I read a post at digitalweddingforum.com that not only made my hair stand on end, but also irritated me as well as others on the forum. Here is a snippet from the post (you have to be a member to read posts and yes it is worth the price of admission, even if you are a not a wedding photographer. )
“One of my hard drives crapped out on me last week. After bringing it to a local data recovery place and getting a 2-month turnaround quote with a questionable success rate, I’m planning to call up Drive Savers tomorrow morning to see what they can do
I’m not worried about potentially having to refund money. Assuming a worst-case scenario, how do you tell a (potentially volatile) couple, “My HD crashed”
First off the reason this had my hair standing on end, was that I have been there at my PC (My pre Mac days) and received the lovely error message that my drive was not accessible. A wave of panic runs through your body as you start doing a mental inventory of what was and wasn’t backed up at that moment. And then all you can do is start the process of either finding the data that you should have backed up, or realize that you are completely and totally screwed.
Ok, but let’s get back to the post, I left out part of the last sentence:
“….your pictures were on it, so all you’ll ever have to remember your wedding day is an online gallery”?”
Yep, the hard drive that crashed had photos from a wedding that were not backed up. That’s the point that got me really irritated. Could you even imagine after spending 20K or more on a wedding, all you have are thumbnails to show for it because a “photographer”, I use this term loosely and don’t want to add professional in there, didn’t do one of the most basic things they could have and backed up to a second external drive or even CD/DVD’s?
Luckily when my drive crashed, I had 90% of my work backed up to CD’s and the other 10% was not so important as to be missed if I lost it, but photos that are still lost forever.
So what are some things you can do to prevent a mishap like this? Well back up of course. Yes, I know it’s a pain in the ass and it takes time away from shooting and editing. But it’s better than losing that picture of Aunt Mable smiling at a clients wedding. Only to discover she passed on a week after the glorious event and the only photos of her besides the one Uncle Gary took while she was in her casket, were your wedding photos. If you are a wedding photographer, this is the most important thing you can do for your client, next to knowing what the hell you are doing when shooting in the first place.
I have only shot a couple of weddings, one for some friends that my wife and I shot as a gift and another where I was the “Uncle with the camera” but was able to shoot better than the hired help because I had less pressure. But I knew how important these photos would be for each couple, so here is how I handled the work flow and still do it this way.
Work flow for backing up images
All my CF cards are 4 GB and less and I prefer the 1 or 2 Gb to shoot with. This way if one fails, I lose a lot less images than if shooting with a 8 GB card. I still don’t trust the cards will always be reliable, so I am paranoid. I like the Lexars, but also shoot with Sandisk as well. I also make sure I never fill up a card, I leave quite a bit of room since I have seen a couple of my cards get wonky as they get close to being full.
I rotate the cards out so on one side of my camera bag I have freshly formatted cards. I feel formatting is very important when you use a card you have already shot with. First, you know the card is clean and you don’t have to worry about filing up a card to fast because it had a previous shoot on it. Second, you know there is no bad data that was introduced through some software on your PC or during the transfer process.
Once I shoot a card, it goes into the other side of the bag, with known cards that have already been used.
When a shoot is over it is easy to be tempted to view them on the camera and go through each card. This is commonly referred to as “Chimping” by the way. Yeah, I’m guilty of this myself, but learned to have some patience. It’s better to hook up the old firewire and start uploading the images into Aperture. I then go through the process of deleting image that are out of focus or just plain bad and then export to a DVD burn usinga plugin by Blue Room Software. I wrote about this great plugin in an earlier article.
Then of course there is then exporting from Aperture, to two external drives.
Now I have data in 5 places CF card, MacBook Pro or iMac, DVD’s and 2 external drives. Do you think there is a chance that I could lose any of the data? Possible, but not probable. At this point I feel pretty well protected.
One final option is to start uploading your images to a company like Zenfolio.com. They offer unlimited data space, galleries and the ability to also sell your images for less than $9 a month. Use this coupon code 5V5-2VC-XYR to save $5 when you sign up.
Other ways to protect yourself if you are a wedding photographer or shooting for a client are:
- Backup your data, everywhere, multiple times.
- Become a member of the PPA. If for anything the Data Recovery program and legal assistance team to help pay for such events.
- Make sure you have adequate insurance, what if the client wanted you to pay for a new wedding to be shot?
- Have a Limits of Liability Clause in your Contract
Ok, there you go, now no more excuses for losing data.