A Backup Strategy for the Wedding Photographer

A typical wedding may involve thousands of photographs. These precious images may be taken by a number of different photographers over several days. Often they involve the coverage of pre-wedding parties and events and may involve the work of several different wedding photographers working together or in different physical locations.

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Large files – Raw 

The images are large. When a modern digital SLR camera captures an image in RAW format each file could be 20MB or larger. At a large Asian wedding, it is not untypical to have 30 GB or more of images to backup and then process. When dealing with such a volume of data it is important that all of the wedding photographers associated with the event work to the same system so that the possibility of error is reduced. There are a number of rules that must be followed.

Only use the best equipment

  1. Always use the very best quality memory cards. Don’t think you can save money by buying cheap cards, it will cause you lots of problems.
  2. Buy large format cards 8GB or 16GB CF memory cards. This will reduce the number of times that you need to swap cards, which cuts down on the possibility of a dropped or lost card.
  3. Format all of the cards in the camera that they will be used. Sometimes errors occur when a card is formatted in one camera and then used in another.
  4. Format the cards before you leave for the wedding.
  5. Always have many more cards than you think you will need.
  6. Write you studio name on each card
  7. Write a unique number on each card. Write down which cards you take to a wedding, which photographer has which one and check them all at the end of the day to make sure none are missing.
  8. Never (never ever) format a card on site at the wedding. On a busy day you may make a mistake and format a card containing hundreds of images.

During the wedding

When a card is full (or nearly full) remove it from the camera, place it in a protective case (the one that comes with it when new) and place it together with the other full cards inside a Ziploc bag.

  • Keep this bag of cards in a zipped pocket with you at all times.
  • Never put a card in a pocket on its own while you take an ‘important’ shot. Put the old card away safely first.
  • At the end of the wedding take any cards still in the cameras and place them together in the zip bag with the others.

Back at the studio / home

  • Take each card from the bag, one at a time and copy all the images from each card onto a separate directory on an external backup hard disk.
  • Each subdirectory should be given the same name as the unique number assigned to each memory card.
  • The parent directory name should contain the date of the event and the client name ie “Jane Doe 2020”

When all of the cards have been copied then you have one backup set of your images and you can feel a little safer.

Convert RAW files to DNG

Different camera models produce different types of RAW files and it can be confusing to have multiple file formats. Run the Adobe DNG converter on all of the RAW images and have the new files copied to a client directory on the internal hard disk of your computer. When this process is complete you will have two backup copies of the files.

  • Do not load the files into any editing program, do not modify them yet – you have not finished the back up process.
  • Make 2 complete sets of DVDs of all of the images in DNG format. Use a professional backup program that verifies each disk after it has been written.
  • On the disk write the name of the client, the date of the event and the backup program used to make the backup.
  • Put one of the sets in a cool, dry safe location for storage.
  • Give the second set of disks to a colleague, friend, or family member who can store the images in a different house – it is important that you have a safe backup set offsite.

When all of this has been done you can safely format the CF cards and re-use them for another job and you can feel confident that the client files are safe. Remember to take backups of any work that you do on these files and to archive them to two sets of disks when the job is complete.

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