How to Backup Photos and Videos

I have received plenty of requests from clients to resend photos and/or videos to them well after the photo shoot is completed. Whether the listing is being rejuvenated and going back on the market, or the agent needs photos for some new marketing material, there are good reasons to backup photos and videos for future retrieval.

Check out page 28 of the May 2015 House Beautiful magazine to see a photo of mine that they published!

When I first started my business I was running my website on the BlueHost platform. After I started to grow, the tech/geek side in me wanted to jump to something more substantial, so I ended up switching to Linode. One of the down sides of the switch was I lost the unlimited storage space that I had with BlueHost.

I set up some scripts to notify me when my server space was running out, and I would archive past photo shoots. I usually would only keep ~2 months of photo shoots online for agents to access through their account on my website. Over time, I would receive requests from agents to re-upload their photos to their accounts so they could download them for various reasons.

Pssst… If you are curious about my client backend, head on over to ViewShoot and sign up for the email list. I’m transitioning to a new platform and will be allowing other real estate photographers to have the same convenience I have – a content management system just for real estate shoots!

I think it’s important to have a backup strategy to protect your work. Even if you are using a web host that has unlimited storage, I would recommend finding at least one other method of backing up your files in case something catastrophic were to happen with your web hosting account. Let’s take a look and see how I do it.

Local Storage

The first place I store everything is locally. I keep about 2 weeks worth of photo shoots on my local computer where I do all of my editing. This allows for easy access in the immediate future if an agent has an issue with photos, etc. I don’t really count this as a form of backup however, because the length of time that I keep files stored on my local system is rather short.

My main local storage method is using a Hard Drive Enclosure. Specifically, I’m using a Mobius 5-Bay Hard Drive Enclosure (Amazon Affiliate Link). As the name suggests, it holds five hard drives and you can set them up in different configurations. The method I chose is called RAID-5. In non-confusing terms, what happens in this configuration is if a hard drive goes bad, I can replace it with a new one and my data will be able to be saved/recovered.

I took it one step further thanks to the Mobius functionality, by setting up a hot spare. Out of the 5 drive bays that are available, I initially configured 4 drives. After setup was complete, I added a 5th drive that acts as the hot spare. Should one of the 4 main drives fail, the 5th drive will automatically take over without my intervention. It’s one less thing I have to worry about if the unthinkable happens and a drive goes bad.

The hard drives I’m using are 3TB HGST Deskstar NAS drives (Amazon Affiliate Link). With 4 of them active, I have a total of 9TB of space available (the total amount of space that’s usable in a RAID-5 configuration is the total drives minus one). They make them in various other sizes so you can go higher or lower. I would recommend however that you use drives specifically made for NAS (network-attached storage) systems.

Note: I use Mac, so I needed to purchase a Thunderbolt to eSata adapter, and so far the Kanex Thunderbolt to eSata Adapter (Amazon Affiliate Link) has been fantastic.

Online Storage

As the saying goes, you shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket! Anything at any moment can happen to my Mobius system. If two drives happen to fail at once, I lose everything in the blink of an eye. You simply can’t rely and trust on one form of backup. To supplement my local storage, I use online storage.

I have a DropBox account, but when Amazon came out with their Amazon Cloud Drive (Amazon Affiliate Link) I was curious to give it a shot. I signed up for the 3-Month Trial and continued my membership after it was over. At the time of this writing it costs $59.99/year for the Unlimited Storage plan. Store anything you want, for $59.99/year! That blows my mind, it’s so cheap! And for peace of mind that your files are stored online with a trusted source, it’s well worth the investment!

When you sign up for Amazon Cloud Drive you can download their desktop app. To backup files, I drag my entire shoot directory to the app and let it upload. (You can read all about how I manage my files/folders in a previous blog post.) I can then view all of my shoots in the Cloud Drive website and download anything that I need to recover.

What do you use for storage/backup? If you don’t have anything in place currently I would highly suggest you come up with a plan to store your files in multiple locations. You’ll feel much better when you are able to retrieve photos for a client that are 5 months old and already deleted from your local computer!

