Simple Steps to Back Up Your Photos

Simple Steps to Back Up Your Photos

This is a continuation post from Saving Your Digital Ass.

Arguably the most irreplaceable things you are traveling with are photos.  You can always replace your socks, laptop or spouse, but replacing lost photos could be impossible.  The first date LOCAVORista and I took, to Machu Picchu in 2002, we had a Nikon SLR stolen.  Losing the camera was annoying, but worse was that it was stolen with many of our rolls of Machu Picchu film.  We will never see those photos again.  Since I wasn’t going to be able to remember the adventure via the photos, I married LOCAVORista so I can relive that adventure everyday.

OK, due to the Moral Majority, you might not be able to marry your travel companion to preserve memories, so what do you do to protect your photos?

  1. Back up your camera every night to multiple (two or more) devices.
  2. Copy dated folders of photos, not just image files to save you organization headaches.
  3. Do your multiple backups at the same sitting so that all your backups are in sync.  You don’t know which device will fail, and inevitably it will be the one with the most of your photos if you don’t have other copies.
  4. Use your camera to take photos, not to store photos.  Store your photos on your backup as your camera is far more likely to be stolen or lost than your backup drives.

Backing up your camera is easy; bring your camera’s mini-USB cable with you.  You can do it at Internet cafes, hotel computers, or on your laptop.  Just plug your camera in one USB port and your backup device in another.  Depending on the type of computer you are using (Windows, Linux, Mac) different programs or windows will pop-up.  If you are given the option, select “view as files and folders.”  This option will allow you to copy the dated folders directly to your backup device, saving you time and keeping them organized.

GEAR TIP: Consider bringing a SD Card Reader, especially if you are carrying more than one camera.  The benefit of a SD Card Reader is that they are tiny, allow you to view your photos as a drive (files and folders) versus using a photo program you may not be familiar with, and you don’t need to have your camera sitting out in an Internet café or hotel lobby while you back up your photos.

Our SD Card Reader, roughly life size, it's a tiny lifesaver allows us to bypass various computers' strange photo programs that pop up. A similar version costs $6.99 at MicroCenter now.

What device should you use to backup your photos?  There are various choices, but the most important aspect is to have ample room for your photos.  Roughly speaking, you get about 1000 photos for every 8GB of storage.  Videos take up much more space than photos depending on their length.  For us, we take about 1000 photos a week while traveling somewhere interesting, which is 8GB.

If you are on a trip for a month or less and take photos at the rate we do, or less, you can easily backup your photos on USB Flash Drives. The upside of flash drives is that they are tiny and virtually indestructible.  The downside is that they are slow.

GEAR TIP: USB flash drives are a commodity product, meaning quality doesn’t vary that much for consumer drives.  Buy the cheapest drives of the size you need.  Since all the brands are using the same memory chips, reliability is a wash (despite what salespeople will tell you), and if you have redundant copies you can handle the failure of one drive.  I highly recommend buying from  Amazon, MicroCenter or Fry’s, do not buy them from Best Buy or a drug store where they could cost 2-4x as much.

The most important considerations you need to have is having enough space for storage and having more than one copy.  Religiously make your multiple backups at the same time, this will save you many headaches trying to figure out which photos are where, especially when you get home and are trying to import them to your PC.  If you do all your backups at once you will always know, all your photos are on each drive.

For longer trips, traveling with laptops, or backing up your photos when you get home, see tomorrow’s post on Backing Up Your Computer, which will detail how to backing up with Hard Drives which are much larger.


This article is one in a series on protecting your digital ass(ets).  Here are the other articles:


JUST READ: BACKING UP PHOTOS: You can replace your clothes, backpack or husband, but photos are irreplaceable

Part 3: BACKING UP YOUR COMPUTER: At home or on the road, your photos will end up on a computer, backing that up becomes priority number one

Part 4: OH SHIT! When accidents happen to your electronics

After all the articles have been posted they will integrated into the Preparation Section.


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About the Author

thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.

About the Author
thinkCHUA: Photographing and documenting the world on a 3 year round-the-world trip to help future travelers discover new places, travel longer and enjoy the world's great experiences.


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