A quick overview of the challenges when we want to store our images or videos

The problem has been discussed plenty of time, but I  am working at keeping it simple. Basically, it is about:

  • How to organize your files
  • How to store them
  • How to be sure your back-up strategy is resilient to different risks

How to organize your files

There are quite a few articles or blog about the topic (this one is recommended, translate it in English if you need), but I like to put it down to something quite simple:

  • We need to have folders even if we use tags and metadata. Folders should be equal to a photoshoot and it is important to come back to what really happened the way it happened. Tags will make you losing sight of this context. They are good for search and retrieval. Any picture is always part of a photoshoot. This should not be forgotten.
  • There are different ways to organize folders but again a good principle would be per year. And in each year, per event of main category. Or by month if you really shoot a lot. Anyway, you got the point.

Smartphone complexity

The device has become for many the only camera they use. For any photographer, it can be useful as well. The way the operating system stores the data is mostly hidden to let the user browse the images in a different way they are stored. This sounds like a fair principle, focusing at the user experience – it is trying to hide some technical complexity, but it is bringing it back in a somewhat unpleasant way as you need to understand where and how the actual files are stored and manage them accordingly like any other digital asset. It is what it is, spend time and learn how to manage the folders and the images in your smartphone(s) like any other device (for Android, some information available here).

How to store them

Again, this is a topic discussed many times (this article looks like a good introduction to this topic). I would nevertheless consider the different options:

  • Hard drive of course
  • Back-up Hard drive (external or internal, or both)
  • Cloud back-up
  • Back-up 2nd computer for clouds data

About cloud provider, be sure they store the images at their original quality. It is a back-up solution, so you need to have the original stored. Read also how they use the data and where (which country) the data are stored. Have a look, typically annually, at the company behind. This is a quick check to be sure you are working with the right organization for your needs, and which can propose some long-term safety for them. You don’t want to change provider every couple of years.

Main risks

The most basic one, still ignore by many, is the hardware failure, the hard drive. The point is not whether it has become very rare with SSD or not, it is by nature something which may happen anytime. It is a risk to be considered.

Another risk, quite a painful one, is certainly to have your computer stolen, and same for your back-up drive. Really unpleasant when both are stolen at the same time as being at the same location. If you have a look at statistics, you will discover that this event if far from being unlikely considering you need to evaluate it for a life time.

Fire / flooding or other natural event look very unlikely for many but again, over your whole life, the probability to face such an event is certainly non-equal to zero even if the odds remain in your favour. But there is no reason not to be protected from this risk as well.

The last main risk would be to have your password of your cloud provider stolen, provided you don’t have double authentication or/and your device have at the same time used to delete your whole data set. Unlikely, but not impossible.

Risks management

Below a basic summary:

 Risk vs. storage solution. “N” means you are not protected against this risk. Hard Drive failure Natural disaster in your home Hardware stolen Password stolen Major natural disaster
Hard Drive N N N Y/N N
Back up Hard Drive,  external Y Y Y Y N
Back up Cloud provider Y Y Y/N N Y


In a world of digital data, I would not underestimate the risks and at the same time, it is important to keep things simple. So, I have my own strategy to be protected – as far as I can estimate them – against any threat:

  • Any digital asset is saved on my hard drive of my desktop with an auto-sync back-up with a “main stream” cloud provider (Microsoft, Amazon, Google or Apple).
  • I am saving on a yearly basis the data on an external drive that I stored in a different place (someone of my family keep it and as we meet every Christmas, it is easy to remember I need to bring the updated data)
  • I have another back-up on my laptop, auto-sync thanks to the cloud provider.

This means I have at least 4 data set stored in at least 3 different locations whereas all I need to do is a manual yearly back-up. Easy to manage. And I feel safe.