Four Tips on Your Image Data Safety Procedures

Four Tips on Your Image Data Safety Procedures


The following is an excerpt from the SLR Lounge Lightroom Workflow System Workshop on DVD, a system designed to increase your post production speed by 5 to 10 times. Click here to learn more.

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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Post Production Pye I hate speaking of myself in the third person, haha. I am a Partner and professional photographer with Lin and Jirsa Los Angeles Wedding Photography, and the Senior Editor for SLR Lounge Photography Tutorials. I am passionate about photography as an art as well as my part as an educator in the industry. Subscribe to our YouTube Channel and feel free to hit me up with questions anytime on Facebook.

Some Older Comments

  • Michael February 8, 2013 02:02 pm

    I am using only Sandisk memory cards as they are the fastest and really indestructable. I have one card (4GB Extreme III) that I accidently sat on and bent it and it works without a problem. My newest cam uses SDHC so I use my CF only with my slightly older cameras (All Canon DSLR cameras). After shooting I store all pictures on my Laptop and twice a week I make backups not only on my Storage server also on 3 different external HDDs. unless I get a EMP my pictures are safe...

  • Darbraun February 6, 2013 12:18 am

    Dont forget the Nikon D300s! It is an APS-C model with dual slots as well...

  • marius2die4 February 5, 2013 08:54 pm

    Another advice:
    use only cards from trusted company
    Don't feel it up more then 75%

  • JettLag February 1, 2013 07:36 pm

    james - I use dual 64GB cards. As I said above, 64GB cards are not (yet?) supported. However, if you connect the camera directly using the USB adapter, you can pull RAW images into the iPad without any issues.

  • Regan February 1, 2013 12:09 pm

    oops, The D300S has dual slots. They don't fight with each other.

  • Terry Doyle February 1, 2013 11:33 am

    We've traveled to 50 countries worldwide taking 1000 shots per week or so. Worrying about how to keep from losing precious travel photos ( from our latest trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Taiwan) is a thought to painful to contemplate.

    Here's what I do:
    1. I carry multiple ram cards and am please with the 32G chips on the latest trip. My camera does not allow 2 cards.
    2. Nearly every night I copy the ram card to my netbook - like a laptop only smaller. Now the shot is in 2 places.
    3. When I get home my chips are loaded into a laptop and backed up on my Windows Home server.
    4. Some shots wind up on Flickr.

    I sleep well at night knowing that it would take a housewide disaster to put an end to my pics.

  • Regan February 1, 2013 11:33 am

    D300S also has duel slots (CF and SDHC). My Hoodman has never failed, but I've had buffer issues with the 30x. I also stay with 4 & 8 GB cards, and change them out in the natural breaks of the activity, so I'm less likely to lose everything if a card gets damaged or lost. I also have successfully used Card Raider rescue when I lost pictures that were on a hard drive. Stuff happens!

  • Scottc February 1, 2013 10:11 am

    For the photo files you want to keep forever, consider a hard drive stored away from home. A daily backup isn't feasble, but you can back up regularly. If something bad happens, you won't lose much.

  • Jake February 1, 2013 08:54 am

    I think that this is a great article. The only thing that I wanted to suggest, is that your list of trusted brands for CF cards should include Kingston. In my experience, Kingston gives you all of the size and write speed of Sandisk or Lexar for roughly half the price. I know there was an issue in the early 2000's with their RAM chips failing. But in my experience, I have had equal performance and reliability between Sandisk and Kingston with the same specs. I'm curious to know if anyone else has had reliability issues with Kingston CF cards?

  • James February 1, 2013 08:29 am

    What size cards are you using? I can happily transfer from my Sandisk 32mb SDHC cards to my iPad 3 with iOS 5.

  • JettLag February 1, 2013 06:42 am

    I back up my raw files to my iPad with no problems whatsoever. That was an issue in VERY early versions of iOS, but they added the ability to keep RAW files whole several years ago (3+).

  • af February 1, 2013 06:33 am

    I've found that the problem with backing up on an ipad, or an i-anything, is the inability to handle raw files. Damn things would be ideal if they did.

  • JettLag February 1, 2013 06:29 am

    I do a dual card back-up as mentioned in the article. On a multi-day trip I also do a back-up to an iPad. If I have internet connection I also FTP all the new images from my iPad to a web server... just in case. This gives me 4 versions (2 SD cards, iPad, and offsite web server).

    One note... the larger SD cards will not work on the iPad (something about the iPad not being able to read due to format limitations with some cameras when cards are over a certain size) However, the direct camera connection (USB cable) works fine... so don't forget to pack that as well.

  • James February 1, 2013 05:35 am

    Great advice. Another option these days, when iPads and iPhones come with up to 64gb memory capacities, is to back up on site to one of these devices. An adapter with an SD card slot, and a USB port allowing you to connect the camera by cable if you use an alternative card format, costs a few pounds or dollars and gives the added bonus of being able to show the client the images if you wish or at least view them yourself. I am note sure but expect that a similar capability is available for Android devices as well.

  • Barry E. Warren February 1, 2013 03:52 am

    Great tips on Back up the Images at the Shoot, I never thought of it. Thanks