Three C's of File Management
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The Three C’s of File Management – Copy, Clone, and Cloud!

As a professional photographer in the digital age, protecting your data is one of the most important things you can do for your business (or hobby). Having come from a very heavy Computer and programming background, when I started shooting professionally, my backup routine was top priority! The first thing we’ll cover is how to store and organize your files which covers the first of the Three C’s.


First and foremost you have to copy your files from your camera to your computer. There are dozens of ways to do this i’m sure you’re all familiar with so for this write up I’ll detail how I do my copying and organizing.

  1. First I copy to my computers HD Manually into a “Work In Progress” folder I keep on my desktop.
  2. From here, I’ll open Lightroom, (or Capture One), and import these new files into the appropriate catalogue.
  3. Now here’s where things get fun. When I import, I always use, (and customize as needed), the metadata features built in. Lightroom has a fantastic feature letting you create multiple presets to save you time writing the same things out every time.

As you can see in the screenshot below, on the right hand side of the import screen in Lightroom, you can create and apply develop & metadata presets of your choice along with some custom keywords. You can do these at any time from the Library view but i feel it’s best to get everything in the system when your shoot is fresh on your brain.

Adobe Lightroom Import Screen Options

When you create a preset, the amount of details you can include can almost be overwhelming so use as little or as much as you like. It can help you with Copyright details and save a lot of post work time later as a lot of sites will keyword your uploads automatically for you with this metadata addition. Talk about time saver! Since my shoots are pretty much always shot using the same gear, I’ve made a generic preset that details all the keywords that will always be there, year, gear, website, date, location, etc, etc. Then adding any specific & custom details can be done in the “Keywords” field during the import screen.

Adobe Lightroom Metadata Details

By now you’re probably asking why do all this before you’ve even started working on the images? Well, assigning your copyright before you start will help protect you and your images, and assigning your keywords will help you find your images should you ever need to do a specific search through your library! You never know when you may have an opportunity to license a specific shot you took one day but can’t remember when/where you shot it!

Once i’ve got my images imported into Lightroom and ensured everything looks great, the next step is to copy the entire folder of images to an external HD and apply the same treatment of key-wording and metadata to your folder structure. Everyone has their own preferences, for me I like to break things up by Year, Month, and then Day with a subject/shoot description. Adding all this metadata, along with sorting your images in this manner will help you keep your images super easy to search and sort!

External HD File Structure

Once my files have been copied from my Work in Progress folder on my desktop to my external drive, I’ll then update the folder location in my Lightroom catalogue to point to the external HD. Why do I do this step after I’ve already imported into Lightroom or Capture One? Well it’s been my experience that the preview generation and important tends to run quicker when it’s reading on the local hard drive. So I’ll import and set everything up locally to make the process run smoother and faster and then just point the folder to the external once everything’s been built and rendered.

There are an insane amount of external HD solutions out there to choose from ranging from standard travel HD’s, USB3, and RAID. What you use is entirely up to your preference and budgets, but if you can afford it, I’d also recommend jumping into a Raid setup. As someone just beginning to venture into large scale backup solutions, the word “RAID” can be very intimidating, so for more information, RGG EDU’s studio manager Gary Martin has started a series of educational videos about Backing Up Your Photography & Videos using RAID which can be viewed here.


This brings is into the second “C” which is Cloning. No matter how much you’ve paid for your hard drives or what brand they are…it is still hardware, and they WILL someday fail. I have been lucky add as of today I’ve not had a hard drive fail but unfortunately cannot say the same for many of my colleagues. Learning from their losses and/or saves, I’ve adopted my current backup work flow. So once I’ve imported, copied to the external hard drive, and updated my file locations within my catalogue, once a week I make a complete physical clone of that HD incase the one i’m working off of ever happens to fail, or gets lost or stolen! Call it a manual insurance plan.

There are several tools you can use to do this but my personal favorite is an app called Carbon Copy Cloner which lets you completely customize & automate your cloning _and_ checks for incremental changes on the fly. Typically I’ll run these clone jobs on a Friday or Saturday while i’m out and about doing other things since copying/clone terabytes of data can take a pretty long time.

Carbon Copy

Once my working HD has been cloned, i’ll take the spare/backup drive and I keep it in a fireproof & waterproof safe. A quick search on Amazon will return you a TON of options that fit your budget so I won’t go into extremes here, but when you have client work and just your memories, I’ve a better safe than sorry mentality. It’s a better to have and not need, than need and not have scenario. Which leads me into the last of the three “C’s” and that’s Cloud Storage!

Cloud Storage

There are a plethora to choose from out there now ranging from Eyefi Cloud, Amazon Cloud, Dropbox, Copy, and many more, but my favorite is with Amazon Prime since it’s unlimited storage and only costs you anything if you need to download! This is my final and most important Backup process! Regardless of how careful I’ve been, how much maintenance I’ve done…there is still a chance disaster can strike and completely wipe out all my physical drives I’ve copied, cloned, and stored locally, so to add another level to my security and photography insurance, I dedicate time every week or two to sync my entire photography libraries to an online cloud based storage solution. In that event I’ve lost everything, All I need is another new HD and a computer and I can start right where I’ve left off, (after a lengthy download of course), with all of my files stored and recovered online, from any location in the world!

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 7.55.48 PM

Not only are all these tools and services an incredibly affordable business write off, they provide you, your family, and your clients the insurance to know that their images and memories are safe and always available!

Instagram – @davidjcrewe

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