When you're on the go, it's important to make sure that you have plenty of backups of your travel photos. Here are some of the best ways to make sure that your photographic memories stay intact.
Before your trip, think about how and with what device you will be taking photographs. For example, will you be shooting in JPEG, RAW or both? How much other gear will you be taking with you? All of these factors will influence which solution you choose for storing photos while on the road. Remember, any backup solution must ensure that you have multiple copies of your photos in different locations. Just having your photos on an external hard drive and nowhere else.
Buy multiple memory cards
This is one of the cheapest ways to manage your photographs while on the road. By purchasing a number of memory cards in different capacities, you can easily categorise certain segments of your trip, such as by date or location, on separate cards. However, having separate cards isn't a backup solution in itself; you will still need to make extra copies of your photos in another way to ensure against data loss.
Does your camera have multiple card slots? Usually found on higher-end digital SLRs, dual slots can be configured to automatically store or copy images on both cards rather than just the one, or to store JPEG images on one card and RAW files on the other.
The disadvantage with this solution is that memory cards, particularly SD cards, are small and easy to lose without a proper carrying case.
Laptops, ultrabooks and tablets
Can't bear to be without your computer? Luckily, it's an excellent way to back-up your photos and videos while on the road. An optimal solution would be to create multiple copies of photos by placing one set of images on the computer's hard drive, and at least one other copy on an external hard drive. Many photographers even have two external hard drives for redundancy. In case one, or is lost or stolen, you will have at least one other copy of your images.
Check out our workflow tips later on in this article for more on maximising your backups.
Portable backup device
Travelling light? If a laptop and external hard drive don't fit the bill, then a portable backup device might be the next-best solution. These devices are a hard drive in themselves, but they also come with photographer-ready features like CompactFlash and SD card slots to transfer photos and videos without any extra wires. Devices like the Nexto DI and HyperDrive have several configurations available in different capacities, plus an LCD monitor to preview images.
Depending on the capacity, type of device (for stills or video) and hard-drive type (SSD or HDD), expect to pay anywhere up to US$3000 for one of these.
There's a multitude of dedicated photo-storage sites around, offering both free and paid storage solutions. If you have internet access, then a cloud solution is an ideal way to back-up your photographs and video files. Don't just think of photo-specific sites like Flickr when contemplating cloud storage, as there are also sites like Dropbox and Box available, too. Check out our guide tofor more.
Rather than plugging your camera straight in to a computer at an internet cafe, and waiting for an age to download photos at USB 2.0 speeds or slower, consider investing in a dedicated card reader to take with you. They're lighter than an external hard drive, will make your life so much easier and some even come with USB 3.0 transfer options.
If you want a particularly instantaneous way of sending photos from your camera to a cloud storage site, or even to another device, consider hooking up an Eye-Fi X2 card to your mobile phone. Create an ad hoc Wi-Fi network between your phone and the card, and then you can set the options accordingly to copy photos to the device. The next step would be to make the process even easier by using your device's 3G connection to upload photos to a storage site as you take them. This option is best used when travelling domestically, and you can keep an eye on data costs, as roaming data is notoriously expensive.
If you have the luxury of travelling with a laptop or ultrabook, here are some workflow tips to make the most of your backup solution:
- Catalogue your images: use a program like Adobe's Lightroom to organise photos at the end of each day. Import the photos, and then, using the rating star feature, do a quick scan of the shots to determine the best ones. This is also the opportunity to hide or remove any dud shots, such as anything out of focus or just plain boring. For more tips on streamlining your import workflow, read our article on
- Perform quick edits: anything that can be fixed easily, like removing red-eye, should be done at this stage. This will make the next sweep of edits that you perform much easier when back home
- Tag everything: we all know what it's like trying to remember where photographs were taken six months after coming back from a trip. Make sure to put quick location information in by applying bulk tags in Lightroom.
The best backup solution is a combination of the above methods. When travelling, consider that physical devices might be lost or stolen, so distribute the load evenly across different media and online, if possible.