I was attending a workshop last year in Los Angeles where the instructor talked about the importance of having backup gear for an important shoot. His mantra was that during a shoot, “something always goes wrong.” Gear redundancy is important, especially when you are on the client’s clock. Without a doubt, not having a backup to your gear can potentially derail a photoshoot if something were to break.
However, the most important and expensive component of your photoshoot is indeed not your camera gear. Unlike your gear, which you carry insurance for and can be replaced, the images from the shoot may not be replaceable and are therefore the most critical component of a paid photoshoot.
Not only would it be far more expensive to setup a reshoot, for photojournalists shooting a wedding or a Presidential inauguration, a reshoot is simply impossible.
So just like your gear, it is important to have duplicate copies of your client’s images from the shoot to your computer. Here are four tips that you can integrate into your shooting workflow.
1. Back up the Images in Camera
Ideally, when you are working professionally, it is best to shoot with a DSLR that can record onto two cards on the fly. It is the most convenient and most portable method of creating backups of your images as you can simply set the camera to “duplicate” the images onto each card as they are recorded. If you are in need of frequent high speed burst shooting for action/sports, this may not be possible since using dual cards can often fill your cameras buffer too quickly. But, wherever possible, using two cards in camera will automatically add an additional level of security to your workflow.
The majority of the full-frame DSLRs such as the Nikon D600, Sony A99, Canon 5D mkIII, Canon 1D Series, Nikon D800 and the Nikon D4 Series have this capability already. Currently, the Nikon D7000 is the only APS-C DSLR that has two card slots.
Additionally, we recommend that for your most important shoots to only use memory cards from established manufacturers such as Sandisk and Lexar. There are also many fake Sandisk and Lexar cards out there, so be wary of them. For Amazon shoppers, be sure to buy directly from Amazon itself and not a third-party seller on Amazon. Often times these counterfeit cards are virtually impossible to differentiate from packaging alone. For those that want the extra peace of mind there are also “zero failure” memory card brands out there such as Hoodman. However, in sticking with the major name brands, I have never had a card failure and thus never really felt like it was worth the 5x-10x premium price for zero failure memory.
It is also a good idea to have a standardized system of storing your cards in order to know which memory cards have been used. An example of a straightforward system is to place any used card face down in the wallet.
2. Back up the Images at the Shoot
Another method of backing up your images during the shoot is by backing up the images to either a laptop or a portable media storage drive such as the Sanho Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA. This is especially useful when you are shooting with a single-card camera or if you have a second shooter with you
The laptop is easier if you are in a controlled environment such as a studio or a private photoshoot, but it is not recommended when you have to be in a less-secure environment such as a wedding where you may be running around everywhere. This is where a portable media drive can attract less attention, while also being far more portable than a laptop.
3. Safeguard the Memory Card on the Trip Back
The trip from the shoot is another part of the day where having a contingency plan can keep the client’s images safe in case something happens on the way home or to the studio.
One way to ensure the safety of the images is to keep both copies of the images in two separate places. I usually carry the primary cards in my card wallet which is attached to my belt loop and kept in my pocket. The back-up cards, laptop, hard drive, or portable media storage stays in the trunk.
If someone rear ends the car and damages the gear, or if someone breaks into the car while I’m eating at a restaurant, I still have at least one set of the images with me. Additionally, if the memory cards in my pocket somehow fall out, I still have the backup in the trunk.
4. Back up to Images to at Least Two Locations on the Computer
Once you returned to your studio or home, be sure to back up your images to your computer and into the backup hard drive. For additional security, you can also upload the images as either the original RAW or the finished images on to an online storage site like Amazon’s Glacier or Crashplan.
Thankfully, hard drives are relatively cheap nowadays, and additionally, there are plenty of online storage options as well. It pays to research the brand names and websites to know which hard drives and online storage sites are the most reliable. I personally use 1TB Silicon Power Rugged Armor A80 portable hard drives because they can take a beating (literally). The current online storage solution that I use is Crashplan.
Remember, gear can be replaced, but the client’s images may not be replaceable, so it is important to work image redundancy into your shooting workflow. The good news is that it does not take that much more effort to safeguard your images, just good habits and awareness.
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