Your wedding photographs are clearly going to be treasured keepsakes and sources of happy memories for years, even generations to come. So it’s surprising that I’m not asked this question more often: “How do I keep our wedding photos safe?”, or even “How will you keep our wedding photos safe?”
Let’s start with the second question first. As your wedding photographer, how will I ensure that I keep your photos safe and sound between the time I take them and the time I give them to you? And beyond, for that matter? After all, photographs these days often only exist in digital form. We all know how easily digital files can be lost to viruses, accidents, failures or simple mistakes!
“…professional memory cards are very reliable, and problems are rare, but they’re not infallible…”
Well, it starts from the moment I press the shutter button. My camera records to two separate memory cards at the same time. Why is this important? It means that if there is a problem with one card – professional memory cards are very reliable, and problems are rare, but they’re not infallible – the photographs should be safe on the other. So from the very instant that the image is taken it is already secured in two different locations. During your wedding breakfast that will become three locations as I download everything shot until that point onto a portable hard drive which is then kept separate from the other cards. At this moment the images are stored on three different mediums. I never erase images from a card until I know they have been backed up again.
When I return home after a wedding I immediately back-up all the cards on to my computer, an external hard-drive and a portable hard drive. The images remain on the cards too, and the cards are then stored away from the house. My computer is automatically backed up online using Backblaze and the external drive is linked to my Google Drive account. Now your RAW unedited images are pretty secure, existing in six different locations! The online backups will complete overnight, and they will also load into my editing software (Lightroom) so that in the morning I can check that they are all ok and begin editing them. Before the next wedding I will format the memory cards safe in the knowledge that the photographs are still stored securely in four locations.
Once I have edited your files I upload them to two different online galleries, one of which will store them independently of me for ten years. This is the gallery that you will be able to download your photos from. The ‘independent’ bit is important, because it offers peace of mind for you that whatever might befall me in the next ten years, your photographs will be safe and accessible to you. The other gallery offers prints and products, and will stay online as long as I’m in business and paying the annual bill!
Your JPEG files and the original RAW files will remain on two external hard-drives and will also be backed up using Amazon’s Glacier storage solution. So all in all you can rest assured that your files will always be safe for both of us to access.
In answer to the first question then, I would recommend a similar approach. Never keep your wedding photographs in a single location. Always back them up, preferably online. Use Google Drive. Use Backblaze. Make sure you use a photographer who offers online cloud storage (like me!). Give a copy of them on a USB drive to your parents. Give a copy to your Best Man and Chief Bridesmaid! The key message is to make sure that you always have another copy of your photographs somewhere. DVDs can stop working, USB drives can accidentally be wiped or lost. In this digital age we have every opportunity to keep our photos safe, make sure yours are safe and secure for your children and grandchildren to marvel at – “Look! Grandad had HAIR!”