Backup Backup Backup – Photo storage for Photographers

external hard drives for photo storage

So, you decided to become a photographer. To take photos. To sell photos. Did it ever occur to you what you’re going to do with all of those photos after they have been delivered? Here’s my tips on the best photo storage for photographers.

I’ve been a professional photographer 8 years this year. I started my real photographic journey back in the early 2000’s when I would develop my own black and white negatives in the dark room of my sixth form college, as me and my friends would giggle our way through trying to twist the film onto the spool in the pitch dark.

In some ways, the 35mm film era of photography was easier in the fact that once you’d gotten the developing done (by yourself or through a lab) you enlarge and process your own prints, and there you have it. Your own physical copy. The end. 

In the late 2000’s the mainstream era of digital photography really kicked off and opened up a whole new adventure for so many people, amateurs and professionals alike.

Digital photography made everything so much more disposable. You could just delete an image without a second thought. 

Now in 2022, there are more photographers than ever before. 

As more and more people become professional photographers, there is one sticking point that many don’t often think about. How to store their images.

The key is: ‘backup backup backup’.

Here is my photo storage workflow:

Firstly, I never EVER delete anything. You never know what is going to happen in the months, years or decades after you’ve taken those client’s photos. What if those photos you took of their parents or grandparents are the last pictures they have of them alive? 

The moment you’ve taken those images, they increase ten fold in price. You can never go back to that moment again. 

‘Backup, backup, backup’.

How do you store your photos?

When I have finished shooting a wedding/session/event and I get back to my office, I take one set of the SD cards out of my cameras (remember, backup backup backup- you should have at least 2 cameras, both with dual SD card slots) and I immediately make copies of them. 

How many copies should you make?

My answer to this is 3.


I make one copy of them onto my SSD drive that is my main editing drive (SSD’s are typically faster to edit from, and this also frees up my computer to help run it that little bit quicker too)


The next copy of them goes onto my HDD drive (these are slower than SSD’s but are great for archiving) I am currently using an 8TB external HDD which has enough storage for what I need at the moment.  I used to just go with smaller 1TB ones but they filled up ridiculously quickly. I leave that copy untouched on that drive.


The third copy goes straight onto my cloud storage. I use Crashplan. And [I’m not being paid by them to say this] CRASHPLAN IS AMAZING. 

My Crashplan account has saved me on several occasions when, like I mentioned before, years after a wedding, a couple have asked for as many images as I had of a family member that had sadly passed away. 

Crashplan is super easy to use- you just choose which drives you want to copy and it does the work for you, 24/7, even when you’re not at your computer. It is worth it’s weight in gold.

How do you label your files and folders for photo storage?

I try to keep all of my files in some sort of order nowadays. After spending months trying to sort out a bunch of old hard drives I realized that my methods of just creating folders with the couple’s or families’ name was just not cutting it.

Now, I create folders this way:

SSD drive > To Edit > In Progress > 22-04-17 Client Name

This way, everything is in order. I can search by the date or the client name and everything is chronological. 

Once I’ve finished the editing, I then export the gallery to the same folder, in a sub-folder named GALLERY. I then move the folder to:

SSD drive > To Edit > Completed > 22-04-17 Client Name

Then I copy this folder to my HDD before removing it from my SSD to make way for my next editing session.  Note that I COPY the entire folder to this destination before I delete the original folder, just to be extra careful.  Crashplan will automatically backup the folder onto my cloud drive for me!

In each folder, in the end, I will have:

  • Raw Files
  • Edited Gallery
  • Individual Lightroom Catalog for that Client
  • Website optimized images for blog posts
  • Social media optimized images for social posts

A few more photo storage tips

Being a professional photographer goes far beyond the client experience during a session. It costs to archive and store tens of thousands of images. Don't try to scrimp and save on the storage of client images. This should be factored into your CODB. You could even consider offering the unbought images in a discounted sale to your clients a year after their session to see if you can upsell to offset some of the cost of the storage.

Another note I’ll add about Cloud storage space. READ THE FINEPRINT. 

Many generic photo storage options, such as Google or Amazon don’t actually allow for professionals to store files on those platforms. I have heard of people say that all of their files have been wiped by those companies as they didn’t adhere to the rules of having their account. Please don’t let that happen to you.

What hard drives do you use?

I've tried an array of different brands and models, but I've settled on these ones that work for me:

SSD - Samsung T7 1TB

HDD - Seagate 8TB

Cloud - Crashplan for Small Business - They offer a 30 day free trial too!

This is how I work my folders and files and it’s been super efficient for me. 

If you'd like some advice about storage solutions or you have a different approach to storage? I'd love to hear from you!


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If you like unconventional, honest, friendly and real photos, I’m your person.

Sam Wildridge is a candid + lifestyle photographer / filmmaker based in Wainwright, Alberta. Sam has been capturing wedding, family + corporate photos for 9 years and defines her style as "organic storytelling".


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