The Mundane Side Of Photography


Depending on your likes and dislikes, I suppose there are a lot of mundane aspects of photography. As a landscape photographer, I spend a lot of time waiting. Waiting for the sun to rise. Waiting for the sun to set. The clouds to be just so. A wave to crash just right. And so on. Some may consider hustling for clients mundane. Or maintaining websites, blogging, and keeping up with social media. Basically anything that takes time away from practicing the craft.

The mundane task that's on my mind this week is data management. Not digital asset management and workflow. I actually don't mind rating and tagging photos, and have streamlined my workflow. For you Lightroom users, check out my Lightroom Asset Management course. If you're (still) an Aperture user, check out my ebook Effective Aperture Workflow. I'm talking about storage - buying more hard disks, maintaining backups, and managing the ever expanding volume of my digital negatives. Storage is cheap. Data management is not.

This is on my mind because I've outgrown my internal hard drive. I put it off as long as I could, but earlier this week I had to buy more storage. I am expecting a 3TB drive to arrive today. That'll probably get me through 2014. I can expect another upgrade this time next year. So it goes.

I'll be migrating my old drive to the new one, and then use the old drive for something else (maybe video ... another quagmire). The migration will put my backup and recovery setup to the test. Here's my backup strategy:

  1. Main computer: The internal hard disk(s) in my system have my master copies. Ideally, I'll never have to go anywhere else. Someday, I'm sure I'll outgrow what I can fit in my MacPro and need to get an external RAID or JBOD system.
  2. On Site Backup: I'm a Mac user, so I use Time Machine. It's built in to OS X and just works. The trick is having a sufficiently large external hard drive to hold a reasonable number of backups.
  3. Off Site Backup: There are a variety of options here. For me, cloud-based storage is too expensive. Rather, I have yet another external hard disk that I keep in a safe deposit box in a bank across town. It takes discipline to keep it updated, but I do so every month.

This certainly isn't perfect, but for me it's an acceptable balance of cost versus risk. Short of a fire or natural disaster, it's a workable solution. At worst, I'd lose a months' worth of work (not something I like to think about). As a hedge, I also keep photo projects that haven't migrated all the way to the offsite disk on my laptop. That acts as a third copy ... although all three are in the same location (not desired). 

There's an adage in the data management world: "If it's not in three places, it doesn't exist."  Hard drives die. They are just like any other appliance. One day your toaster is working fine and the next day it isn't. Even solid state devices have moving parts - they're called electrons. 

Are your photos in three places? If the answer is no and you value your photo library, take the time and devise a backup strategy. It may be mundane, bhe ability to have multiple copies of your work is a luxury pre-digital photographers didn't have. Take advantage of it.