Lightroom 101: Backups


I am frequently asked by students how I backup my images. There are many opinions on the best way to do backups. The basic idea that everyone agrees on is to have at least one copy on-site and one copy off-site. Many people keep a drive at home and then another drive at work.

One great thing about Lightroom is that, as long as you are backing up your Lightroom Catalog and your original raw/jpeg files, then you don’t need to store the exported versions, unless you want to. You can always export them again from the originals because your catalog contains the adjustments you have made.

If you use an Apple computer and have all of your original images and your Lightroom catalog stored on that computer, the easiest way to back up is by using Apple’s Time Machine. Time machine will back up your entire computer (provided your external drive has sufficient space to do so). For Windows users there are some “one touch” backup solutions that do similar things.

I have too many photos to store internally on my computer, so I use an external hard drive to store both my original photos and my Lightroom Catalogs. You can use small portable drives or larger desktop drives.

I suggest using a RAID drive that is set up in a mirrored configuration. It has two drives in one case, and when set up as mirrored drives, both drives contain the exact same information, automatically (once it is set up to do so). Make sure you are buying a drive that supports this if this a feature you want. The mirrored drive setup is protecting you against hard drive problems at home. If a hard drive fails, then you automatically have another copy. The likelihood of both drives failing at the exact same time is very very low.

There are many drives out there that are easily set up to do this, like this one.

Once you are set at home, I recommend also keeping an exact copy of what you have on the drive at home, off-site. So, if you have a 4 terabyte Mirrored Raid, that means there are Two 2-Terrabyte drives inside it. In a mirrored configuration, half of your total storage is all you can use because the other half is the backup. So, you would need another 2 terabyte drive to back up all of that information off-site.

A small portable drive, such as this one, can work well for this.

Now, to keep your off site drive up to date, you can use software like Chrono-Sync. This software makes it easy to update your drives because it knows what information is new or has been changed and only updates the changes. This saves lots of time because you are only copying new/changed files. Also, it eliminates the risk of user error while manually copying files, as long as it is set up properly.

Once your system is set up, you can update your off-site drive as often as you feel necessary. Some people do so weekly or monthly. Or sometimes they update it every time they have a photo-shoot.

This all may sound a little crazy, but you will never regret having backups. If a hard drive were to fail, you’ll be glad you still have access to all of your images. For those of you with very large image libraries, Drobo has some great solutions.

The most important thing about backing up your data is to be consistent. You can always add more space and hard drives are constantly getting faster and less expensive. Start now with what works best for you.

Interested in learning more about organizing, editing and storing your images? Take my Lightroom 101 class and let me help you figure it all out!

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