Lets Talk About Backups

I think it's fair to say that at some point we've all experienced the cold sweat associated with realizing we've just formatted and started to write over the wrong memory card.  In this post I'm going to lay out my process for shooting and backing up while on location.

Many prosumer and up DSLR's have dual memory card slots with the option to simultaneously write your image to both cards.  This is hands down the most secure way to initially backup your photos.  If one card corrupts or gets physically damaged or lost, you have another one with the exact same data on it.  There are typically also options to write RAW files to one card and JPEGS to another, or fill up one card then start writing to the next one.  I have never used either of these options and I can't imagine a scenario where they would be a better option than having an initial backup.

For this explanation lets assume we have a camera with only 1 card slot.  This will be easy since my Nikon D500 has an XQD slot and a standard SD slot but I only have SD cards.

Now, I want to say that I do not erase/format ANYTHING while on location. In fact, no data gets removed from cards or hard drives until the data is verified secure on my NAS device at home.  So, this means having enough memory cards with you to fill one up and put it away until you get home.

The equipment you need to backup your photos and video:

  • Camera
  • Memory Cards
  • Hard Drive/SSD/Flash Drive (I use a LaCie Rugged Mini, the basic single disk USB 3.0 version)
  • Laptop with an applicable memory card reader, or USB reader

My typical in field backup flow goes like this:

  1. Shoot your subject.  For me this will typically consist of some mountains and stuff.
  2. Take the SD card out of you camera and plug it into you laptop/card reader.
  3. Plug in your portable hard drive.
  4. Copy all the data from your memory card to your hard drive. I will usually use Lightroom for this part as I find it easier to organize everything but just dumping everything in a folder works too.
  5. Put both the memory card and hard drive in a safe place. I recommend keeping them separate. For example store one in your backpack and one in your glove box.  The chances of you losing your vehicle and backpack simultaneously are pretty slim. At that point you probably have bigger worries.
  6. Breath a sigh of relief.
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