I have lost hundreds and thousands of photographs over the years, due to hard drive failures, forgetting to backup my images, or by accidentally deleting photos (before transferring them).
This has lead me to a lot of regret, frustration, and despair.
I would always think to myself: “What if?” What if that was a great shot? what if I want to access that photo later? What if my pulitzer-prize winning photograph was hidden somewhere on my hard drive?
But I started to wonder — why do we backup our photos? And why do we need a huge archive of all of our past work?
Will you really look at your old work?
Honestly; do you ever look at your old work? You might have thousands of photographs from the last few years meticulously backed up — to give you peace of mind, but will you ever look at those photos again?
For me, the answer is a no.
So why do I backup all my photos?
Once again, it comes back to fear.
But strangely enough — I have found that losing some of my old work has been a blessing in disguise.
Any photos we really care about or love, generally will survive. Even my entire portfolio of my favorite images probably is fewer than 10 images. These images I cherish deeply — I have printed them out, have them backed up to several different cloud services, and on different hard drives.
But my backups of my “outtake” photos, or photos that aren’t important to me — they’re just rotting in some hidden hard drive somewhere.
I’m not advocating for you not to backup any of your photos. Rather, to only backup the photos which are personally-meaningful to you.
I’m currently using Google Photos Auto Uploader on my computer — which is pretty amazing. It backs up all your images (JPEG’s and even RAWs by converting them to JPEG) for free— unlimited to the cloud.
I used to backup all my photos — but found hidden disadvantages.
By backing up all my photos, it was harder for me to find the photos that actually were meaningful to me.
Now instead of backing up all my photos, I only backup my personal favorite photos. I have my favorite photos in a Dropbox folder on my computer, and I only backup those images to Google Photos.
Since then, I can rest at night, knowing that my personal favorite photos are backed up, and won’t just crash or disappear on my hard drive.
But the ultimate sense of security is to print out your photos physically — as prints. While it is true that prints can get destroyed in a fire, our hard-drives are 100x more likely to crash, than our homes to be destroyed in a fire. A print will exist for hundreds of years, but who knows if our files will still exist on the cloud even a few decades from now?
To sum up, backup your photos religiously (but only for the photos that are really meaningful to you).
For the rest, either let them rot and die on some hard drive somewhere, or do something more radical — delete them.
By deleting your superfluous images, you will have more hard drive space. Your computer will be faster. You will have less stress about buying more hard drives, or cloud storage.
As for your personal favorite images, print them out. Archive what is the most important to you. And that can be fewer than 10-20 images.
Less is more. What are your most personally-meaningful photos? Store those, cherish them, and keep them safe for future generations.
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