What’s the Best Solution for Managing Digital Photos and Videos?

By | November 28th, 2017

Digital Asset Management (DAM)

If you have spent any time, as we have, talking to photographers and videographers about how they back up and archive their digital photos and videos, then you know that there’s no one answer or solution that users have discovered to meet their needs.

Based on what we’ve heard, visual media artists are still searching for the best combination of software, hardware, and cloud storage to preserve their media, and to be able to search, retrieve, and reuse that media as easily as possible.

Yes, there are a number of solutions out there, and some users have created combinations of hardware, software, and services to meet their needs, but we have met few who claim to be satisfied with their solution for digital asset management (DAM), or expect that they will be using the same solution in just a year or two.

We’d like to open a dialog with professionals and serious amateurs to learn more about what you’re doing, what you’d like to do, and how Backblaze might fit into that solution.

We have a bit of cred in this field, as we currently have hundreds of petabytes of digital media files in our data centers from users of Backblaze Backup and Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage. We want to make our cloud services as useful as possible for photographers and videographers.

Tell Us Both Your Current Solution and Your Dream Solution

To get started, we’d love to hear from you about how you’re managing your photos and videos. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional, your experiences are valuable and will help us understand how to provide the best cloud component of a digital asset management solution.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Are you using direct-attached drives, NAS (Network-Attached Storage), or offline storage for your media?
  • Do you use the cloud for media you’re actively working on?
  • Do you back up or archive to the cloud?
  • Did you have a catalog or record of the media that you’ve archived that you use to search and retrieve media?
  • What’s different about how you work in the field (or traveling) versus how you work in a studio (or at home)?
  • What software and/or hardware currently works for you?
  • What’s the biggest impediment to working in the way you’d really like to?
  • How could the cloud work better for you?

Please Contribute Your Ideas

To contribute, please answer the following two questions in the comments below or send an email to [email protected]. Please comment or email your response by December 22, 2017.

  1. How are you currently backing up your digital photos, video files, and/or file libraries/catalogs? Do you have a backup system that uses attached drives, a local network, the cloud, or offline storage media? Does it work well for you?
  2. Imagine your ideal digital asset backup setup. What would it look like? Don’t be constrained by current products, technologies, brands, or solutions. Invent a technology or product if you wish. Describe an ideal system that would work the way you want it to.

We know you have opinions about managing photos and videos. Bring them on!

We’re soliciting answers far and wide from amateurs and experts, weekend video makers and well-known professional photographers. We have a few amateur and professional photographers and videographers here at Backblaze, and they are contributing their comments, as well.

Once we have gathered all the responses, we’ll write a post on what we learned about how people are currently working and what they would do if anything were possible. Look for that post after the beginning of the year.

Don’t Miss Future Posts on Media Management

We don’t want you to miss our future posts on photography, videography, and digital asset management. To receive email notices of blog updates (and no spam, we promise), enter your email address using the Join button at the top of the page.

Come Back on Thursday for our Photography Post (and a Special Giveaway, too)

This coming Thursday we’ll have a blog post entitled An Introduction to Managing Digital Photos and Videos about the different ways that photographers and videographers are currently managing their digital media assets.

Plus, you’ll have the chance to win a valuable hardware/software combination for digital media management that I am sure you will appreciate. (You’ll have to wait until Thursday to find out what the prize is, but it has a total value of over $700.)

Past Posts on Photography, Videography, and Digital Asset Management

We’ve written a number of blog posts about photos, videos, and managing digital assets. We’ve posted links to some of them below.

Four Tips To Help Photographers and Videographers Get The Most From B2

Four Tips To Help Photographers and Videographers Get The Most From B2

How to Back Up Your Mac’s Photos Library

How to Back Up Your Mac’s Photos Library

How To Back Up Your Flickr Library

How To Back Up Your Flickr Library

Getting Video Archives Out of Your Closet

Getting Video Archives Out of Your Closet

B2 Cloud Storage Roundup

B2 Cloud Storage Roundup

Backing Up Photos While Traveling

Backing up photos while traveling – feedback

Should I Use an External Drive for Backup?

Should I use an external drive for backup?

How to Connect your Synology NAS to B2

How to Connect your Synology NAS to B2

Roderick Bauer

Roderick Bauer

Content Director at Backblaze
Roderick enjoys sailing on San Francisco Bay, motorcycling, cooking, reading, and writing about tech and culture. He is Content Director for Backblaze.

