How to properly backup your photos and data

Backing up your photos and data is extremely important. Unfortunately, many people do not have a proper backup system in place and every year countless photos are lost forever. This data survival guide will explain how to properly backup your photos so you never have to worry about losing them again. In this article you will learn the exact data backup system that I use in my everyday day workflow.

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How to properly backup your Lightroom catalog and photos

How to properly backup your photos

When I first began shooting landscape photography, my biggest fear was losing my photos. Today, I no longer worry about losing my photos because I have backup system in place that makes it nearly impossible to lose my data. I use what I call the 1-2-3 system. It’s redundant but redundancy is key for data security. The 1-2-3 system is a backup system that incorporates one original and two copies of every single image and edit.

Backing Up Your Photos To An External Drive

The first image is on my working drive. This is the drive that I regularly work off of. This could be an internal or external drive. (I prefer Lacie external drives for reliability). For organizational purposes I keep my Lightroom catalog and photos folders under a single parent folder. See the image below.

Lightroom folder structure for backup
LR Classic folder structure example for catalog and photos

The second drive is my backup drive. This drive is an exact clone of my working drive and solely used for backing up. I never work off this drive or add anything that isn’t already on my on working drive. I use Carbon Copy Cloner by Bombich Software (Mac only) to make a clone of my working drive. PC Users can download Macrium Reflect Free which as the name suggests, is free.

I’ll typically clone my working drive whenever I do a new photo import or large editing session. In theory, I should never have to access any file on my backup drive unless my working drive crashes or I accidentally delete a file that I did not mean to.

How to properly backup your photos

No backup solution is complete without the cloud.

Backing up your photos to the cloud with Backblaze

The last part of the 1-2-3 method is to use a cloud backup service. This way you do not have to worry about losing your photos in the event of fire, flood or theft. There are a variety of cloud services on the market these days and some are better than others. I prefer and personally use Backblaze. Backblaze gives users unlimited cloud storage for a single computer and any hard drives that are hooked up to it. They even have a mobile app so you can easily monitor your upload progress on the go.

What I love about Backblaze is that it does not require all of your external drives to be hooked up to the computer at the same time. You can backup as many external drives that you’d like as long as you hook them up once a month or year depending on the plan that you purchase. Starting at $7 a month or $70 for an annual plan, Backblaze is certainly one of the most affordable cloud-based storage solutions on the market. I have been using Backblaze for a number of years now and have been very happy with their service. For a few dollars more, you can upgrade to the year backup plan which means you only have to hook up your external drives once a year to ensure that they stay connected to the cloud. Finally, users have the ability to tell Backblaze what folders that they would not like backed up such as folders that might contain sensitive data.

What to do in the Event of a Hard Drive Crash

If you have a hard drive crash or loose some of your files, stay calm and don’t do anything in a panicked state. Take a breath and come back to earth. If you followed my 1-2-3 method, it should be easy to simply copy the files from your backup drive to a new drive and start working off of the new drive. If you’ve been slacking (we all do sometimes) and haven’t backed up to your backup drive for a while you can tap into your cloud backup. If you’re only missing a few files you can simply download the missing files from Backblaze. If you’ve had a full-on hard drive crash and are missing many files, it will be best to order a hard drive of your files from Backblaze. They will ship an encrypted 7TB drive for free with any folders and files that you’d like. Once you have restored your files, you can simply ship the drive back or keep it for a payment of $187.

If your reading this information for the first time and have already had a hard drive crash then there might not be a whole lot you can do. Some hard drive manufacturers offer free data recovery services in the event of a crash. The first step is to contact the manufacturer to see what sort of services they offer. If they do not offer recovery the next best thing will be to hire a third party recovery service. These services are very expensive though and there's no guarantee that they'll be able to recover your data. Moreover, you may loose your folder structure and have a jumbled mess of files that may or may not retain their original names.

Access your data anywhere with the cloud

When you use a cloud-based storage solution like Backblaze you have access to your files anywhere that you have a reliable internet connection. If you travel a lot and are in the business of photography, this is a huge bonus. Perhaps a client want’s a photo that you don’t typically print or license but it’s at home on a different drive. With Backblaze you can simply log on to their server and download the file or files that you need. The process is simple because the cloud folder structure remains the same as it was on your drive.


Having a good backup system in place is extremely important for photographers and anyone else who can’t afford to lose their data. The backup system that I have described in this article is the system that I use in my personal and professional workflow. When there are storage solutions as cheap and versatile as Backblaze, it’d be silly not to utilize the cloud. I hope this article has shed some light on backing up your photos. Feel free to reach out with any questions.

Backblaze online cloud storage foe photographers