Backing up photos is a very important topic. I take thousands of photos and the last thing I want to happen is to loose them to a hardware failure.

It took me some time to find the right backup solution for me. There are so many ways to backup photos. There’s an abundance of software and hardware available and it wasn’t simple to see through that jungle. While reading reviews of the different affordable backup systems it got even harder. Everytime I found a system that looked promising I got discouraged by bad reviews.

I also wanted to be more flexible. Raid solutions are nice and I also own a NAS running two drives in Raid 1 to have some mirroring of my photos to start with. But I wanted full control and I didn’t want a mirror of two drives only, I needed at least three. Moreover I wanted to be able to place the backups in different locations.

There’s also the possibility to store photos online. But honestly I wouldn’t feel safe with my photos uploaded to some cloud. I don’t like the idea of trusting in a third party here. They change prices whenever they want, they change the agreements, they might even decide to discontinue the service. At some point such a service might become an addition to my backup solution, but I would not solely rely on it.

On the Road

The first backup takes place while travelling. I always try to have at least three copies of my photos when I’m on the road. Since I don’t travel for too long and the number of photos usually stays below 4000 the following solution works for me.

First I use six 16GB flash cards* with my Canon EOS 5D Mark II. This way I don’t need to delete photos from those cards. When one card is full I switch to the next and so on.

In the evening I use my laptop – now a Surface Pro 3 – and import all the photos using Lightroom. I then immediatly copy the imported photos to an external hard drive. I use a compact WD Passport Drive* for this.

Main Backup

At home I have all my photos organized on my main PC. Currently it’s still less than 1 TB of data and by going through my archives regularly and deleting redundant photos or images, for which I know I’ll never process them or give them to an agency, I try to keep the ammount of data in check.

As backup I use Raid Edition Drives* from Western Digital together with Sharkoon Rapid Cases* and a NAS, which was my original solution. One of the external hard drives I keep stored in another location.

Backup Software

I don’t use automatic backup software for a few reasons. First I don’t have my backup drives running and connected to my PC all the time. Second I don’t like the proprietary formats most of those programs use to store the backups. To restore the files I’d need those programs and I couldn’t just browse the files on my backup drives. Finally I don’t need to go back in time to different versions of my backup.

I just want to have the current state of my files mirrored to several hard drives. For this I do some kind of backup rotation. On Saturday I copy to my NAS, on Monday I bring the external hard drive that I store in another location and on Wednesday I backup to the other external hard drive. After importing new photos I immediatly do a backup to my NAS.

The software I use for this is called FreeFileSync and usage is very simple. I can specify which files I want to synchronize and how I want to do it. I always see a preview of the backup and it’s even possible to trigger backups automatically, if I wanted to.

Screenshot of Free File Sync Backup Preview
Example of how a preview of a backup could look with FreeFileSync

I use this program to mirror my photos from my main PC to the different backup drives. If I cleanup my archives, I also want this synced to my backups. This might not be for anyone but deleting photos I no longer need has become a routine for me. And through the backup rotation I still have five days to change my mind.

Here’s a screenshot showing how I configured FreeFileSync.

Configuration of Backup in Free File Sync
This configuration will result in new files synced over to external hard disk, removed files being also removed from external hard drive and modified files being synced over

I hope this post is helpful for some of you, who are still looking for the right way to backup their photos. This system can be easily extended. You can start with one external hard drive and at some point just add another one. Since no special format is used to store the files, migration to a bigger hard drive will also be very easy.

* This is an Amazon Affiliate-Link. If you use it to buy something, I’ll get a little commission from Amazon

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