Follow Roderick on:
Twitter: @rodbauer | LinkedIn | Google+ | Medium | Flickr | SmugMug
Category:  Backing Up
  • Scott Weintraub

    I’m an amateur photographer with about 1.2T of photos.

    I back up high quality (not full size) to Google photos for sharing and also back up all of it to Backblaze.

    I use lightroom exclusively for library management, and use it plus photoshop for editing.

    The new lightroom CC is interesting, but I don’t want to pay for essentially another backup. If, miraculously, Adobe and Backblaze could allow me to use my Backblaze backup as my Lightroom CC cloud service, that would probably get me to work in the cloud. Since raws don’t change anyway, its not a violation of the backup concept.

  • Steve Molin

    What am I doing now? After an “event” (which might cover several days) I copy the images to an external HD with two partitions in RAID (mirror) in btrfs (for silent bit degrade protection); cull bad pics; rename using jhead to include date and time in the filename; upload the batch to Amazon Prime Photos (free unlimited photos for Prime subscribers) and create an ‘album’.

    How can Backblaze tempt me to change? What I’d prefer is a filesystem-like view of my files; that is, a root, folders, subfolders, file entries with name/date/size/etc, and of course the files themselves. It should be compliant with standard protocols so I can use familiar tools like scp, rsync and rbackup. Any client software must be open source; must run on Linux; must be available from trusted sources like the distribution repositories; should not use Java, NET or Mono; and should install in user space. The Dropbox model is a good starting point.

    Bonus points are awarded for snapshots such as btrfs and zfs offer; and for the ability to expose a given file or folder over HTTP for sharing (I can bring my own gallery software, of course).

    Thanks for listening.

  • I am the technical director of a small photo/video team in NYC and have been spending a lot of time researching digital asset management options over the past year and refining our system from a bootstrapping perspective that prioritizes cost effectiveness over robustness at this point, but still maintaining a 3-2-1 backup strategy for all of our content at all stages of our workflow.

    We start in the field by recording our photos and video onto SD cards which immediately get dumped onto two separate SanDisk SSD external drives before wrapping any aspect of the shoot. These drives and SD cards stay on our person at all times until we are able to get back to our studio and are able to back them up to our archive external HDs.

    We dump the raw footage onto the archive HDs immediately while keeping everything on the 2 SSD drives to for processing since we use laptops that don’t have enough space for all of our active projects at once.

    Both the external SSDs and the archive HDs backup to our Backblaze account so that we have a cloud backup of everything at every stage of a project in case of a catastrophic loss of all local drives due to disaster or theft.

    The biggest problem with this setup so far is that we have to keep the archive drives connected to a laptop as often as possible to enable them to continually backup all the raw footage and we often fall behind on cloud backups because we can’t keep the laptop connected 24/7 while we are working and traveling. We are planning to get a dedicated desktop workstation sometime over the next year so that the archive drives can always stay connected to that computer for 24/7 backups.

    After that I plan to build an unRaid NAS so that we can grow our archive drive array without having to maintain 1+1 copies of every drive and it is easier to pop drives in and out in the event of a drive failure. We will migrate to B2 once we have this setup, but unfortunately it’s down the list a ways in terms of asset allocation over the next year so we will be continuing with the existing setup for the foreseeable future.

    Backblaze is the backbone of our backup strategy and while we hope that we never have to use it for recovery, it is an absolutely critical part of ensuring that no local disasters can wipe out our archives.

  • Pingback: Guide to Digital Media Management for Photographers and Videographers()

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  • Andrew Allsop

    Question 1: How are you currently backing up your digital photos, video files, and/or file libraries/catalogs? Do you have a backup system that uses attached drives, a local network, the cloud, or offline storage media? Does it work well for you?

    1) I keep my photos on an external hard drive. (HD1)

    2) The external HD is backed up to Backblaze

    3) Also backed up to another external HD, (HD2 below)

    4) Photos are also indexed in Lightroom but this is rather haphazard.

    5) My Apple Photos Library and my Lightroom Catalogue are both on HD2.

    Very occasionally I run Time Machine

    Question 2: Imagine your ideal digital asset backup setup. What would it look like? Don’t be constrained by current products, technologies, brands, or solutions. Invent a technology or product if you wish. Describe an ideal system that would work the way you want it to.

