Technically, this doesn’t classify as a gear review being that no one item is reviewed in detail. Rather, it’s an overall look at my general workflow for ensuring adequate backup of on location photographs.

I’m no Chase Jarvis when it comes to workflow, but I have taken his advice and scaled a solution to fit my budget and needs. It’s important to note that I do carry insurance for equipment replacement and a reshoot should I need it (get affordable photography insurance here). Like all professional photographers will tell you, find a solution that works for you based on the stage of your career/hobby. Just follow the basic principles of redundancy and you’ll be squared away!




This isn’t meant to be a “What’s in my camera bag?” post. However, the need-to-know basics that are relevant to this conversation are these: I shoot high megapixel cameras in Raw mode and I capture using an assortment of memory cards. My cameras take both CF (Compact Flash) and SD (Secure Digital) cards and I have a wide array of storage sizes for each. The card brand I prefer is a little less expensive but still durable. I’ve shot most card brands but prefer one because of price and durability. It doesn’t matter which brand you prefer just get a fast, quality card.


Location backup.

Location backup.

When a day of shooting is closed out, I download the contents of all cards directly to a backup drive. I use a 1TB drive that is fast and falls into my personal category of affordable. Once all cards and all data are downloaded to this primary drive, I make an exact copy of every image to an identical drive using Carbon Copy Cloner. It’s important to note that I do not copy images to my laptop hard drive because I am limited on space. However, I carry enough memory cards with me to not format cards during a trip/shoot. My system is to face the full cards label side down in my card sleeve and leave them until I return home. Some people prefer to store full cards in their hotel or back at camp for security. However, I keep both of my backup drives back at camp so I prefer my offsite backup (original cards) to be with me.

Now, back to the workflow. Once I have two copies of all images (three if you count the original images on the card), I import the files into Lightroom and rename based on this structure: YYMMDD_Shoot Location_0001.cr2. Once again, use a naming structure that works for you and your style.

I don’t edit photographs in the field. At most, I will make initial selections and minor adjustments when reviewing images. Any changes or selections will get exported as a stand alone Lightroom catalog and be stored on my primary external drive with an exact copy on the secondary drive.


Emergency backup for field laptop.

Emergency backup for field laptop.

Almost every blog post or video on workflow fails to mention laptop and document backup. I got this idea from David DuChemin and have been rigorous in keeping all files up-to-date. This will be a lifesaver should my laptop implode and I need to restore it, or access essential files that were on it. As an emergency backup, I carry an additional external drive with a full list of my equipment including serial numbers, a copy of my insurance policy, an emergency contact list, copies of my passport and driver’s license, model releases, installation files for all software including serial numbers, company information and credentials, along with a digital copy of my portfolio. To top it all off, I have this information available online in a DropBox account should everything get stolen. Redundancy my friends, redundancy.


For travel, I try to separate the drives as best as possible. This usually means putting the drives in separate bags (carry on and checked luggage or my bag and an assistant’s bag). However it works, I want my information secure and separated without going to too many extremes (I don’t take separate flights home).


Studio backup.

Studio backup.

When I do get home, I copy the master images from the first drive onto my main internal photo drive and perform several backups. The first backup is to an identical internal drive using Carbon Copy Cloner. From there, I run Apple’s Time Machine which copies every internal drive to a large external drive. Before editing, I will import and sync my exported Lightroom catalog.


I try to wait until the day or so before I leave on my next trip/shoot to format cards and wipe backup drives. This allows me to maintain an additional copy of the original photographs while leaving myself time to get a replacement drive or card should something fail.

That’s it! That’s my backup strategy scaled to fit my needs and budget (roughly $1100). Key takeaway: stay redundant. Key takeaway: stay redundant.

You get the idea.