT of prints throughout the decades.  When I inquired about the negatives, no one could find them or even think where to look.  Meaning that those prints were all we had and thankfully with the power of hi resolution scanning, we were able to preserve these memories for a few more decades.  There’s no telling how many photos were lost in the shuffle of life.  Back in the day of film, prints always came with your negatives and at least for my family, it seems that that’s what they held onto the most. 

I know the above methods are for digital storage, but you cannot go wrong with physical prints!  Even just printing them in a 4×6 size so you can at least have some physical copies to not only store, but to hang on your wall to relieve those memories.  Photos are one of the tangible things you get to keep from your wedding or portrait session and having them in their physical form not only ensures that you get to view them daily, but that if all digital methods fail, you’ve got them right there! 

Plus, scanning has come such a long way that you are able to scan those prints and reprint them from that! 

photo file storage

I’m here to help! 

Regardless of the methods you choose please always know that I’m here to help and answer any questions you may have!  I know this can feel overwhelming but I promise it can be a simple solution to ease the worry of losing your photos!  Plus imagine having the piece of mind that something happens to your images, that you’ve already got them backed up and it’s frustrating but not devastating! 

Emie is a Wedding and portrait photographer based in Central Virginia.  She is committed to helping couples and individuals create genuinely beautiful photos that they'll cherish for a lifetime.

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