Michael Grecco is an award-winning commercial photographer whose clientele includes A-list celebrities and international corporations. His work has graced the covers of many notable publications and his images are innovative and iconic. We’re pleased to partner with Michael for this week’s guest blog post on archiving and storing your valuable images.
For many photographers and videographers the concept of archiving our images is not a top priority. We all work really hard at attaining assignments, producing shoots, creating great images, while schmoozing both talent and clients and delivering finished images. Once delivered and everyone is satisfied, we all take a deep breath and greatly appreciate the job we do. But, how are these shoots archived and preserved?
Without a sufficient archiving system, the above scenario or a variation can happen at any moment – it’s just a matter of time. It has happened to me and I missed not only a huge licensing opportunity, but also a big job. All because I could not put my hands on the images the Creative Director needed to see, to award me that job! That’s when I realized that I needed a practical system to use, with a solid file naming convention, based on the file types to be archived. We can maintain our files on a network, an internal server, or on cloud storage, but usually these solutions prove to be very expensive and slow. The fastest way to make a copy of the day’s production stills and videos is actually to burn it to a hard drive. But why?
Beneficial Digital Cold Storage vs. The Hype of Cloud Storage
A considerable amount of technology news, hype and conversation exists solely on the topic of cloud storage. The concept is simple. Our data is stored offsite on a server or multiple servers, providing us with back up on a distant database. Cloud system offers several advantages to photographers; accessibility, unlimited storage and offsite backup to name but a few.
Cloud storage is not without its cons. The time consumed to upload our images, especially if shooting large high-resolution video or stills is significant. Think about it, if we shoot 4K video, video files are 4 times the size of high definition video. The volume of images we capture could then easily outpace our ability to upload large files to the cloud, especially when also depending on Internet speed and the reliability of the technical service. Technical faults could also have the potential to disrupt a productive day, which affects business.
Another disadvantage of cloud system to scrutinize is cost. Cloud based storage is billed monthly relative to the amount of space we use. Simply stated, every day we store our image data, a fee is due for the privilege. An average fee works out as $30 per terabyte monthly. Monthly charges gradually stack up when calculated as a yearly expense. As professional photographers and videographers we need to contemplate that with cloud there may be an inherent difficulty to budget the cost of adopting this system. The cost may accumulate dependent on what may be a fluctuating frequency and volume of data storage required.
The cloud system has both pros and cons important to be aware of before investing in this technology. By now, it may be evident there is a place for both hot or online storage (on our network, available and running) and cold or offline storage when debating a system. Personally, as a photographer, evaluating the gross amount of raw footage created by a shoot, I recommended offline storage to archive. The vast majority of my images are continually stored using bare 3.5 inch SATA hard drives, comparable to those found in an Apple Mac Pro Tower. Here is why it’s suggested we do this:
- Dollar for dollar, speed for speed cold (offline) storage is probably the fastest and most cost effective way to archive our image data. If cloud storage costs $30 a terabyte monthly, 3 terabytes of storage totals to $90 per month.
- By comparison, a 3 terabyte bare SATA Hard drive, with a 5-year warrantee and a fast 7200 RPM spin speed presently retails at $99. In the first month costs are comparable for both methods of data archiving. Nevertheless, by the second month we could have purchased an additional hard drive and stored data offsite, and so on.
- The fact that we can also plug a hard drive into a SATA reader and read the data at high speeds enables us to be more efficient saving on crew costs and valuable technical time.
So you may ask, how do we get cold (offline) storage to work successfully as an archiving tool for us? Here is how:
- The fastest and most effective system for storing all our images and video files is basically to set up eSATA hard drive readers next to our computer stations. As a recommendation I use these products to store my images.
- All hard drive readers work in essentially the same way; simply put, they read a hard drive. We may never have to buy a hard drive in a case or an enclosure again; the hard drive reader is the enclosure, but one reader now works for every bare drive we buy. This is a contributing factor as to why the cold (offline) system is cost effective, on top of that we help save the planet and waste less material in general.
- Whatever reader chosen, a great tip is to select one with either two bays for two hard drives or to invest by purchasing two. The ability to replicate additional copies of images or files, and to store data faster and more efficiently leads to a great archiving process.
Another good archiving practice all photographers/videographers can adopt is on each and every occasion on returning from a shoot; add our day’s images, video files and data to both of the two archiving drives along with processed images. This means we can then reconvene the next shoot day, making use of the available capacity of our capture laptop/drives to host new images and files, secure in the knowledge our previous data is safely stored on two separate drives. Once the drives are full it is beneficial to store each copy separately.
Now let’s fully optimize our successful data storage system.
Drives are bare so it is preferable to store the drives safely from damage when not in use. A go-to product for this purpose is called ProStorage™. ProStorage™ is closed cell anti-static foam made specifically to protect drives. The unit comes with a foam lid, so in the file cabinet the lid cleverly fits under the unit to raise it up, allowing us easy access to our data drives. For an offsite set, drives can be stored in the ProStorage™ box with the foam lid on top for protection; the box comes in either a version to store 18 bare hard drives or store 24. An inexpensive product that securely protects our data once archived.