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Photographers: The Digital Storage War

The biggest struggle our photography studio had this past year was figuring out a digital storage system that allowed us to actively work on, share, view, and archive our photos. Once you hit a certain storage point, buying individual WD external drives just doesn’t cut it. We got to the point where we had 20 of them laying around, and we needed to do something about it.

The first thing we did was purchase an 8tb WD My Cloud drive. We figured we could work off of that, and when it got full we’d archive the photos either on a cloud or externals that we’d file away. That worked great for awhile, but eventually we learned that the My Cloud drives time out when you’re pulling a lot of photo files into Lightroom. When we tried to import or export a photo file that had more than 400 images we kept running into different errors, all related to drive speed. Also, once they were imported, working off that drive was virtually impossible. The speed just isn’t there, and even the previews in Lightroom constantly have to buffer. This was pretty crippling, so our cloud drive is now where we put all of our completed retouched work that everyone in the studio can access to build advertising assets.

For archiving, we use Amazon Drive and physical externals. Whenever we import a project we immediately upload the RAWs to the cloud and an external, that way they can be accessed from anywhere via the cloud, but we also have our own drives where we can retrieve them should that cloud go down.

After we’ve completed a customer photo project, we put all of their final images on a USB stick that we buy from Promotional Flash Drives. It’s a company that prints our brand icon/logo directly onto the drives before they send them to us, and every USB drive they’ve sent us has worked. We’ve totally stopped burning our images to Blueray, it just isn’t cost effective for the amount of storage. Also, customers like walking out our door with something in their hand instead of just being emailed a link where they can download their images. I know that sounds silly, but customer feedback was a major reason we decided to switch to USB drives instead of going all online. That site has a good amount of storage products to choose from, so we’ve purchased different types for different clients. It’s important that your photo clients leave with products that match either them or their company. While a family portrait customer will love a USB shaped like a storybook, a corporate client will appreciate a silver USb with a cap fastened with a leather strap. Promotional Flash Drives also has an option to build out a custom USB stick. All you have to do is send them a drawing or a sketch and they’ll build it for you.¬†We haven’t done that yet, but it’s next on our list to try out.

Our book USB's work great for out portrait customers! Our book USB’s work great for out portrait customers!

Right now, that’s what we’ve been rolling with. Short of getting a $2000 Synology DiskStation, our system has been working well so far. Let us know in the comments below what your solutions are for storage and workflow, we’d love to get some insight!