With the amount of our lives that only exists digitally, there’s no reason anyone should not be backing up their computers on a regular basis—and this is especially true for photography students. Unless your working with film everything you create is digital, which means while it will theoretically last forever it also has an Achilles’ heel: if anything happens to your laptop countless amounts of work could be lost. 

If you’re not archiving your work, don’t wait until you lose it to start. After all, what are you going to say to your future client when it comes time to deliver their pictures and you have nothing but a smashed hard drive to show them? If photography isn’t your career yet it may one day be so the sooner you get into that mindset the better.

When it comes to archiving the adage, “two is one and one is none,” is law. If you plan to make photography your means of living take note: no photo should exist in just one place because cruel irony is the driving force in the universe. An important photo that exists in one place will at some point cease to exist in anyplace, usually right before you need to give it to someone. Many professional photographers consider a minimum of 3 back-ups to be the norm.

Ideally, photos should be backed up online and on a physical hard drive, so that way you will always be able to recover them. Here’s how to do it. 


Physical Archives

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Photo via Flickr Creative Commons  © Josh Hallett

External hard drives have gotten ridiculously affordable. 1TB of storage space can be purchased for less than $100. If you’re using a relatively new Macintosh operating system you can use Time Machine to automatically back up your files, otherwise you can simply click and drag your photos onto the external drive. After that it’s just a matter of keeping your hard drive somewhere safe, away from things like water or disrespectful roommates.


Online Archives

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As a student, the word budget feels more like a cruel joke than a word that means planning your spending. When you’re staring down two weeks of Ramen dinners, spending the precious little money you do have on hosting fees for image storage is a less than appealing prospect.

Fortunately, there are a dozens of websites like Flickr and Photobucket who offer free image hosting. Not to mention, if you should ever reach the storage cap on any one particular site you can always spread your images around a few of them.

With both online and offline archiving, the most important thing is to get in the habit of doing it regularly, whether it’s once a week or after every time you shoot. Set an alarm on your phone or make it a weekly ritual, just start now before it’s too late.