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Tips & Tricks

Data Safety Procedures: How to Keep Your Images Safe From Shoot to Computer

By fotosiamo on January 12th 2013

The following is an excerpt from the SLR Lounge Lightroom Workflow System Workshop on DVD, a system designed to increase your post production speed by 5 to 10 times. Click here to learn more.

Believe it or not, the most important and expensive component of your photoshoot is not your camera gear. In most instances, the images that you take are arguably more valuable than your gear. After all, gear can be replaced, while memories and moments only happen once.

Moreover, with good photographer’s insurance, your losses are limited. On the other hand, the damage to your brand and the dissatisfaction of your clients are much more difficult to overcome. So even if you are only shooting a small event, it is still a good idea to develop the right habits for keeping your images safe.

Video Tutorial on Safeguarding Your Images (from the SLR Lounge Workflow System Workshop on DVD)

The rule of thumb that we follow for all our shoots is to always have the photos in two places at all times. Here are the four main areas during and after the photo shoot that you can focus on to safeguard your images.

Backing up In-Camera

If you already have one, or if your budget allows for one, shoot with a dual-card DSLR like the Canon 5D Mark III, Nikon D600 or the Nikon D800. The ability to duplicate your images into two cards on the fly is the most convenient and most portable method of creating backups of your images.

Depending on your workflow, you can either set up your DSLR to send a copy of the RAW file to each card or RAW+Jpeg for card 1 and RAW only for card 2. Be sure to use reputable name brands only as well. We recommend the higher-end SanDisk and Lexar CF and SD cards to maximize speed and reliability.

At the same time, be aware of counterfeit cards that are sold online. Even if you are going to buy from Amazon, be sure to buy directly from Amazon itself and not a third-party seller on Amazon. You can read more about spotting counterfeit cards and other general care tips for memory cards in our article here.

Because you are now dealing with twice as many cards per shoot, it is also a good idea to have a standardized system of storing your cards in order to know quickly which cards are fresh and which cards have been used. The simplest method is to store used cards face down in the card wallet.

Additionally, If you are shooting with a second shooter, it is also important to communicate your preferred way of storing used cards with your second shooters so that both of you are on the same page.

Backing up On-Location

If you are only shooting with a single-card camera or if you have a second shooter with you, bring a portable media storage drive like the Sanho Hyperdrive Colorspace UDMA. This allows you and your second shooter to download the images from the cards during downtime. If you are shooting tethered to a laptop, you should also copy the images into a backup portable hard drive or a large-capacity memory card during downtime, as well.

Epson P2000

Keeping the Images Safe on the Trip Back

The part of the day that many photographers may not think about is the drive back from shoot to your studio or home. Although unlikely, things can happen when you are on the road or when you stop by a restaurant for a bite to eat.

First and foremost, be sure to keep primary cards in card wallet with you either in your pocket or in your purse. The backup card and/or the media drive can stay in your camera case.

The reason that you want to keep the two sets of images apart is in the case you were to be rear-ended and your gear is damaged, or if someone were to break into your care while you’re in the restaurant, you still have your images with you. Remember, your gear can be replaced, but your images cannot.

Finally, if you are shooting with a 2nd shooter, be sure to keep his or her media drive with you if you two drove separately. Your 2nd shooter can keep his or her card until you both get back to the studio.

think tank pixel rocket

Backing up to the Computer

Finally, once you are back into the office, be sure upload your images and your 2nd shooter’s images into your computer as soon as possible. Don’t forget to back it up to a secondary portable hard drive and/or an off-site backup location.

Once you verified that all the photos are safe on both your computer and your backup location, you can then format the cards in-camera.

Back up to Computer


We cannot stress enough the importance of having at least two copies of your clients’ images at all time. The immediate and long-term cost of losing your clients’ images can be tremendous.

At the minimum, you may have to spend money out of your own pocket to reshoot the images again. For a fashion or commercial shoot, that may mean rehiring your assistants, makeup, wardrobe stylists, hairstylists, and models again, as well as paying for location permits and so on.

If the event just cannot be duplicated again, as in a wedding, then the client may either ask for a refund or worse, take you to court.

Additionally, you have effectively cut yourself off from future shoots with the client and their referrals.

Finally, other potential clients may hear about the mishap that happened with your previous client and decide to hire another photographer who can be more responsible with their images.

So in conclusion, keep your clients happy and CYA, cover your assets.

The SLR Lounge Workflow System Workshop on DVD

The SLR Lounge Workflow System Workshop on DVD takes everything that we taught in the Lightroom 4 A to Z Workshop on DVD and builds by teaching you how to maximize your post processing efficiency and workflow. This 7 hour DVD covers data safety procedures, file management, culling standards and overall develop techniques to increase your post production efficiency by up to 15x! In fact, Post Production Pye uses this Workflow System to cull and edit over 1,500 images per hour! Don’t believe us, watch the teaser video here.

To learn more about the SLR Lounge Workflow System Workshop on DVD or to purchase it, click on this link.

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

Joe is a fashion and commercial photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. He blends creativity and edge with a strong style of lighting and emotion in his photographs.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. apollo

    I’ve quite risky at the workplace but I’ll going to change it soon as I get fast and big card. But my workflow: At work: Studio pictures are on other card while for example the party and etc, “not-so-formal” pictures are on other cards. 

    When I come home, I transfer the pictures to the first drive, then after that’s done, I backup the files to the first drive. Then I use PureSync which moves the files to the second internal drive, then to two separate external drives. Meanwhile, I copy the same files from the memory cards to other location in the same drive and use PureSync to copy those to same places. This way I can make sure that pics don’t corrupt and I’ve got backup for backup. And I don’t delete photos from the memory cards when I move them, I disconnect them from the machine until the backups are done! Then I check the drives, looking that there’s same amount of pics and roughly that they are okay. Then I disconnect the second external drive and put it somewhere else.

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  2. coby bray

    I’ll stick with transmitting my pictures to my tablet with my eye-fi card  which then transmits them to my home computer as I shoot.

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    • Pye

      This is a good in studio workflow. Not a very viable option when in the field and shooting large amounts of images. Transfer speeds on an eye-fi card are rather slow, even when shooting in the studio in large RAW formats, we have to tether so we can see results quicker on the screen. Thanks for the comment! 

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