AKA – Archiving Your Valuable DAM … Photos 😉

Last week, we discussed organizing your images on both your HDDs and your Lightroom catalog in a way that makes it easy to maintain *and* find your images. Here is a link back to the original post.

To briefly recap, I recommend a folder structure based on dates. Starting with a folder (or an entire HDD in my case) for the year, with a sub folder for each photo shoot based on the month and day including a description of the shoot and *then* importing that folder into Lightroom.

So my HDD and Lightroom structures are identical and look like this…

OK, all good? Awesome… Now that you have a folder structure that you can easily maintain, we need to work a little on workflow.


Although not the topic of this series, workflow is absolutely critical to ensuring that you work the same way all the time, which helps minimize the risk or accidentally over writing or mishandling your valuable photos.

To keep things simple, my workflow looks like this…

Step 1. Create Folder
Step 2. Copy files (manually using OS, not Lightroom)
Step 3. Import files into Lightroom (using ADD option, *not* COPY)
Step 4. Cull images using star ratings and *delete* the unwanted ones (all rated 1 star)
Step 5. Batch Rename the files using <YYYY>-<MM><DD>-EventName-<ImageNumber> (which would look like 2015-0731-LucasOil100-0001.NEF through 2015-0731-Lucasoil100-9999.NEF, if I shot that many images in a single race)
Step 6. Keyword all the remaining images
Step 7. Export for use as a web gallery

Typical file rename option box

Typical file rename option box

Pretty straight forward, eh?


According to the website www.dpbestflow.com created by the American Society of Media Photographers, the absolute minimum acceptable archive /backup strategy is 3-2-1. Three copies, 2 different media, 1 maintained off-site.

So, at this point, I have 2 copies on 2 different media – my HDD and my original memory cards – and nothing off-site.

To remedy this, I use a piece of software called SyncBack. It is Windows only, but it is provided as free software with a Pro version with extra features. The free version includes completely automated HDD mirroring, synchronization and backup. Download a copy at www.2BrightSparks.com to get started.

My regular backup schedule is set to backup the current year working HDD on a daily basis and the previous year working HDD on a weekly basis to external “backup” HDDs. This way, I now have 3 copies of each file typically within 12-hours. I also have a daily automated backup for my desktop and personal folders to backup any files I am currently working with and a backup of my Lightroom catalog and plug-in folder in another automated backup every 48 hours. I maintain enough memory cards that I can keep original copies for up to 2 weeks, depending on my shooting schedule, so I often have up to 4 copies on 2 different media. Before a shoot, I select the oldest used memory cards and format them in the camera, bringing me back to 2 or 3 copies depending where in my backup schedule I happen to be.

Then, once a week, I synchronize my working drives with my external Drobo redundant backup system and once a month I rotate in my offsite Drobo and sync it with my local Drobo and take one offsite once again.

At this point, I have 4 copies, all on HDDs with 2 of them on redundant media, with one copy off site.

Using this method, all I have to remember to actually do is rotate the drobox on a monthly basis, everything else is completely automatic.

Backup Hardware

Maintaining a smooth archiving workflow without a lot of manual intervention does require some extra investment in hardware.

Dealing with the sheer volume of HDDs I use on a regular basis can be a challenge. To keep things simple, and since my main editing machine is a tower PC, I have removed all working drives except for the main boot drive, my Photoshop scratch drive and a brand new SSD drive that contains only my Lightroom catalog, previews and plugins. All my photos are sitting on external drives connected via eSata, a relatively new technology that allows external drives to be accessed just as fast as internal drives.

I do this using a drive enclosure from Media Sonic called a ProBox that holds up to 4 Sata HDDs. I also use an external HDD docking station that allows me to quickly access older backups that are not directly connected and typically have two Drobo redundant enclosures on my desk. Here’s a look at my desktop and some of the hardware I use…

By using the external drive bays, I can easily swap out drives as needed for either backup or retrieval.

Backup & Archiving

As previously mentioned, I use SyncBack to automate my backup processes. There are other solutions out there, and SyncBack is PC only, so I’m afraid I can’t offer any suggestions for Mac users, however Time Machine may have these capabilities.

The first step is to backup your working photo folder or drive to a second location. Please keep in mind that this location *must* be at the very least on a different HDD.

Using SyncBackFree, the process is pretty simple.

Step 1. Launch SyncBackFree
Step 2. Click New in the toolbar at the bottom of the screen
Step 3. Type a meaningful name in the Profile Name box and click Next
Step 4. Choose Backup from the options on the next page
Step 5. Choose the source and destination options
Step 6. On the profile setup page, choose the source drive or folder and a destination drive or folder
Step 7. When asked if you’d like to do a simulated run, click Yes to make sure there are no errors
Step 8. Once the simulation is completed error-free, click Schedule
Step 9. Set the scheduling options to your preference
Step 10. Check the settings in the schedule recap screen and click OK when done
Step 11. Sit back and relax. If you want to run the backup immediately, simply double-click the listing

Here are step by step screen shots to help guide the setup.

So this is the first step towards securing your digital asset library. Next time, in the final installment, we’ll review some best practices and answer some questions I’ve gotten along the way… See you then!!