BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Jennifer Cresse
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/12/2005

Storing Digital images in 2010

I am looking for a reliable way to save images. I have a 10 month old son, and since he was born I have managed to accumulate over 100 GB of photos.... I know it's a little crazy. I have been saving the RAW files in addition to the JPEGs. I currently backup to an external hard drive and leave the files on my computer. However, I keep filling my laptop hard drive! I searched for posts on this topic, and they were all from 2004-2007, and I am hoping that there are new theories on this.
My thought is to save to an external hard drive and burn to DVD. I would be devastated to lose these images.

To love this question, log in above
6/2/2010 9:56:10 AM

Monnie Ryan
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/25/2008
  I'm no expert, but my husband Jack and I DO have lots of photos! Here's the "process" I try to stick with:
1) Download photos from each outing to our PC. Before deleting anything on the media card, I copy them to an external hard drive (I have a 500G Western Digital MyBook and am about to get a second 1TB).
2) If I've downloaded them to a laptop, as soon as I get back home I transfer them to the PC and then the external HD. Then, I know I can delete them from the laptop when it gets too full without worrying about losing them.
3) There's room on our PC for maybe three years' worth of photos, and I have at least three years' worth on the external HD. At the end of every year, I burn DVDs from the earliest-year photos on the external HD, ID and store them. When that external HD gets full, I'll delete the earliest year or years of photos because they're stored on DVDs.
4) It works in similar fashion with the PC; at the end of the year, I double-check to make sure all the earliest-year photos also are on the external HD; then I can delete as them needed to free up space on the PC.
5) For the first time this year, to further protect against losing any of those precious photos, we subscribed to an online backup storage site (Carbonite). For about $50 a year, photos and other documents are automatically backed up and storage is unlimited. If losing any of your photos is absolutely unthinkable, it's an option that might be worth looking into.
Admittedly, it takes some time for a couple of days at the end of each year to make the whole thing work, but the process has worked well for us. Hope that helps a little.

To love this comment, log in above
6/2/2010 2:01:23 PM

Carlton Ward
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/13/2005
Contact Carlton
Carlton's Gallery
  Hi Jen,
I have an older MacBook Pro that only has 120GB internal storage so I carry a 320GB Iomega firewire drive in my laptop case. I have 2 1TB Iomega hard drives that I actively work off at home on my IMAC and keep everything backed up to 2 drives because I dont trust hard drives. I have several more HDs that I have accumulated over the years that once full, get placed on a shelf. I also burn my Raw images to DVD (that I keep at a photographer friend's house in case of fire, etc.) and I have a book of his photo DVDs to cover him as well. We do trust each other :)
The 320GB and the 1TB hard drives sell for about $100, which is reasonable for the amount of storage space you get.
I looked at the online storage places but uploading 8GB blocks of raw images for each CF card seems a bit laborsome to me and I don't have complete trust of these type of sites as it only takes one bad employee that could take advantage of the stored images. You see all kinds of photo thieves on Flickr, etc..
thats my .02

To love this comment, log in above
6/3/2010 4:38:02 AM

R K Stephenson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/5/2007
  A few additional random thoughts about backups.

Automating backup is important since it is easy to put it off or forget. On MACs, you have Time Machine ( and on PCs there are a number of good applications like Allways Sync ( both of which can be configured to automate backups.

As far as online backups, most are not really backups in the same sense of Moby or Carbonite. Moby and Carbonite encrypt your data before it is archived so image theft is not really an issue.
Online backup is good for redundancy and it obviously fits the bill for "offsite" backups. But if you have huge amounts of data the low-cost "home" solutions are probably not going work well due to bandwidth issues. Also, Moby and Carbonite have separate plans for commercial use, which includes professional photographers.
JungleDisk and AmazonWS are cost-effective solutions for really critical stuff you want "offsite."
For redundancy, there are now "home" RAID drives that offer nearly risk-free storage. If you are considering RAID, RAID-10 is the most fail-safe and it is important to note that some RAID configurations are no more safe than a single drive.
Another option is dual 1TB drives with one as a backup to the backup.

To love this comment, log in above
6/4/2010 9:37:27 AM

Melissa  Hintz
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/14/2006
  Hello Jennifer!!
I also would be devastated to lose images of my 5 children! Before online backup I would burn to a master copy DVD and store in a fireproof safe. Now I have 2 external hard drives (I had to get 2 smaller ones per my budget) and I use It is 4.95 per month for unlimited storage.

