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Tips & Tricks

How I Protect My Client’s Images From Capture to Storage

By Brandon Perron on August 27th 2015

There is no excuse for losing client images. There is nothing you can tell me to argue that point. However, I understand that there are no guarantees, and strange and wacky things do happen. So, there is always a chance that you could lose images. However, as professional photographers, we have an absolute responsibility to minimize that as much as we possibly can. I know many photographers feel they have this on lock, but in reality, I have found that most do not. It goes beyond a couple of backed up drives.

In this article, I will explain the extreme measures I take to protect my client’s images.

Protecting Client Images | The Drives and Their Locations

  1. Extra HD on post process machine
  2. External Drive on the same machine
  3. External Drives in the house
  4. External Drive at an off-site location
  5. External Drives in Safety Deposit boxes (Some may ask if you have a safety deposited box, why have more off-site? That is because banks are not accessible to me 24/7. If something happens on a Friday night of a holiday weekend, and I need that drive, I can get to the offsite pretty much right away instead having to wait three days to get into the bank)
  6. Online Backup (Only proofed jpegs to limit space and cut down on upload times)

These may seem like a bit extreme, but HD storage is so cheap these days, it’s more a question of, “why wouldn’t you have an overabundance, than an under abundance?”

Protecting Client Images | Protection of the Physical Drives Themselves

I have redundancy taken care, but some of those drives need to be protected. How I accomplish that is by keeping them in a fire and waterproof chest. The drives that are not connected to my machine and in the safety deposit box go into something like this.

slr_lounge_image_storage_system_2

These chests are usually rated for 1500-1700 degrees for 30-60 mins and can be submerged in 3-5’ of water for 48 hours. Make sure you get the fire and waterproof ones. Most are just fireproof, and that may seem fine, but keep in mind what the fire dept. uses to put out fires. These chests are fairly inexpensive, anywhere from $40-$300 dollars (prices based upon size and the amount of time they can withstand the elements).

slr_lounge_image_storage_system_1

I bet many of you think that is the end, but there is also one more important aspect to protecting client’s images, and that is the drive home. I NEVER stop anywhere on my way home from the shoot. I always factor in having time to get home and back stuff up. However, if you must stop and cannot go straight home, then please for all that is holy, keep the cards on your person and do not let them leave your side. Wedding photographers, this goes for the entire day as well, they need to be on you at all times. A great, albeit super nerdy looking, option is the Pocket Rocket card holders, that has a leash. If you do not have one, I highly recommend heading over to B&H and picking one up.

slr_lounge_image_storage_system_3

slr_lounge_image_storage_system_4

An Often Overlooked Area When Protecting Images

My system goes beyond not only not stopping after the shoot and keeping them on my person but having a small fireproof and waterproof safe in the car for the cards. While it is very unlikely and a bit morbid, car accidents do happen every day and some of those involve fires and water, so it is our responsibility to be realistic of that possibility and plan accordingly. The cards go directly in the safe in my trunk after a shoot.

Conclusion

If some of you are not doing all you can to ensure the safety of your clients’ images, I hope that you take what I have said to heart and go pick up some additional storage and ways to protect the images once they are saved. Spend a little extra money and make sure that it will take pretty much world ending occurrences to cause you to lose your client’s images.

For some additional protection measures for keeping your client’s images safe, check out this great article, Data Safety Procedures.

Brandon Perron is a wedding photographer, making a transition into a freelance automotive digital contributor/photographer, as well as setting up his own private gallery. In his words, he is an uber sarcastic gasoline loving gear head, lost amongst the hipster hyper Eco-friendly crowd of PDX and has a mouth that makes sailors blush. He likes to think of himself as a daily life commentator, where nothing is off limits to poke fun at.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. robert garfinkle

    I created my own database, sitting on a mirrored 2TB disk array,to consume / store the physical images. That, once a day, is backed up / kept off site.

    The physical server, consists of 5 disks; 1 for the OS, and 1 x 2TB mirrored, and 1 3TB mirrored, on an i5 processor, 16GB ram – this is just for media storage no media processing. Price, $800.00

    The software end (microsoft sql database), hand-written solution which has the ability to on / offload images in ANY form, stored as binary content with ALL attributes of a given file. essentially every aspect of a shoot is captured, up to files you don’t want to keep – just keep em all, ya never know.

    Between the database and operating system it’s $2k, not including an additional backup drive for offsite (nother $150) – so, total backup solution – $2950.00, of course application development not included.

    Historically, I had been unorganized, either creating duplicates / triplicates and not knowing what was what, or the big disaster, accidentally dumping a drive, what a mess…

    So, this application allows me to consume EVERYTHING, keeps pretty diligent track preventing duplicates, and I now consider my entire workstation a scratch-disk, no need to worry about what’s stored on it (except for newer content)

    the server is stored in my home (my own cloud, not a 3rd party’s cloud), and for a mere $14.00 / year, have my own domain name which can point to my server – obviously password protected and VPN’ed, it’s pretty convenient – accessible EVERYWHERE!

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  2. Mark Romine

    You all left out one very important ingredient, have good business insurance.

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    • Brandon Perron

      It was not revelant to the article. The insurance doesn’t prevent the images from being lost or destroyed…which us what this article was about. The insurance will only replace the hardware they were on or a lawsuit…but it doesn’t keep them images safe.

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    • Mark Romine

      Well Brandon you can hold that position if you want but I consider insurance a very integral part of my over all back system, even more relevant than any sophisticated hardware system. I can not tell you how many times over the years I have read stories where photographers thought they were protected against failure. They thought that had figured it all out and built the system that would defy all odds. Even systems more sophisticated than the one described above only to be bitten in the arse over something that they could not foresee. So, IMO and that is just what it is, my opinion, insurance should be a very important part of your back up system especially if you are doing work for hire, professionally. If you are doing this for a hobby and may be you are, then no worries. But if you are doing this professionally and you have some catastrophic failure with no insurance in place you could likely be kissing your business good by.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Mark I think you are confusing relevancy and necessity. Any working professional should have insurance. That is a given.

      But not losing images in the first place is a good thing, wouldn’t you agree? As such, having insurance is not an “ingredient” in STOPPING your data from being lost, but a counter-measure to cover your ass IF images get lost.

      Which is an entirely different discussion that we could write multiple articles about. Hint hint.

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    • robert garfinkle

      the best insurance one can buy, to protect images, is three parts.

      one – good power base, i.e. battery backup, power conditioning, ample / reliable power.

      two – a minimum of 1, but typically 2 forms of external backup, other than the sd / cf cards and / or pc / mac. while I do not like cloud / 3rd party providers ( due to pure trust factors ) if it acts as a protective layer, then so be it…

      three – reliable working equipment. if your equipment is on the brink of failure and it’s stability is forged on borrowed time, murphy’s law, and a wing and a prayer, well, you might be staring down the barrel of misfortune sooner then you think…

      keep your computing equipment reliable, have good power conditioning ( see #1 ) and have that reliable offsite backup ( see #2 ) you’ve then reduced the risk.

      this does not mean you have to throw down coin every year for all new stuff, but plan to retire equipment early, before it breaks.

      replace battery backup batteries once a year ( and buy a new ups every three years.

      plan to retire hard disks ( on pc, mac, external drives ) at the two year marker. this includes sd card / cf cards

      replace big computing equipment between 3.5 and 4.5 years.

      and don’t forget to insure your equipment – that, you can do… it does not save you from image loss, but it’s there to help ensure a working set of hardware / software etc.

      this obviously is a tad out of scope advice for this article, but, here is what does fit: a customer, whether you are just starting out or have years in the business, will hold it against you for lack of professionalism.

      we have enough technology at our disposal these days to reduce the risk of loss to almost nil.

      cya

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    • Brandon Perron

      Mark, Matthew said it but i’ll restate it. I never said insurance wasn’t needed…it is needed and I have it. However, again this article was about prevention and not aftermath, if images are lost. Your point would be like saying you need car insurance to help aid in the prevention of car accidents. Obviously, car insurance is required by law to cover damages and costs if an accident happens, but it in no way helps prevent the accidents in the first place.

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  3. Dalibor Tomic

    This is very helpful.

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  4. Ed Rhodes

    depending on the conditions, those small fireproof safes can still get hot enough on the inside to cause warping/heat damage without actually catching the contents on fire.

    for my drives, and most important papers, i use one of these small fireproof safes, and then place it inside of a large fireproof gun safe that you find at many sporting goods stores.

    Also, its best to keep safes on the lowest floor of your house/office if possible. If you put it on a upper floor, it will fall through a burning building. depending on the quality of the safe/lock, you may not want it falling and bouncing around. It may also be easier to find after the fact if it was on the ground floor, as it’s position will not shift as much.

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    • Brandon Perron

      Majority of the ones I looked at, all were for media and would protect against the heat. You also have to keep in mind that many people can not have a large gun safe, due to not living in a “traditional” thus, the redundancy of the drives at 2 off site locations…including a safe deposit box and online back up.

      A gun safe would be ideal…but we don’t always have the luxury of living in an ideal world. This is an effective means to protect images and not lose them even in the extreme end circumstances.

      If I could I would have property with a concrete & steel underground shelter away from dwellings to keep important things…but I have to be realistic. ;-)

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  5. Nick Viton

    one can never be too safe

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  6. Scott Wyden Kivowitz

    My backup workflow is very similar. Great methodology shared here!

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  7. Tom Blair

    True………….True so true,never lose that moment in time

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  8. Hagos Rush

    As a tech who constantly has to have the “are you backed up?” conversation. I wholeheartedly agree with this. Redundant backups are the way to go. I have a backup on my machine that is raided. I have a NAS, that is also raided. I do not quite believe in cloud backups just yet because I want encrypting from my end to the server and back. But if it is for a client make sure you have multiple flash drives as a cheap way for redundancy.

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    • Stan Rogers

      It may be severe overkill for all but your most vital files, but look at Tarsnap as an end-to-end/service-can’t-decrypt encrypted backup. (It’s by Colin Percival, the same guy who created the scrypt key stretcher, and FreeBSD security guy.) It’s not enormously user-friendly, but it does do diffs (at your end, of course) so incrementals after the major initial upload aren’t too expensive.

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    • Hagos Rush

      I will check that out thank you. As you mentioned this will just be for mission critical files and not for all of them so it should not be too bad.

      Thank you

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  9. Dustin Baugh

    Even if you’re just starting out or don’t have a big budget at least get your pictures off the same partition and drive as your OS installation. It’s almost always the first to be corrupted, infected, or need to be re-formatted. And if you have a second computer in the house (media center or laptop), use it as a backup. Chances of both computer dying at the same time are tiny.

    Ideally you should have offsite backups and everything. But look to the computer first, I’ve had far more computers die on me than I’ve had houses burn down. Be ready for it.

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    • Matthew Saville

      What he said.

      I don’t care how low-budget your very first wedding is, you MUST be able to afford at least a couple external hard drives.

      I’ve lost count of how many fellow photographers, including working professionals, I’ve talked to who had the stereotypical “worst case scenario” workflow problem:

      1.) They only download their photos to one computer, and that computer fills up.
      2.) They buy only one external hard drive, and since their computer is already full they download images directly to that one external hard drive, perpetuating the extremely dangerous “only one copy of everything” bad habit.
      3.) They get into paid photography and spend the income on a new lens, or maybe they just need to put food on the table, I understand. But once you get into paid photography, you have a professional responsibility to sit down and think over your entire workflow with a downright pessimistic mindset, playing the “what if?” game as if it were life-or-death.

      A 2 TB portable external hard drive is under $100 now. At a bare minimum please go and buy two, and get triplicate copies of your data with at least one of them not at your main workflow site. And more importantly, develop a fool-proof system and stick with it religiously.

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    • Brandon Perron

      I just bought 4TB USB 3.0 externals for $109 ea.

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  10. Eric Mazzone

    For best protection on the fire proof safes, store them as low to the ground floor or basement as possible to improve their survival rate. Heat rises and fire goes up, if your store your safe upstairs or in an attic you’re adding more heat and increasing the exposure time to the heat, potentially compromising the safe. Stored as low to the ground as possible, or better yet, along an outside brick wall or a corner, your reducing its exposure time and increasing the likelihood of it surviving.

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  11. Paul Empson

    always backup your backups..

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