    My ideal system would consist of:

    1) After a photo session RAW photos immediately sent to Backblaze backup from the camera. This to be done whilst travelling home direct from the camera.

    2) When processing at home:

    A) Cull & Tag non-keepers through the app PhotoMechanic.

    B) Process photos

    C) Backup processed to HD2

    D) Backup processed to Backblaze

    E) Delete from Backblaze RAW images that were culled in (A)

    F) Backblaze never delete RAW files except those in (E) unless instructed to do so.

  • Max M Fuhlendorf

    Q——->How are you currently backing up your digital photos, video files, and/or file libraries/catalogs? Do you have a backup system that uses attached drives, a local network, the cloud, or offline storage media? Does it work well for you?
    A——->I have a local backup, in a separate USB hard drive that is kept disconnected when not backing up files. The archives in this disk are checksummed using CORZ checksum utility, and after every backup a custom script verifies the checksums to maintain data integrity. Also, all my drives are backblazed.

    Q——->Imagine your ideal digital asset backup setup. What would it look like? Don’t be constrained by current products, technologies, brands, or solutions. Invent a technology or product if you wish. Describe an ideal system that would work the way you want it to.
    A——->It would be secure, fast, and flexible: the software should be able to handle and synchronize a local offline mirror and a offsite cloud backup seamlessly; it should also store metadata about all the files, preferably a SHA1 or similar checksum along with modification date, etc, to guarantee integrity across the online copy, offfline backup and offsite backup, with constant monitoring of intentional file modifications (with the creation of new checksums and metadata after file changes). The software should offer options for full verification of files checksummed across online files and backups, including scheduled automated verification, and the whole filesystem’s metadata (including checksums) should be saved in an open format such as XML, and not contained in proprietary files. As the all of the above makes clear, I believe dearly that SILENT DATA CORRUPTION prevention should be a top priority, as it’s frequently not in most current media backup schemes.

  • Le Balladeer

    > How are you currently backing up your digital photos, video files, and/or file libraries/catalogs? Do you have a backup system that uses attached drives, a local network, the cloud, or offline storage media? Does it work well for you?

    CrashPlan. Also periodically to an external hard disk. There are some photos and videos that I don’t want to lose, no matter what. They are in a Dropbox folder and that folder is backed up to Tarsnap every morning.

    > Imagine your ideal digital asset backup setup. What would it look like? Don’t be constrained by current products, technologies, brands, or solutions. Invent a technology or product if you wish. Describe an ideal system that would work the way you want it to.

    I don’t backup much. Currently I backing up around 45GB data. Of course I have a lot more data than that but I backup rest of the data to a local external drive only and not to a cloud server.

    So dream setup would be for that 45 GB (which, let’s say, increases at most 2-4 GB a year) that are my personal data that I can’t get from anywhere else once lost.

    1. I would want to pay as you go service because “unlimited” is pointless for me as I don’t need it and I won’t need for the foreseeable feature. Here’s looking at you B2.

    2. What I would rather want is: really really good retention – as a matter of fact since it’s pay as you go retention isn’t an additional feature it’s implicit – but I should be able to dictate my retention policy e.g. “keep yearly, monthly for last one year, and weekly for last one month” (So, this point is basically my mild obligatory jibe at BackBlaze’s ridiculous retention policy for the personal backup product)

    3. I would want really really polished, light weight, just works kinda GUI app with that pay as you go service – yes, I can pick a service and then I shop around for an app that service, but no I don’t want to deal with that. I want a hassle-free way for me to get started with backing up my data. (So basically BackBlaze, it’s very nice of your to point me to all the third party apps that work with B2 but I would rather want either personal backup app to work with B2 or something similar made by you guys)

    4. I would want no bells and whistles in that app – I would just want basic UI and if there needs to be space for bells and whistles it should hidden in some advanced menu or so

    5. I want serious de-dup coupled, incremental backup, and compression – yes, this is very important since I am looking at pay as you go.

    6. I want to be able to look at snapshots in history, I want to control how many snapshots should be there, I want to remove certain snapshots, I want to merge certain snapshots as an union and keep just one

    7. I want to control backup frequency and yes I want the ability to watch my files in real time and also the ability to not do that i.e. a default frequency but I should be able to change it if I want.

