5 Ways to Backup Photos
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5 ways to back up your photos

Have you ever heard said someone say “It’s not if your computer crashes but when your computer crashes.”? It’s not any fun to think about but we need to talk about backing up our photos. I recommend having at least 2 copies of your photos but really you should aim for 3 or more.

Ian’s computer crashed a few months before I was pregnant with Kate and we lost ALL our photos of our “pre kids” life. I learned my lesson. A few month ago, my laptop’s charger started to act funny. It was my third one so I was convinced it was my computer not my charger. Being the “googling” fool that I am, I searched for answers. I found a forum that told me to hold down certain keys and restart my computer because this would “fix” my problem. Unfortunately, my laptop has not turned back on since I did that (well, it turned on for about 24 hours and then stopped working again). This past week, I finally stayed up late enough to call the company and get some phone support. After a half hour of trying she told me the thing no computer or photographer wants to hear – Your hard drive is fried. You would think I would have started to cry. Luckily for me, I had taken ALL my photos off that computer about 6 months earlier and put them on an EHD (external hard drive). Phew! I told her thanks but luckily I hadn’t lost a thing!

Let’s talk about different ways to backup photos.

1. External Hard Drives (EHD) – These are wonderful and fairly inexpensive for all the material they can hold. I actually keep all my photos stored on my EHD – External Hard Drive for Mac. I also have a smaller one that I use as a backup for my main one – My Passport for Mac plus one I can travel with and have access to all my photos. The thing about EHD’s is they crash as well. I was just reading a thread on a forum last week about how someone’s had crashed. This is why I say it is good to have more than one system.

2. CDs – Yes, these are a thing of the past now that EHDs are more popular but they are another way. I actually have all our photos from 2004-2007 saved on CDs in our house and I gave a copy to my parents to have at their house in case (God forbid) our house burn down. CDs are cheap and take some time to upload but you will be thanking yourself later.

3. Prints – Now we are getting really old school right? I mean who prints photos anymore? I DO!! And you should to!! It PAINED me when I took my last photography class and my teacher said she hadn’t printed a photo in 4 years. I couldn’t help myself and started to yell at her. Please, please print your photos! You know how passionate I am that you should share these wonderful images and memories but you will also have a hard copy of your photos. You can read more about Photo Labs here. Plus, when your little one comes home from school and says their teacher needs a photo of them from when they were a baby you can easily find a print of it instead of searching your computer and THEN printing it. Besides, there is something to be said about having your photos printed in your hands. Please do it! Even if it is just your favorites (which is what I do). Set a schedule that the first of each month you will pick your top 20, 50, or 100 and get them printed. Even if they just get placed in a photo box at least you have them. If you don’t want just “prints” you could always do a digital photo book.

4. Online Backup – There are many companies out there that you can pay a yearly fee to have your computer backed up daily on their servers. I am currently using Backblaze. When they do the initial backup I’ve heard it can take up to a month. However, I’m on month 3 of the initial backup and it isn’t even halfway there. Just to give you an idea of how sloooooooooooow my internet it. I even convinced my parents to sign up with an online backup company. The best thing about this is once you pay your fee you sit back and do NOTHING. You can schedule daily backups that the company will do automatically. Again, if your house burns down (God forbid) everything on your computer is saved somewhere save and easily recovered. Also, check the companies policy on backing up EHD and how long they save the material if you do not keep your EHD hooked up continuously.

5. Online Photo Backing Up Sites – There are so many sites out there where you can upload your photos to keep them safe and have one more backup. There are a lot of free ones like Flickr and Picasa. Personally, I use SmugMug. Again, there is a monthly or yearly fee but it has some great settings that I appreciate. I am able to upload my full resolution of my photo and put it in a completely secure, password protected folder. My family is able to view the photos and even download the full resolution for printing. This saves me the headache of having to email them when they find one they like. Hopefully, it prevents them from pulling off my websize versions to print (Mom!). If you have Lightroom, you can easily export your photos to SmugMug with a click of the button. I don’t use that option right now (internet too slow) so I try (stress try) to upload them about once a week.

There you go. No more excuses. There are 5 different ways to backup your photos. It would pain me if I received an email from one of you talking about how you lost your photos because you didn’t back them up. I know one of our readers, Amber @ Amber’s Articles told me a while back how her grandmother’s house burned down when she was younger and they lost all their family photos. Don’t let that be your story.

How do you backup your photos?

29 Comments
  • July 25, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    love the pictures you shared with this post! You are such a talented gal;0. I back up on a hard drive but, I am so guilty of not printing for the past year…I’ve been feeling a bit guilty about it in fact and I think you have spurred me on to keep printing! Thanks!

  • July 25, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    Hey Courtney, when you back up your pics on your Mac, do you use the EHD as your timemachine and just backup everything? or do you just copy the pics on the the EHD? I have the same WD as you, and i’ve been using it as a timemachine, but wondering if I need to get another one just for pics?

    • July 26, 2011 at 9:04 PM

      I actually upload my photos directly to my EHD. They are not housed on my Mac hard drive. I don’t use timemachine right now but I do want to. I just need to figure out if it will back up my EHD as well and I need to buy another EHD :O) If you have room on your computer than I don’t know if you need one for just pictures. However, backing up an EHD isn’t a bad idea. Honestly, I would probably have 15 EHD’s just to back each one up :O) ha ha I’m obsessed!

  • July 25, 2011 at 10:19 AM

    Oh my!! I signed up for a Pro Flickr account and have only used it for about SIX photos!! I’m going there now to start back up :-) THANKS!!

