It’s a problem that plagues photographers from the professionals to the hobbyist snappers; running out of space to store digital photographs. With the large file size coming from today’s digital cameras, it becomes pretty easy to fill up a hard drive until you can’t pack any more photos onto your computer.
What then? Do you delete some of those photos you worked so hard to create? Thankfully, this common photography problem has more than one solution, and many of these are great ways to also prevent losing your images in a computer crash. Here are few of the best image storage solutions for photographers.
External Hard Drive
External hard drives are a good way to get more hard drive space without buying another computer. Plugging into your computer’s USB port, they act like a giant flash drive, with plenty of space for digital images.
Hard drives are great for photographers because they offer large amounts of storage space for archiving older images. A single RAW file is often about 25 megabytes. There’s a million megabytes in one terabyte external hard drive—so it will hold about 40,000 RAW files. Of course, you can buy an external hard drive in larger or smaller sizes, depending on the space you need.
External hard drives are also great because they offer pretty good upload speeds. The speed varies a bit based on what model you buy, but they don’t rely on an internet connection to work.
Many external hard drives offer automatic backups, so any time it’s plugged in, your files, including your current photos, will be backed up and easily recovered if your computer crashes.
While external hard drives are getting more affordable, there’s still an expense to consider. They cost around $50 or more, depending on the features like portability and wireless connectivity. And while they make great backups for computer crashes, chances are if you lose your computer in a house fire or flood, you’ll lose your external hard drive too.
Unlike an external hard drive, you won’t lose images with cloud storage if your house burns down. Cloud storage services allow you to upload your images over an internet connection, then download them again when you need them.
Many cloud storage solutions are automatic, so you can set it up once and have all your images automatically backed up. The “set it and forget it” option is great for backing up your current photos, then you can also use cloud storage to archive older photos too.
Since cloud storage is internet based, you’ll need a fast internet connection to use this storage option. Uploading RAW files will take a long time over slow connections, and will also prevent you from getting much else accomplished over your internet connection (like watching Netflix).
Where you purchase an external hard drive once, most cloud based storage services have a monthly or annual fee. Over time, that adds up to more than you would have spent on an external hard drive.
Most cloud storage systems save files in several different locations to prevent the loss of files. But, there have been cases in the past where cloud storage images were lost. Big Folio, for example, lost some client websites and images after once.
There is an in-between option that mixes almost every good feature and eliminates the bad. A wireless personal cloud system is like an external hard drive that can be accessed from anywhere. Basically, you can create your own cloud system.
While more expensive than an [external hard drive], personal clouds have the benefit of a cloud system without a monthly or annual subscription fee. You can access the cloud from anywhere as long as you have a wireless connection. Many wi-fi enabled cameras can also automatically upload to a wireless cloud. The idea of backing up your images before you even get the card out of your camera is a pretty intriguing one.
While personal cloud systems allow the convenience of cloud storage without a monthly or annual fee, there are a few downsides. Since the personal cloud is a physical device just like an external hard drive, you could still potentially lose data if disaster hits your home. Since they use a wireless connection, you’re also dependent on internet speeds, which can be annoying to upload large quantitative of large files.
Photography storage solutions: Which option is best?
Each photo storage option has their pros and cons, and places for a potential pitfall. So what one should photographers use to avoid losing their images? To keep your images safe, it’s a good idea to use more than one and use a secondary storage as a backup.
If you want to use an external hard drive for the faster uploads and lower price, save your very favorite images on a free cloud storage. Free cloud storage options have limited amounts of space for users to use, so you likely can’t upload all your images. But if you keep your best portfolio-worthy images on a cloud system, you’ll still have some images if your house burns down, gets hit by a tornado, floods or any other unthinkable disaster that could happen to a physical device. Of course, you could do it the other way around and use a cloud as your primary image storage, but keep a back-up on a hard drive. Whatever way you choose to do it, it’s a good idea to have your images saved in more than one place.
Most photographers quickly run out of space on their computer. Storing images on an external hard drive, cloud or personal cloud is a great way to keep all your shots, as well as to ensure you don’t lose photos from a single technical glitch or disaster.
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