With the simple click of a smartphone you can take, store, share and even edit photos on the go. But when it comes to professional photography, the stakes are much higher. That's especially true for wedding photographers who are entrusted with capturing the Big Day.
Craig Wolfrom, a professional photographer based in Sun Valley, Idaho, feels the pressure every time he points his camera at a happy bride and groom. Wolfrom, whose passion for photography started in grade school, focuses on wedding photography but also incorporates his passion for skiing, rock climbing and backpacking into his work. Because Wolfrom's photos are his livelihood, he has developed a detailed backup method for his photos to keep his business (and the new marriages he captures) running smoothly.
Wolfrom typically shoots between 3,000 and 5,000 photos for an 8- to 10-hour wedding. “Each one of those images, in full resolution, is roughly 25 to 30 megabytes,” he says. Wolfrom uses a 21-megapixel Canon camera and brings 60 to 80 gigabytes worth of SanDisk CF cards to each one of his shoots.
Back at his studio, Wolfrom uses a program called Photo Mechanic to move the photos from the CF cards to his computer for editing. Using a Lexar Compact Flash Reader, a stackable system that can ingest three CF cards at a time, along with a firewire 800 cable, Wolfrom can transfer 50-plus gigabytes of photos to his computer in 20 to 30 minutes. Wolfrom says this is a pretty efficient method — uploading a single card at a time with a different program could take hours.
“From there, I edit out the keepers, bringing the total number down to about 1,000 pictures,” he says. Next, he uses Adobe Photoshop Lightroom to narrow the selection to 500 to 750 images, which he exports as JPEG files and burns to a disk for his client.
“I’ll hold onto those other thousands of pictures for a few weeks in case the bride and groom call back looking for a specific picture,” he explains. “But once they’ve received them, I’ll go ahead and delete those other images since I do have a pretty reliable backup system.”
“I used to burn everything to a DVD for each shoot,” Wolfrom confesses, “but as those disks started stacking up I began to use external hard drives instead.” Wolfrom’s computer has a one-terabyte hard drive, which is mirrored by an external one-terabyte hard drive where he backs up all his files.
About once a year, when his desktop hard drive is full, Wolfrom duplicates his files onto two external hard drives and then clears his internal hard drive. “I get nervous putting everything onto just one drive, so I use two external drives in case something happens to the first,” he says. Wolfrom also rents a large safe deposit box at his bank where he keeps one of these external hard drives in case something were to happen to his office.
“If I don’t get these images backed up it could be disastrous, because this is a collection of work,” he explains. Wolfrom says that he’ll get random calls for stock images all the time. “If someone calls and says, ‘I need a picture of a kid backpacking in Olympic National Park,’ I can say, ‘Oh, I was there 10 years ago backpacking when my kid was four; I have that image.’ But I also need to know that the photo is from 2004, and I need to be able to find and access that original file.”
Wolfrom’s photo backups and file organization are essential to keeping his clients happy. Wolfrom says that a few of his wedding clients have actually lost the disk of photos he originally sent them. “If they’ve been married for five years, I need to recall that folder of images to be able to export it and resend it to them,” he says.
Biggest Data Disaster
Wolfrom says he’s refined his backup methods mostly through trial and error. “Nothing too major has happened, but I have had some scary moments,” he says, laughing.
When he first started using hard drives to back up his photos, Wolfrom bought an inexpensive hard drive to use with his PC. Something happened along the way, and all the images were wiped from the drive. He still had the original images on his computer, but it was a wakeup call. “It was eye opening to see that the drive just no longer functioned. I didn’t know how it got corrupted and why it didn’t work,” he says.
Wolfrom recalls that when he began using Adobe Lightroom he wasn’t quite sure how certain catalogues worked for saving his work progress. One day the program crashed and everything he had been working on for two months disappeared. Next time around he made sure to back up his work as he progressed.
When it comes to the bottom line, Wolfrom’s business wouldn’t function without his system of backup and protection. “I have to make sure my data is secure and backed up,” he says. “Without that, I’m out of business.”
[Image via Craig Wolfrom]
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