Wetpixel asks the Pros: Backup strategies

Daniel Botelho:

Daniel Botelho is a photographer of the National Geographic Society, the Walt Disney Company, and Mergulho magazine. He contributes to magazines such as Time, BBC Wildlife, and as liaison of the site yahoo.com and the New York Times.

How do you backup your images in the field?

I have in the field five back-ups, and each one goes in different bags, two of them goes inside waterproof bags, when I am working for National Geographic this is the standard, but when I am working for Walt Disney Company and this is most of my time I need to send them two back-ups in different packages on the closest to the shoot Fedex or UPS facility, as most of the time I am working on remote areas I need to check the closest point to ship the packages, but I must send them the packages before I get into my flights. Very few times I had proper internet before the flight so I could upload the files to Disney instead of shipping it, but only happened twice.

How do you backup your images at home?

I have four general back-up storage units, one at my home, two at my office and one at my parents home, the units at my home and my office are daily updated and the unit at my parents it is weekly updated.

If so, how?

My computers are set to “auto-save” every each 15 minutes but I do this much often when I am writing something, and in the end of each day my servers run a general back-up before they shut down, the two on my office and the one at my home, they communicate each other on-line but the server at my parent´s home is manually backed-up once a week every Friday.

What tools do you use Lightroom/Photoshop/Photo Mechanic/Offload/Bulletproof etc.?

I use Photoshop and IBM Rack Servers.

Douglas Seifert:

Douglas Seifert, World Editor at DIVE MAGAZINE, is the creator of Water Column — a regular feature in DIVE MAGAZINE showcasing in-depth natural history subjects and conservation features in words and images. He has been a published writer and award winning photographer of the underwater world for over 20 years.

Once an image is captured onto a digital file, timely storage and backups are essential steps.

In the field, the RAW files out of the camera and off the CF and SD cards are downloaded onto the laptop into a newly-created file folder given an unambiguous label, for example: “Tiger Beach 2015 - RAW Files” instead of, say, “untitled folder 3”. The reason to do this is to have a starting point to look for an image file at a later time or date. Then, if possible, a quick edit is done to delete unnecessary frames: exposures accidentally triggered by camera handling or flash tests, obvious out of focus images, terminal over/underexposures, etc.

(I personally use Photo Mechanic to view RAW Files because it is blazing fast and has an easy to use interface.)

Next, it is worth duplicating this unambiguously labeled file onto one or more separate external drives so one set of RAW Files is on the computer for immediate consideration, and a backup, or two (or three — or more! — depending upon your level of paranoia or dread of Murphy’s Law. These external drive files should always be kept synch’ed with the original download file on the computer.

When in transit, it is sensible to store these external drives separately from the computer, ideally in separate carry-ons or clothing pockets.

Upon returning home, a transfer of a complete set of the RAW image files folder onto a RAID is recommended.

Personally, I store all my RAW Files on a Promise Pegasus RAID (after having disastrous problems with several different models of DROBOs and LaCie Big Disks — not Apple-friendly products, folks, and a waste of time and money) which is connected by Thunderbolt to a second Promise Pegasus RAID, thus creating a RAID-RAID redundancy which is good insurance against anything except natural disasters, fire or theft — which I also safeguard against by having another set of files stored on a RAID offsite. This is a form of insurance against virtually everything except conspiracy or an electromagnetic pulse/solar flare. These RAIDs are connected by Thunderbolt to my desktop Mac. I also keep one of the external drives with the file on it in a drawer and carry a second with me to edit on the road, when there is downtime — since there is very little downtime at home.

I use Photoshop RAW for my image conversions and convert on an image by image basis. I do not care for batch conversions due to too many changing variables between frames, in terms of natural light, fill lighting, strobe positioning, variable distance or angles presented by moving subjects and any potential backscatter. Sometimes batch conversions will get the images consistently similar to each other but more often than not, each image benefits from tweaking done one image at a time.