Good luck!! :)

To love this comment, log in above
6/8/2010 10:30:20 AM

Kay E. Mahoney
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/23/2003
Contact Kay
Kay's Gallery
  Hi Jennifer, You should always put your pictures on DVDs before clearing your cards. I always do. I have a 1 TB external hard drive that I had photos and software on. I only had it for three months when it crashed. It wouldn't let me open it. It kept saying it needed to be formatted. If you do that you wipe out everything. I called the company and they sent me to a link to go to so I could get the things off of the external hard drive. When I went to the link they charge you. I don't trust the external hard drives. Always back up on DVDs. Kay Mahoney

To love this comment, log in above
6/8/2010 11:27:38 AM

Steven Irwin
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/5/2005
  Hey Jennifer,

I am an amateur photographer, but I am a professional computer guy otherwise. I just want to add a little more to the previous good answers. When my company was hired to store web sites and data for clients, we did not want ANY loss of data and we never lost data. The first and probably most important step was to store the data or photos on hard drives configured to support a RAID system. I do this at my home also. RAID systems store the data across multiple hard drives. For specifics, look at this link:
I use raid 5 where it stripes the data across my four 250 gig hard drives instead of mirroring one drive to the others. Striping can allow you a little more space for your data than mirroring does. I had one of my four hard drives crash about 6 months ago on my RAID system. The first thing I did was copy all of the data from my RAID System (from the remaining three hard drives) to an external Western Digital hard drive. Yes, with one hard drive unplugged the RAID system somehow knows how to rebuild the files to whereever you choose. Very Cool! Next, I ordered a new hard drive for my raid system for about $100-$150. When it arrived, I replaced the bad HD with the new and within a few hours, it had rebuilt all of the data to the new blank hard drive, like majic! How does RAID know what used to be on the bad hard drive? I could not begin to explain that. However, that is what RAID does.

I used a RAID system from Look at their networked attached storage (NAS) devices. If you buy one of these, all you do is attach to a wireless router and any computer can have access to it to backup anything. You can string together multiple NAS devices if you fill one up and your data keeps growing.

To me, the RAID system is the most important step to securing ALL data. If you only backup from your PC/external hard drive weekly, you stand to loose up to a week of work. Is that acceptable to you or your clients? Absolutely not! If you had copied your photos to a RAID system instead, you can get it off immediately even if you loose one hard drive. Pretty sweet!

Next, you will need to backup the NAS device regularly to an external hard drive, for example (or even to another NAS device). Backing the external hard drive to DVD's is very good also for longer term storage. A word of caution on CD's and DVD's, do not store them near heat or moisture. Do not store them in plastic sleeves either. I have seen the plastic coat the CD's and render them useless. I do not lknow how the plastic melted or damaged the CD, but it ruined the side the data was stored on. I use paper sleeves to store them in now. As mentioned by one of the other answers, you will need to store another copy offsite or somewhere far away from you. This will protect you from issues like hurricanes, wildfires, house fire, terrorist attack, theft, etc. Be careful to not make your friend next door store the data. Try to put some geographical distance between you and your data(CD's, DVD's, external hard drives, etc.). If a tornado takes out your neighborhood, then you can loose both copies. Never a good thing, right!

I hope this helps!
Steve Irwin

To love this comment, log in above
6/9/2010 8:32:54 AM

Shelley Atkinson   Jennifer - you need to stop storing and start printing! I've never answered one of these and hope this is appropriate. I don't know if you have issue with where all those photos are going that you are storing, but a program I found that was great is Memory Manager. Most probably haven't heard of it, it is not in retail stores, but from a home based business company. Don't know if I can say who. I had a drive fail and when I recovered my photos they came listed as numbered images, but not in anything that was useful to me though I did recover the images. I might have had 3 images from 3 different events or weddings next to each other. Sorting thru them was going to be a nightmare! With this software, you tell it to search your computer or where ever for photos and in seconds it grabs them and puts them in chronological order! You can then search by day, month or year. It was a godsend. I don't know of another software that can do that. I had my photos in the appropriate folders in a few hours instead of weeks. Hope this helps someone.

To love this comment, log in above
6/9/2010 3:46:37 PM

Log in to respond or ask your own question.