As a digital photographer, I make my living with digital image files. But no digital media is free from risk of loss, so I need to be careful about how I handle those files. Here are some tips for minimizing the chances that you will lose files:
Step 1: Proper handling of memory cards to minimize the chances of corrupt files
- Format the card before the FIRST time you use it, and reformat every single time you are ready to start fresh.
- Use a card reader, not a camera cable, to move images to your computer. Cables are more likely to corrupt the files and are slower to transfer anyway. I use a Lexar USB card reader.
- Once a card has corrupted an image, throw it out and replace it. Once a corrupter, always suspect. I do not use suspect cards ever.
Step 2: back up your files immediately!
- I like to keep my memory cards untouched until after the images are delivered to my client. This means I have many cards so I am OK if one is tied up as a temporary backup.
- I follow the 3-2-1 rule with backup. I make three copies of every file. I put them on at least 2 different media. Having a backup copy of an image on the same computer system is not as good, if a virus wiped out your system they are both gone. The main working file is on my external hard drive. Until the images are delivered to my client, the secondary copy is still on my memory card, and after they are delivered, I burn the DNGs and .jpgs to a CD for my own files.
- The third copy of my backup is off site in case of fire, flood or other disaster. Some do this by burning a CD to keep in another location, I prefer to use an automated online backup because I am not that great at remembering to do off site on a regular backup. There are many services that do this kind of online backup. I use CrashPlan and strongly recommend the faster seeded backup service.
Even with the best plan and the most diligent backups are not foolproof, but it’s best not to be a fool in the first place. Backup, backup, backup!