    8. Client side encrypted – this is extremely important (and no, I don’t want my service provider to ask for my passphrase so that I can get a hard disk of data. No sir, make it happen in a such way that even if I want my data in a disk from you you sent me my data encrypted and your app should let me restore it on the same machine or different with my passphrase. It will be better if two levels of encryption is possible – one: service user/pwd i.e. credentials and another optional method should be an extra passphrase that never goes to server in any form (maybe show a million prompts before that if I lose this key my backup is kaput).

    9. There is no point of me keep doing the backup if when I need something restore fails – so yes, I want a feature in the app (I mentioned in point 3 above) which lets me check integrity of my backups without actually restoring and also a feature for dry runs.

    10. And no, no “restore” from website only. For heaven’s sake, no. Let me restore using the app, please! And let me have an option to restore either where the file was or at location I specify.

    11. Preferably app should provide me a mountable backup option.

    12. 2F security for online interface – login/recovery etc.

    PS. Why not talk to BorgBackup guys. They are doing awesome work and a lot of these feature are out of the box in that app. Maybe write a GUI on top of it and open source it which will actually bolster customer confidence if they can actually see the code for things like client side encryption etc. This is just wishful thinking I guess.

    In addition to that, I want to do periodic backups to:

    1. My personal backup server which a cheap storage VPS in Europe.

    2. Store on an external drive (which I am considering replacing with a NAS, but maybe as of now I don’t have that much data to backup) – as of now this happens once a week (but this is a manual backup process that I do with SuperDuper! and the frequency varies at times)

    3. My TimeMachine backup that goes to another drive which is always kept on my desk (changed to once every 24 hours) and this external drive is different from the external drive mentioned above which in turn is different from the drive mentioned on which I keep my non-critical offline only data. I just use three hard disk to keep the data separate and it didn’t cost much.

  • Dan

    I am a “serious amateur” that shoots with the following
    setup:

    2 iphones (my wife and I)

    2 Sony Alpha APS-C cameras

    Windows 10 PC

    Google Picasa for photo management (I am still looking for a
    replacement, looking at Adobe Lightroom, ACDSee, and digiKam, but none will import/covert
    my Picasa albums).

    I import my photos from my Sony Alphas using Picasa’s
    importer, which puts each photo in a folder by data (YYYY-MM-DD).

    I import my photos from my iPhones to my Windows computers using
    PhotoSync app and window server software from touchbyte GmbH. I have a custom
    rule to follow the same import folder format as Picsa’s importer (YYYY-MM-DD).
    I delete the photos off the iphones after importing.

    I use Google Photos to share photos. I use the free “lossy”
    version of Google photos. I run the Google photos backup client on my PC so all
    my photos are uploaded to Google photos for access online and via my iPhone.

    I use Backblaze to back-up all the original photos up from my
    PC.

    Pros: This is a very cost-effective way to back up photos

    Cons: If I paid for iCloud, I could share photos to my Apple
    TV and with other iPhone users more easily. I could leave all the photos on the
    phone and never delete them off. I would still copy them to my home computer
    from time to time using PhotoSync. Most of my friends and relatives use the
    iPhone.

    It would be nice to have an iPhone app that copies the original
    resolution photos and videos from my iPhone to the cloud service and then down
    to my PC. I don’t think you can do this with Google photos, maybe iCloud allows
    this.

  • Been using three back up solutions for a few years now:
    1. Backblaze
    2. My website has my ENTIRE hi res photos
    3. An external backup drive

    I feel pretty confident that if one place fails I have two other ways to retrieve my photography.

    The ONE thing I’d like to see Backblaze do is give us access to each file much like Google Drive does. Let us see each photo. Other than that, I’ve been extremely happy with Backblaze. The service has helped me recover photos several times when I’ve inadvertently deleted a file I desperately needed.

  • oregondean

    CURENT BACKUP STRATEGY

    We use a 5-3-2 strategy for our collection of 10TB of video and 100GB or so of photos collected over the past 10 years. We are a small rare disease non-profit that produces live video for web viewing and livestreams on one MacBook. All of our video is researcher or family conferences. We have up to 3 cameras of raw data plus the produced video for each event, which are typically 2 days long.

    We are Mac based. We bring back a working hard drive from each event and copy the data to our attached Thunderbolt RAID 1+0 for local access and editing. We use Final Cut Pro so the source video is never modified, just the relatively small (MB) project fees that are the instruction on how to create a finished video. Final videos are not stored locally – they end up on Vimeo. We can quickly recreate them if we ever need a local copy. Our Video RAID is cloned to a local drive that we rotate to offsite (unconnected) storage in a nearby city. We had wanted to use Crashplan for this – but you know that story!