  • July 25, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    I’m currently in the process of trying to get myself caught up on the printing of my images, I hate that I’ve become a person that hasn’t printed my images in WAY too long. And I LOVE your photos, the last one is such an adorable pose!! You’re a professional little lady :)

  • July 25, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    Great info! I am currently on my second external hard drive. The only thing is I need to figure out how to separate what is saved on each because for some reason it won’t let me select certain folders so now a chunk of my pictures are saved on both hard drives. What a waste of space. Love your photos by the way!

  • July 25, 2011 at 9:06 PM

    Thanks for the tips, Courtney. I’ve actually been meaning to ask you about EHDs so let’s talk about this more when I see you this week! Oh and P.S. I LOVE how you have all of your favorite pictures printed and hanging on your walls. I stare at them a lot when I’m over :)

  • July 25, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    How funny that I am sitting here trying to update my Picasa folders now. I am so behind and need to update the hard drive, as well. How did you find out that SmugMug let you upload a full resolution photo? I have never thought to check if Picasa does, but I pay $20 per year and it has worked well. I need to look into it, for sure.

    IT IS TRUE…………..HOUSES DO BURN!!!! I have so few photos from my childhood, because my house burned when I was 10 and my grandparents lost their home a few years ago.

  • July 25, 2011 at 9:13 PM

    Great info and GORGEOUS photos!!

  • July 26, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    Such a good lesson to learn!! I lost a whole load of photos before I started using the mac time machine and an extra external hard drive and also a dvd backup!! No I am a bit obsessed!! But I am seriously guilty of not printing my photos which is really sad!! I often don’t know where to even begin with what or how I would like to do it! I loved the photographs you added to the post they are gorgeous!!!

  • July 26, 2011 at 5:59 AM

    Wow! Great shots. I love the second to last!

  • Pero Urgericev
    July 26, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    I have tried several backup providers and found SpiderOak to be the best.
    It’s available for free, offers the most space for free [6GB =] and the
    applications are available for all popular desktop OSes and mobile
    platforms. You can try it out for free by signing up at
    http://tinyurl.com/freespideroak and using the code WORLDBACKUPDAY .

  • August 13, 2011 at 11:28 PM

    We’ve got an external and then I backed up on some C.D.’s & our fav photo’s are in a digital book we had printed up too. We’ve also sent numerous C.D.’s to family members and friends!

  • August 18, 2011 at 3:25 AM

    I have been using Apple’s iDisk service for over a year without a problem, and now the replacement iCloud service looks like it will offer even more functionality.

  • October 5, 2011 at 4:01 AM

    I lost a month of pictures one time but it was during my slowest time of taking personal pictures. Love the picture of them making a heart with their hands! Thanks for reminding me that I need to do another backup.

  • December 15, 2011 at 8:34 AM
  • March 10, 2012 at 10:15 AM

    Ok I’m good at the backing up, but this printing thing? WHEN did I get so BAD at it? I think you did a post on frames to be able to rotate prints out easier… I’d probably be more likely to print if I had a frame system that wasn’t such a pill to pop fotos in and out of for easy display changes.

  • Tina
    May 30, 2012 at 12:59 PM

    Backing up is so important. We lost the first 3 months of my sons life in photos with the exception of 5 i had on facebook because my cpu fan went out and my harddrive melted. Saddest day of my life. now everything is saved online, on computer and on an sd card.

    • Courtney
      June 3, 2012 at 4:32 PM

      Oh, that breaks my heart for you!! Thank you for reminding us why it is so important to have your photos backed up in several different ways!!

  • Heidi Daniels
    June 18, 2013 at 5:52 PM

    I have a Mac as well and the backup process has always confused me! Do you use time machine to backup your entire computer to one hard drive and then manually backup your photos to a separate external hard drive?

    • Courtney Slazinik
      June 20, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      I don’t currently do time machine. I save all my images on my EHD and then back that up to another EHD sometimes. Daily my photos are backed up by Crashplan.

  • March 7, 2014 at 9:30 PM

    Unfortunately it’s so true. I got an external hard drive and lost years worth of photos when it crashed. Hard work, family photos you name it. The worst part it was newer and still under warranty. The hard drive company offered to try to retrieve photos for us for $500+ really! No, didn’t even try. Use multiple back ups. Thanks for the tips.

  • Lisa
    March 7, 2014 at 10:02 PM

    We lost a bunch of pictures from my 2nd son’s first year when he spilled pop in the laptop. The hard drive is still good, but the circuit board is fried and even after 8 yrs, we haven’t found a way to get it running to save the pictures.

    We’ve also lost an external drive with pictures, but they were all on disk or my computer. Sadly hubby’s videos and music weren’t.

  • March 7, 2014 at 10:39 PM

    I will have to share this post on my FB page! I always encourage my clients to back those digital files up right away! But I know how easily it can get put off. We gotta do it, people! :)
    https://www.facebook.com/PortraitsbyCynthi

  • March 8, 2014 at 12:16 AM

    I find on the Imac, unless you leave the screen on forever the number of GB left to upload hardly ever changes. Once the monitor sleeps, it seems to no longer move. I used CArbonite, but after so many GB it really slows down, which is just part of it’s limitations. Thanks for the reminders.

  • Stephanie
    March 18, 2014 at 6:02 PM

    I have a question, I have a lot of photos, but also have a lot of graphic design images. I am torn between the EHD, cloud, and a new thing called the picture keeper. Has anyone heard of this? It is a usb that is supposed to hold obscene amounts of photos (but I don’t know about graphic design images). Any thoughts?

    • March 19, 2014 at 4:18 PM

      I haven’t heard of Picture Keeper. I would do both an EHD and a cloud service. Or do all 3. You can never have too many :)

  • Diane
    October 27, 2015 at 12:59 PM

    Is backblaze what you still use or recommend?
    I realize this original post was several years ago!

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