Want to share? Have at it!

6 thoughts on “How to Backup Photos and Videos”

  1. Thank You… I started my real estate photography business eight weeks ago and just passed the fiftieth listing photographed… I am using LR/Enfuse, 2 Canon 5D 2 bodies, 17-40L, iMac and Macbook pro… I use the 24′ pole and remote trigger almost daily because I live in the rolling hills of Knoxville Tennessee… I have learned so much from your tutorials and I am sooooo thankful for your giving nature… I don’t have it yet but I will be sending you a little something to say thanks as soon as I can work my way out of the hole I have dug financially… I would not be as successful if you had not given so freely… Check out my FB page Eric Knieper Photographer if you have a moment to see the work you have inspired me to accomplish… Thanks again… and God Bless you and yours…

    • Thank you so much for the kind note Eric! No need to send me anything – please! I didn’t have a knowledge base at my disposal when I started my business. It’s the least I can do to help others build a successful business like I did. Congrats on your success, thanks for sharing!

  2. Hi Lance,

    Good to see a new post! We tried Dropbox, and used it to distribute files to our clients via the share link. The issue we ran into was when we went back and edit the name of the folder we shared the link would change and our agents were contacting us to figure out what happened. Since then we switched to BOX and they maintain the original link if the folder name is edited at any point. But it has it’s own corks at times.. Our issue is our RAW files, we would love to back those up somewhere but it takes forever to upload them to our cloud environment.

    Also, what do use to distribute your photos to your clients? Are you sharing access to the shoot from the Amazon Cloud environment?

    I’ve been waiting to see ViewShoot, hopefully that is ready to go in the near future.. Thanks again!

    • Hi Matt!

      Yes, I’ve been slacking on the blog post content! Need to come up with some things to share. 🙂

      I never knew Dropbox links were reliant on the folder staying the same name – very interesting!

      Because I just do residential real estate and no commercial magazine work, etc, I don’t keep my RAWs. I know that if I need to make any minor adjustments via client request I will be fine making them to the JPGs. That is EXTREMELY rare though that anyone wants any adjustments. And if it comes down to it, I’ll go reshoot a space if I absolutely need new RAWs. So my question to you is, why save the RAWs? Do you think it’s necessary? It will be slow to upload those to any Internet space. You could use the Mobius like I do to have it on local storage, but that’s so risky only saving to one location. 🙁

      My current backend on my website is a client portal that clients login to view their shoots. They see the watermarked images, and then once they pay, the system automatically enabled access to the downloadable packages as well as sending them an email with direct download links. ViewShoot is 100% based on my current system – it’s just my current system is hard-coded for my company/website only. ViewShoot is being expanded further to allow other photography companies to utilize it, instead of just my company. So everything my clients download is delivered through my web host. Only I have access to Amazon Cloud, it’s for backup purposes only.

      ViewShoot has been a long process for me. If you’ve been around for a while you may have seen some of my struggles with getting someone to develop it. 🙂 Just a month ago I was lucky to find an awesome developer and we have been full-steam ahead since. We are just about to the point where I can utilize it for my own business. After that, it will open up to select beta testers (make sure you join the ViewShoot email list), and then once we are comfortable with bugs/requests, we’ll open it up for public usage. I’m getting excited as well!

  3. I’ve did read your struggles and have been following your blog for over a year now. In that time we’ve been able to photograph over 1500 homes, and based a lot of our standards on things we’ve picked up from your blog, so thank you for that.

    I’ve been waiting on ViewShoot and have signed up. I love the idea and have been talking to my developer as well to create a backend for our clients but want to see how ViewShoot turns out first, it might save me a lot of time..

    In regards to the RAW files, you’re probably right, we will likely never need them. I guess I just have a hard time throwing any of it away.

    One post I would love to see is perhaps a review on the Ronin Stabilizer you picked up. We were looking at adding one soon!

    Thanks again for all that you do.


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