Back Up Photos or Risk Losing Them

I realize the title is a bit harsh, but it’s the reality. You can develop a regular and systematic way of backing up all your photos—or face losing them. If your photos are all on one laptop or PC, one day you’re going to push a button and nothing is going to happen, or you’ll get a cryptic error message on your screen that is the harbinger of doom.

Captured by Ashton Willson (Click image to see more from Wilson)

photo by Ashton Willson

The good news is that backing up your photos these days is cheap and easy. You have a lot of options that are split between online backup and local backup on hard drives. Each method has pros and cons, which I’d like to go over now.

Online Backup

Cloud backup services are getting more popular all the time, prices are coming down, and bandwidth—both for uploading your images and restoring them in case of a disaster—is becoming easier. One of the more popular backup services for photographers is CrashPlan. With CrashPlan you can back up unlimited personal data from one computer for under $50 per year. That’s the best price I’ve seen for online storage anywhere.

Pros Of Online Storage


With encryption, multiple backups, and tested data restoration plans, data centers are practiced professionals when it comes to backing up your data. Certainly mistakes happen, but they are rare.


Install the backup software and your backups will run automatically in the background. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that.

Cons Of Online Storage

Recurring Payments

If for some reason you can no longer make your payments, you may lose access to your data. While $4/month doesn’t sound like a lot of money, those regular monthly charges for gaming, streaming entertainment, and storage all start to add up after a while.

Restoration Burns Bandwidth

If there is ever a problem with your computer, restoring your data from a cloud service may end up burning quite a lot of bandwidth, especially for large numbers of images or video. When your images are between 5 and 20 MBs a pop, that adds up in a hurry.

Unclear Ownership Of Data If Company Folds

This is one of the potential downsides to online storage that has not been fully explored in court. If your cloud storage company files for bankruptcy, there is a legitimate concern that your data could be considered part of the company’s assets and sold by the bankruptcy court trustee. Whoever purchased your photos could end up getting ownership of your hard work. While most legal experts seem to think that will not really happen, the issue has not been settled in court.

Local Storage

Hard drive space is cheap. We’re talking 3 TB for less than $120 cheap. That’s an unbelievable amount of storage. With a backup routine and off-site storage, your data can be secure under your own watchful eyes.

Pros Of Local Storage

Fixed Cost

Once you pay for the drives, there is no additional cost until you have to replace them.


Local backups are blazingly fast, and you can run one any time you like.

Multiple Backups Don’t Add To The Monthly Cost

Not satisfied with just one backup of your data? I’m with you on that. I have at least two backups of every original. That extra layer of protection online would double your monthly costs, but you can do it locally for the cost of the drive space.

Cons Of Local Storage

Harder To Automate

You have to set up and manage your backups yourself. For some people that’s harder to do and a technical headache they don’t need.

You Can Forget

You can forget to run your backups. You know that if you’re ever going to have a computer problem, it’s going to be right after you forget to run that backup.

You Can Lose a Drive

You can drop your backup drive or lose it while rotating your offsite drives. I left one of my backup drives in a vehicle I sent to the repair shop! Luckily, it was encrypted, and it was still there when I got the car back, but that was still an example of what can happen when you’re not careful.

Even a bad backup plan is better than none at all. You have options. They’re inexpensive. If you don’t have a backup plan, get started today.

About the Author:
Peter Timko writes on behalf of Proud Photography, which offers online photography courses on a variety of subjects.

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

2 responses to “Back Up Photos or Risk Losing Them”

  1. Kat says:

    I use a cloud backup service and I couldn’t be happier..My motherboard recently crashed but everything was backed up safe and sound. Cloud is great if you travel lots. Carrying hard drives is heavy

  2. Wanda says:

    One more CON of a local backup is the unhappy possibility that both your primary and backup drives could be at the same place when a catastrophe happens — like a house file, a robbery, or a flood.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever