Help me save my photographs from certain death!
March 17, 2011 8:30 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a solution to back up my photographs during/immediately following shoots, and permanently online through a service that can back up from network attached storage.

I am starting a photography business and am having some difficulty coming up with a workflow that provides enough protection for my future clients (and myself).

I'm shooting with a Nikon D300 on compact flash cards, and I would love for there to be a quick backup solution that I can run while I continue to shoot. Right now I have a Lexar ExpressCard CF reader, which works great, but it plugs into my huge, bulky laptop. I would prefer something smaller that I can take on location and not have to worry (too much) about plugging in after an hour, and too much bulk/weight.

Even more importantly, I need an ongoing backup solution. I currently use a Drobo RAID NAS device for storing my photographs. This works well and has already saved me from one HDD failure, but I would like to be able to back up all my photographs online. So far I've not really found a solution that is affordable and can back up a networked drive or network-attached storage device. Does anyone have any suggestions? I run both Windows and Linux (Mint/Ubuntu), but my primary OS for photography is Windows (I use Nikon Capture NX 2 for RAW editing/conversion).

Finally, does anyone have suggestions for a good, lightweight watermarking solution?
posted by khelvan to Computers & Internet (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I use at my business for my offsite storage. They have a super powerful utility that will backup your files to their secure, offsite location and they support/troubleshoot oodles of installations, even ones they don't know anything about.
posted by msbutah at 8:44 PM on March 17, 2011

You could change your camera to one that stores on two cards simultaneously, such as a D7000.
posted by lsemel at 10:21 PM on March 17, 2011

You could take a look at smugmug pro, you can use that service for a lot of different things, one of them is as a file backup. has a very convenient browser-based uploading mechanism. comes with automatic watermarking.
posted by phaedon at 11:21 PM on March 17, 2011

A device like the Nexto Extreme could be what you are after?
posted by episodic at 3:03 AM on March 18, 2011

Here's the simple solution which has worked for me for over 10 years.

Have enough CF cards so that you never need to worry about running out of card space during a shoot.

In the camera bag, empty cards always go into one pocket, and full cards go into another. No deviation or exceptions to this rule.

After the shoot, when in front of your computer, dump cards to two physical drives. Adobe Bridge will let you do this autmoatically and I presume other card dowloading software will too.

Once I accumulate anough files and folders to fill a DvD-R disk, I burn both the raw files and the final edited JPEGS to it. I also archive these files to an external hard drive, and catalog them using Extensis Portfolio.

This process sounds like more work than it actually is and leaves me with two backups of every frame shot and edited.

Then, and only then do I erase the CF cards and put them back into rotation.

I have never used or needed an online storage or backup solution, but if I were to do so I'd be taking a hard look at a Flickr Pro or Smugmug Pro account.
posted by imjustsaying at 3:08 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you really have to have the photos copied over while you are on site take a look at a Hyperdrive.

Otherwise I would follow a work flow similar to what imjustsaying described.
posted by firetruckred at 5:54 AM on March 18, 2011

Haven't tried it yet, but want to: the Eye-Fi. It's a Wi-Fi enabled SD memory card that, as you take photos, it sends a copy to a nearby computer of your choice, and/or to a website of your choice.
posted by yesster at 8:13 AM on March 18, 2011

I have an Eye-Fi Pro X2 card which I use from time to time in the studio. To the extent that it will store photos as shot on the card as well as transfer them to a remote computer, it works as advertised.

In my case, shooting raw files (plus JPEG with the Eye-Fi) all of the time, I usually end up having it just send JPEG files to the remote location but manually downloading the raw files from the card to my computer after the shoot. This is because it takes a while to move the large raw files across the network.

Outside of it being something that impresses clients (what with images appearing magically on a computer as they're shot), it's value to me is marginal.

I'm sure others appreciate the Eye-Fi products mroe than I do since it's value depends upon one's needs.
posted by imjustsaying at 2:44 PM on March 18, 2011

One use of the Eye-Fi for me: camera on a long pole with remote shutter release, want to see pictures and make position changes without retrieving the camera.
posted by yesster at 3:30 PM on March 18, 2011

I shoot RAW on five or more 16GB cards per night. As soon as I fill a card, it goes into an Epson P5000 (now P7000) for the first automated backup. Each 16GB card takes 20-30 minutes to backup, which is longer than I'd prefer, but the drive is small enough to fit in my assistant's pocket. After the backup is done, the card goes back into my card wallet, upside down so I know it's been used. While I'm working, the cards always stay on my person or with my assistant.

When I get home, I use Aperture to import all my images to my main internal hard drive. Aperture's import panel also allows you to specify a backup location, and I assign it to a 4TB external backup drive. I then have a regular backup script (simple rsync) that mirrors the external backup drive to a second 4TB external backup drive. After the images are all imported, and once my backup script runs, I have five copies:

1. CF card originals
2. Epson portable drive
3. Internal hard drive
4. External hard drive
5. Mirrored external hard drive

I then have a third 4TB external drive that I keep at a friend's house down the street. Every week, I swap this offsite drive with my secondary 4TB drive at home. Once the week-old drive is plugged-in, my rsync backup script runs again and brings that drive current. After editing, I export all the keepers to JPG and upload them to an online client gallery (final backup).

As for watermarking, the popular pro photo editing suites (Aperture, Lightroom, etc) offer this functionality built-in. If you don't have access to these but have access to Photoshop, you can simply create a Photoshop action to do it after the fact, and a google will give you a thousand different ways to do it. (Keep in mind: the advantage to doing it upon export -- as opposed to after the fact via Photoshop -- is that you don't lose any more compression from a second JPG save.) The gist: you'll create your watermark as its own standalone file, and then use your editing program (or Photoshop) to apply it to your file. Tip: If you want your watermark to have transparent areas (e.g. text on a transparent background), you'll probably have the best luck using a 24-bit PNG than a transparent GIF for your standalone watermark file.
posted by Hankins at 3:46 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the help, I appreciate it!
posted by khelvan at 8:57 PM on March 20, 2011

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