The other day Dixie and I were taking our daily walk with our neighbor friend and her pup. This friend has been married for about three years now and I didn't know her and her husband when they were married. We were talking about photos and she mentioned that she had no idea where the thumb drive of their professional wedding photos was. A wave of nausea hit me and I asked her if she had them backed up anywhere. She sheepishly admitted that she didn't. Then I laid into her (with love), encouraging her to find them and get those babies backed up somewhere in the cloud ASAP! Yikes! SO scary.

I know my friend is a bride and not a professional photographer, but this encounter reminded me of how important it is for us professional photographers to have our clients' digital images archived.

Today I wanted to share another installment of my workflow series for photographers -- how I archive my client's wedding photos. If this is your first time tuning in, click here to find a complete list of the posts in The Workflow Series and get caught up!

When it comes to this very unglamorous part of my workflow, I have a few competing emotions. One is fear. Besides Dixie dying or my business failing, I have no worse fear than losing a client's images. (Ok, maybe a few more would beat it out, but not many.) The other emotion is a sense of dread and overwhelming anxiety. There are so many options out there and so many competing opinions about how images should be archived that I feel immobilized. You see, this is just not an area of strength for me. I don't get excited about hard drives and problem-solving a back-up solution. In fact, when I start thinking about these things, my head starts spinning and I feel slightly queazy. I've looked into the options and opinions, and I've tried a number of solutions over the years, but this is an area of my business in which I'm not passionate about spending a lot of time. Nevertheless I know it's important and it needs to be done.

Like with anything that I know is not my strength, I turned to an expert to help me come up with a good archiving solution. I paid a business consultant and an IT expert to recommend a solution and install it for me. Like I mentioned, there are a number of options out there, so what I will share with you today is just one way to get the job done. But, at least for the moment -- until technology changes on us yet again -- I feel fairly confident in it. Because I know there will be questions about how I prevent image loss before the archiving process, I'm going to also share how I protect my files from the moment they are shot forward. This is what I do:

1 -- Keep CF Cards on My Person While Shooting
I use a GoBee Bag (unfortunately these are no longer sold) around my waist to carry my CF cards with me at all times during a wedding. That way, if any of my gear gets stolen, the mean and evil thief will not get away with stealing the client's memories.

2 -- Off-Load Images Right Away
All of my images are off-loaded onto my computer the night of the wedding. I don't reformat my CF cards until the images from each event are uploaded to Pictage, my online lab (usually within a week).

3 -- Use a Server with Mirror Technology
We use a Network Attached Storage device by Synology with 5 removable 3TB hard drives as both our working drives and our archive drives. So when I off-load the CF cards the night of the wedding, the images go onto this server. The way it is set-up, if one of the hard drives fails, the info is still protected within the others. We keep our working files in one folder of the server and then, when all of the products are delivered and our workflow for that wedding is done, we transfer the client folder (complete with RAW files, high res .jpgs, contract and even album files) to an "Archive" file on the server. One of the other great things about this server is we can access it from any of our three computers in the office, and even remotely when I'm traveling. So that eliminates any file transfer headaches. It's also nice to have all of our files archived in one spot that is accessible without having to track down a hard drive in a closet and plug it in.
4 -- Archive High Res JPGs in The Cloud
We use Pictage as our online lab. A week after the wedding, we FTP the images to Pictage and then release a gallery for our clients to view their images and order prints online. Pictage is great for a number of reasons, but one of them is that they archive our images indefinitely. We've been using them since 2003, so all of the high res .jpgs from all of the weddings I've photographed are archived on Pictage's servers. Whenever I need an image, I can have it FTPed to me at no cost. So if my house burns down, at least I have all of the high res .jpgs stored in the Cloud.

That's our solution! The server is definitely a financial investment, but SO worth it as it's an option you can grow with and feel confident in.

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you have any questions by leaving a comment below. And to find out about more resources I offer photographers, click here!

Click here to read Part 20 of the series -- The Principle of Plugging Leaks
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