Storage and Backup for Wedding Photographers
Where does one begin in talking about storage and backup for wedding photographers? If you’re like me, the thought of storage, backups, drives, the cloud, etc. is enough to say forget it! The truth is though, I’ve been wanting a solid system for years now, but didn’t know where to begin. Eventually I would need a system, but it would have to be fairly simple, one that I could rely on, and cost efficient! A few months ago I finally got down to business and got set up with a system that did all of the above. Let’s first discuss the problems with my previous setup.
I don’t have a physical work station or office in my home. When I purchased a new MacBook Pro last year, I chose not to store any RAW files on the computer itself (since there are a ton, and are massive in file size). I work where I can, when I can, and edit anywhere I can be comfortable. Since I’m not always “plugged-in” to a storage system or hard-drive, my setup had to be accessible from anywhere, at any time.
I always hated the idea of having files and images in multiple locations, it makes me extremely anxious. For years I edited off an external hard drive, which was plugged into my computer via USB. It worked fine until either the drive failed, or I forgot to back it up. Then there was always the question of onsite, offsite, and multiple copies of everything. Talk about a nightmare. I lost sleep wondering if everything was backed up properly and stored safely. Wedding photographers, you feel my pain right?
During my research, I read a lot about NAS Systems (Network Attached Storage). A NAS is basically a computer that’s connected to a network that provides storage for computers and devices within the same network. They don’t have keyboards or displays, and they’re managed and controlled over the network, typically through an online browser. The system contains one or more hard disk drives that are used to store all your goodies. This “server” as it’s called, made the most sense for me. I would be able to store multiple gigs of data on a system that wasn’t always attached to my computer, and all of my files would be in one place, instead of several. Perfect.
Upon doing more research, I finally settled on the Synology DS216+II with two 3GB hard drives (prices are mentioned below). I’m not going to lie, I was just a little bit anxious to get the system up and running. The geek in me was squealing like a small child. This was the first time (in 10 years of being a wedding photographer!) I had ever had a reliable system. I was slightly nervous about setting it up properly, but there were plenty of YouTube videos and online instructions to get me going. All in all, I think I was up and running within an hour. All I had left to do was throw my existing data (from old external drives and computers) onto the new server. I just let it run overnight and into the next day until it was all finished, it was that simple.
BACKING UP TO THE CLOUD.
Having a storage system at home is great, but what if it fails? What if the system crashes, or worse yet, what if your house goes up in flames? All those precious files would be gone, which makes a NAS completely pointless unless there’s a backup. Enter cloud storage. I chose Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage. The reviews were great, and the prices seemed fair. Synology and Backblaze play well together, so it was just a matter of installing Cloud Sync, entering the right information and it was done. Now, without even thinking about it, every file I change, upload or delete from my NAS automatically syncs and backs up to Backblaze. It’s magic.
DAY TO DAY USAGE
You might be wondering, how does everything work on a day to day basis? How do you upload files? How do you edit a wedding without the computer physically attached to the server? Here’s an example of my workflow. I’ll describe everything from unloading camera cards onto the server, getting the working files onto my computer, and exporting/backing up final hard copies.
- Since the NAS acts like an external hard drive, it’s as easy as mounting the drive and automatically connecting to it upon login. (Read more about how to do that here). Once the drive is mounted, you can use it like any other finder window on your Mac. All I do is connect my card reader to my MacBook, then drag and drop the files into the desired folder on the NAS. Everything is transferred over the air so-to-speak, since the NAS isn’t physically attached to the computer, but is attached to your homes network. Once all your cards are unloaded, simply eject the reader and you’re done.
- At this point there’s no need to executing a backup. Remember – I have Backblaze Cloud Sync, so the second I drop a file onto the server, it’s automatically being backed up. Cool right??
- I use Adobe Lightroom for all my editing. I simply navigate to the right folder on my server, and import the files as usual. One key thing to note here, is that I make sure to build smart previews when I import. This will create tiny versions of the RAW files (which are then saved locally on my MacBook), and those are what Lightroom will use to edit. Now I have the freedom to edit wherever I want, even when I’m travelling. (There’s an excellent article on how and when to use Smart Previews in Lightroom here).
- Once I am ready to export the final edits for my clients, there’s really not much I have to do. As long as I’m at home on the network, Lightroom will pull data from the NAS and export full-size JPGS to the desired folder. It’s that simple!
Every once in a while, I’ll log onto the server just to see what things are looking like. It displays such things as how much storage remains, the health of the drives, and the status of your backups. The options are virtually endless. I’m still overwhelmed with how much this little box can do.
THE COST FOR STORAGE AND BACKUP FOR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS
I definitely didn’t want to spend more than $8-900 total, and even that was pushing it. I purchased the Synology DS216+II for $414.99 on Newegg. The 3GB hardrives cost $139.99/ea, which were purchased at Memory Express. All said and done, my system cost $730 including taxes. Under budget – yes! Each month, I spend an average of about $10 for online storage/backup. This will continue to increase though as I add more data. Regardless, it’s pretty affordable, especially when you know all of your precious files are safe and sound. That alone is worth it!
I have zero regrets with this setup. It works perfectly for me, and does everything I need it to (and more!). Once you wrap your head around how it works, it’s really quite simple. Trust me, it took a lot of reading and YouTube watching to really understand the techy concept, but now I could never live without it, and neither could my business. Just knowing that my clients precious moments are safe and sound is worth the headache of figuring it out. It’s worth every penny. Besides, our clients pay us those pennies to ensure that their portraits are safe. They put their full trust in us. This is the least I can do to solidify that trust.
Did you enjoy this review? Read my review on VSCO film for photographers here.