Once an image undergoes RAW conversion, it is stored in a Processed Images Folder as a Smart Object on the RAIDs and a publication quality jpeg is also stored on the RAID.

For transfers to publishers and clients, delivery is done via DropBox once terms and payments have been agreed upon.

Its all a lot easier than it was in the Days of Film, when we had to have duplicate slides made, labelled, then shipped via courier to the client, who would take weeks if not months to pay.

The biggest problem is the downsizing of computer storage capacity in Apple products in order the make thinner, lighter products at a time when camera manufacturers are making larger and larger sensors. A very productive two week expedition can yield up 250 GB of RAW Files, very quickly and easily, thus clogging the computer and necessitating yet more external hard drives for storage/backup. But the freedom to create more varied exposures limited only by one’s endurance, imagination and creativity makes this all worthwhile.

Howard Hall:

Howard Hall has devoted his forty-year career to making underwater wildlife films. In addition to numerous television films, Howard has directed underwater IMAX features with a box office total exceeding $200 million dollars.

How do you backup your images in the field?

I use 2TB Lacie Rugged drives to store and backup RED raw motion picture files. I copy from my RED flash media to a Rugged drive, do a first-pass edit and one-light color correction, then copy the remaining files to a second Rugged drive. I have never lost a frame.

How do you backup your images at home?

I use a JBOD system. This is less hands-free than RAID. But I know too many people whose RAID system has failed resulting in lost images.

Do you incorporate backup into your workflow?

When returning to the office, I copy my RED files from the rugged drives to a pair of drives in the JBOD system. One of these goes into a cardboard box as a back-up.

What tools do you use Lightroom/Photoshop/Photo Mechanic/Offload/Bulletproof etc.?

REDCineX, CatDV, Resolve, Final Cut Pro X, Final Cut Pro 7, Photoshop

Michele Hall

Michele Hall) began taking underwater still images in 1976, a year after she began diving. In addition to producing numerous television films and three IMAX films, her underwater still photographs have been published internationally.

How do you backup your images in the field?

When in the field, I backup my still images taken on that trip on a daily basis to a 1TB WD “My Passport” portable hard drive.

How do you backup your images at home?

I have all of my images backed up at home on a pair of WD 2TB “MyBook for Mac” external hard drives.

Do you incorporate backup into your workflow?


If so, how?

I backup in the field to the small portable hard drive, and then at home to 2 external drives.

What tools do you use Lightroom/Photoshop/Photo Mechanic/Offload/Bulletproof etc.?

I use Bridge and Photoshop to view and process my images. Yes, yes: I know that I should be using Lightroom, and one of these days I will!

Franco Banfi

Franco Banfi is a professional wildlife photographer and photo-journalist, well known for his expertise and accuracy in underwater imaging. Recently he specialized in leading photo expeditions and in giving workshops and seminars about photography in different locations.

How do you backup your images in the field?

I will have a copy on my laptop and one on an external disk.

How do you backup your images at home?

After having selected the RAW to keep I will copy on 2 different disk: A,B and I will do copies on DVD

From the selected images I will do Tiff, Jpeg 300 and Jpeg 72, these will be copied in 3 different disk A,B,C

Do you incorporate backup into your workflow?


What tools do you use Lightroom/Photoshop/Photo Mechanic/Offload/Bulletproof etc.?

I mostly use Photoshop, sometime Lightroom. I think that it is question of habit, I started with Photoshop and I’m used to it.

Page 1: Stephen Frink, Erin Quigley, Allison Vitsky Sallmon, Andy Sallmon, Norbert Wu, Julian Cohen, David Salvatori, David Fleetham, Tony Wu.
Page 2: Daniel Botelho, Douglas Seifert, Howard Hall, Michelle Hall, Franco Banfi.
Page 3: Alex Mustard, Amanda Cotton, Steve Jones, Nuno Sá, Cristian Dimitrius.