    We have two time machine drives for our photos and other documents on our main laptop. One is Thunderbolt attached and the other is a wireless Time Capsule. We rotate a copy of of the Thunderbolt drive to our offset local location.

    Our laptop (photos) and external RAID (videos) are also archived by Backblaze. We’ve been uploading on a 2MB pipe since June and just about have everything up there except what we captured in November, which will take another month or so. Our downstream pipe is 12 times the size of our upload so recovery would be faster. And frankly, we’d use the local offsite drives first so restore time from Backblaze is not a primary concern. We have used Backblaze while on the road for a few files, including a 357GB file that we were luck enough to download a 250Mbps link. And FWIW, I always travel with a fully clone of my laptop on a separate SSD drive that is not susceptible to magnets (the laptop is SSB as well).

    This system seems to work well for us. Maybe not so good for Backblaze since we have 12TB of storage under one account. ;)

    WANTS & WISHES

    I’d love to have a CrashPlan style bidirectional shared local but offsite with user supplied drives so I don’t have to be manually swapping drive offsite. I’d want that local backup to be fully bootable and include historical archives (like time machine) – but even a separate offsite bootable clone plus separate time machine style historical archive would be great. As I mentioned, our video files are huge but they do not change so they are ideal for historical archiving. The challenge is that the onsite backup would have to span multiple drives due to its size. Oh, and allowing my offsite partner to access an encrypted backup on my in-house drive is only fair.

    So I have to admit I was constrained by technology and past experiences because there are lots of good things that have been done … my general advice is to take the best of Time Machine (historical archives that are automatic and easy to set up), CrashPlan (local offsite bi-directional encrypted sharing … and also automatic and easy to set up), BackBlaze (unlimited cloud storage with efficient downloads that is automatic and easy to set up), and Drobo (for onsite and offsite local) where different size drives can be swapped in easily and quickly to expand the array capacity.

    If the crash plan style local business model where I carry the cost and operational burden of the hardware, could be combined with Backblaze’s excellent cloud services we’d be well on our way.

    The missing piece to Backblaze’s model is quick user-cost efficient restore of _massive_data_sets_ – typically via a “borrowed” hard drive that you populate on demand, ship to us and we return. As you know this is labor and inventory intensive … so it’s costly. But it’s insurance so hopefully most of us do not have to call on this. For me, 18TB of data (if you count the 6TB Time Machine which BB does not currently archive) would cost 5 x $189 (5 drives at 4TB each) = $1,000 to restore so I’ve instead invested about $600 in hard drives that are stored offsite, available within an hour or two, and can be live less than an hour or two after that. Currently only if the long promised promised massive earthquake hits me and my offsite drives 10 miles from here, or if I am on the road, does Backblaze become my primary restore. Since the offsite storage is not connected to the internet it is not susceptible to power surges.

  • kejaed

    Currently, the one canonical copy of my photos is in iCloud, and it scares me (I also use the free tier of Google Photos to have compressed versions there too for a worst-case scenario).

    I have been shooting digital since 2003, and have a library of 259 GB (41036 photos and 1446 videos) as of today. Previously, I was working with a 3-2-1+ system. All photos on MacBook Pro, backed up to Time Machine hard drive attached to a router, and then to Backblaze, as well as being synced with iCloud. Then the computer died, and all the photos still lived on in iCloud. iCloud was a key component of the system because it allowed me to have complete access to all my photos from any device (including all iDevices in the house). That MacBook Pro had a SDD+HDD combo (in place of DVD Drive) so I had a large spinny disk to keep the photos on.

    With the move to SSDs on MacBook Pros, and our new computer being the base model, the full Photo Library could no longer be stored locally on the machine because of storage limitations, so I have had to just leave it in iCloud only with no local backup option.

    In the future, my wish list of requirements would be:
    – All photos available on all devices (via ‘cloud’)
    – Photos be backed up in full resolution in more than one location.

    I wouldn’t require the ‘more than one location’ to include at home, multiple cloud locations would do. What would be great right now is if I could directly back up my photos from my iCloud Photo Library to Backblaze, that would let me sleep better at night.

  • grandonia

    We (our family) loved picasa… tagging people, annotating, sharing, editing, collating, etc… but picasa is gone… is there a way to have a clod solution like picasa to organize, edit, etc our pictures?