Photographing while travelling is a joy, and you’ll make many of your best pictures when you’re visiting somewhere new and are inspired by the culture and events. You may also have the opportunity to travel and shoot for clients. Either way, you need to make sure you get your photos home and keep them safe along the way. Here are some ideas to help you get it done without a big hassle.
Keep It Simple
There are volumes written on data management and backup, and you should read those. The most important thing about data management is keeping it simple. If there are lots of steps or manual processes then it’ll become tedious and less likely to be done–especially when travelling.
Multiply…and Multiply Again
A simple way to ensure you get your pictures home safely is to have multiple copies of them. Start by taking plenty of memory cards with you. They are relatively inexpensive these days, and you don’t need the newest and biggest cards available, you just need plenty of cards to contain everything you shoot. Keep an eye out on big sale days, like Cyber Monday to be ready for future trips.
After filling a card, don’t format it. Copy the pictures from the cards, then keep them in a safe place. SD cards have a sliding lock on the side, and you might use this to ensure you don’t mistakenly overwrite the pictures on those cards. These cards are one place you have the pictures stored.
When you take the photos off your memory cards, the worst place to keep them is on your computer’s hard drive. That drive will fail someday, and it’ll fill up even faster, plus it’s a likely target for theft. It’s much better to keep the photos on external hard drives.
I’ve owned 12 external hard drives in the last few years. The trouble with external drives is that they fill up, and they become obsolete quickly. My first drives were USB 2 and firewire, neither of which are the fastest supported by my laptop anymore. They also become full, which makes me nervous because if they fail I lose everything on them.
My latest and end-all drive is a Drobo Mini. The key thing about this tool is that it has more than one drive in it and the data is stored on all the drives, so when one fails it’s no big deal and I just have to swap it out. This is a RAID setup. I’ve owned other RAID external drives, but they also became full or slow. The thing I love about the Drobo Mini is that I can add more space anytime I want, and it has both USB3 and Thunderbolt cables, which are very fast and will last several years. There are a few other tools that offer this kind of system, too. I chose the Mini because I just plug it in and it works flawlessly. It keeps my pictures on at least two drives even when travelling, so I feel really safe from data loss.
Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket
The last step to ensure you get your photos home is to separate them while travelling. If you have all your SD cards and your Drobo drives in the same bag, and you leave that bag in an airport, or it gets stolen or damaged, then you’ve just wasted all the effort to have multiple copies.
Put the cards and the drives in different bags. Maybe some with your travelling partner, maybe some in your carry on and some in your pocket on your person. The other great thing about the Mini is that the drives can be removed without tools, so I can check the housing in a suitcase (nicely padded and protected) and carry the drives in different places. I can put one drive in another suitcase, and one in my carry on. These drives are smaller than most smartphones, so they’re not burdensome.
Separate your data backups so no single catastrophe can ruin all your efforts. Richard Harrington even goes so far as to mail one of the drives home to ensure that his company can still get paid for a job even if everything else is lost.
Taking these simple steps to make sure your photographs make it home is not paranoia, it’s just being wise. All drives fail, and all memory cards will become corrupted. These simple steps will help make sure you still have your photos when the worst happens, and you’ll have peace of mind when shooting and travelling.