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Photography Workflow & Storage: Managing the Terabytes of Photos and Maintaining Sanity

On the backside of hiking and photography in the field is time in front of a computer - managing the website, editing photos, and trying to keep my sanity with workflow and storage. The process of file storage doesn't really need to be difficult, for me this essentially comes down to:

  1. Primary Storage Drive

  2. Backup Storage Drive (locally)

  3. Cloud Backup

If you're a hiking enthusiast that enjoys photography while on the trail and are looking for ideas on how to approach your workflow, this is one way that you can think about it.


Let's start with the computer, make sure that you have a computer with the capability to expand drives and/or you have purchased enough drives to store your pictures. In the Blog post on Building a computer from a Photographers' Perspective … Suggestions for What’s Worked Best for Me, I talked a little about the storage possibilities and configuration. Mind you, it's probably overkill for the hobbyist. However, when you introduce terabytes of data, it's a little more complex and not the worst idea in the world to have a computer that offers flexibility.


Photography Workflow Drives and Purpose


So, let's get into the nuts and bolts.

  • First, my storage drives are mostly all 4TB.

  • Although larger drives than 4TB may spin faster and write quicker, the speed you gain from the bigger disk is all on the margins when you're dealing with 60 gigabytes of data from a day of shooting photography.

  • Second is ensuring that I have enough drives to store files split across the array

The following is my storage configuration. You might say, wow, that's a bit more than I'd like to configure. Trust me, I don't blame you. In fact, look away if this spaghetti mess gives you a headache.

However, if you're curious, let me walk through the reason for all the drives and their respective purposes. My drives are currently broken down into purpose, as follows:

  1. C:\ Operating System (2TB): Primary storage of My Documents. This is a solid-state drive that runs the primary operating system. Essential and nothing special here.

  2. D:\ Lightroom (500GB): Storage of my Adobe Lightroom Catalog, high-speed NVME drive for editing purposes with Lightroom. Note: Lightroom is set up to purge preview files every 30 days, so the storage of the catalog is roughly 150-200GB at any given point.

  3. E:\ Photos Staging Drive plus Website Data (2TB): After I shoot images, I load them on this drive because it's an NVME high speed for quick access of photos previews and editing in Lightroom. Plus, everything for the website is stored on this drive.

  4. H, I, J:\ Primary Data Drives: Storage of all photographs and data. These are 3TB and 4TB drives.

  5. P, Q, R:\ Mirror of Data Drives: These drives are mirror copies of the primary storage drives, which I use Goodsync to automatically run every 12 hours and make a mirror copy of the hard drives. Also, 3TB and 4TB drives.

  6. S:\ Mirror of C:\My Document, D:\Lightroom, and E:\Photo Staging & Website: This is a backup of the primary data drives for photography editing and operations.

Wow, that's a lot. If you're not storing terabytes of data, then there is no need for storage of this capacity. And let's be honest I have some headroom through the end of 2022 if I keep at my current pace of 100-200GB per week of consumption.


Baseline Workflow for Managing Photos After a Shoot


Each time I get off the trail and need to start the process of uploading files on my computer, there is a systematic process that I take to make sure I manage the files. Eventually, I'll get around to sharing a more detailed approach - but high level:

  1. Insert the CF-Express Card in my reader, copy the files to my Staging drive that's an NVME high-speed drive

  2. Stored in a folder that is labeled as YY_MM_DD_NEF_LOCATION, thats Year, Month, Date, File Type, and whatever location I shot at

  3. Once edited, these files will be moved to their respective home folders that are labeled by LOCATION and the drive for the camera that they were shot on (Z9 images go to one drive, Z7ii go to another drive) - these are the H, I, and J hard drives (that backup to P, Q, and R locally and to the cloud)

After the files are copied to the drives, the GoodSync and Crashplan software platforms do their things without any intervention. GoodSync will create a mirror on the backup drive AND CrashPlan will backup one they are in the files are in their final home.


Backup Using the 3-2-1 Rule for Photographers


The 3-2-1 Rule is simple: 3 backups, 2 different drives, and 1 offsite copy.

  • For the 2 different drives, that's why I configured the Mirrored drives above. Primary drive is what is used for operating day-to-day. The mirror is a copy of the Primary drive that automated software scans for changes and manually copies the files. In this case, the local copy software is File Sync & Backup Software | GoodSync.

  • For the offsite storage, my computer backs up the drives to Cloud Data Backup for Enterprise & Small Businesses | CrashPlan. If you are just starting a backup to the cloud and have a large number of files, they can take a while. If I were to start all over, it would probably take 30-days on a Fios 1Gbps internet connection.

If you're looking for more information on file backup, check out the BLOG: CrashPlan: Calling All Outdoor Photographers, Backup Those Files!. And if you need a refresher on the computer that I am operating on for photo editing and website building, check out the BLOG: Building a computer from a Photographers' Perspective … Suggestions for What’s Worked Best for Me.


For now, get outside, take some pictures, and back up those files!

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