Project Description

Keeping your images secure is an important part of every photographer’s workflow. It’s simple to create a system you can rely on. This video demonstrates methods for managing image backups and includes tips for keeping them organized.

Photos: C. North


A reliable backup system will let you recover photos if your computer has a catastrophic failure. Even external or solid state hard drives can crash with age, wear, and damage. Don’t trust only having a single copy of an image. Whenever possible, always have at least one backup copy of work, preferably two. Also keep an additional archive in an off-site location.

Backup storage options

There are two flavors of data storage options for image archives.

Connected drives are devices like network attached storage, or a portable unit like a USB hard drive. We recommend storage devices that use a fast connection like USB type-C or Thunderbolt. The transfer rate of the device will impact the responsiveness when using it.

Saving an archive to an offline drive, or to an offsite location, provides a high level of protection. A simple way to backup your work in a different location is using backup services like Backblaze and Crashplan, or cloud file sync services like Dropbox, OneDrive, or Google Drive.

Hybrid systems like Drobo and Synology look a lot like Dropbox or OneDrive, but they are self hosted. It’s a nice option if you want to avoid paying subscription fees for your photo archives.

Managing photo archives

When processing images, there are several opportunities for making backups throughout the workflow.

The first backup opportunity happens while copying images from camera cards. In the Copy from Card dialog, check the box in the Destination section to back up to a second location while they are being copied to your computer. This does not include Exposure’s sidecar files, which are later created while editing and organizing.

Internal hard drives can quickly fill up with large RAW files. An external or network storage unit is a great place to move images after processing is complete to free up space. Entire folders of photos can be simply be moved or copied to another drive in the folder panel. When they’re copied or moved in Exposure, the move will automatically include the sidecar files containing your edits.

A backup is a redundant copy. It includes the photos, and any retouching or grading effects applied to them. The simplest way to make a complete backup is to copy the entire folder of images into your backup device after completing editing. When you move or copy a folder, Exposure preserves any subfolder hierarchy, so you can easily keep the same organization in your active and offline photo libraries.

When revisiting an old archive of work, simply reconnect the storage device to your computer. Then, click the Plus button in the Folder panel and add a new bookmark to the top level folder of the device. Exposure will begin building a cache in the background for the new attached folder.  Then you can browse and search for specific images and use filters like flags, ratings, labels, or metadata.