It’s not the most exciting part of photography, but it’s one of the most important: Getting your ducks in a row! There are some important behind-the-scenes parts of photography, like backing up your photos, that you don’t want to forget. Here are five important reminders as we venture into 2023.

Snow Geese Flying in a Row
Make sure to get your ducks in row for 2023! (Or, in this case, snow geese)

1. Double-Check Your Photo Backup System

A few weeks ago, a pipe burst above the apartment next to mine. No one was occupying that unit, thankfully, but still – every room was flooded. It made me think about my backup system and reevaluate if all of my photos were as safe as I thought. Turns out I wasn’t doing everything that I could.

No building is 100% safe from hazards like natural disasters, fire, or theft. And no hard drive is immortal. If you’re not following the 3-2-1 rule, you’re just delaying the inevitable day of disaster. (The 3-2-1 rule says to keep three copies of your files, stored on two different types of media, with one of your backups off-site.)

Make sure that your 3-2-1 backup system applies to everything that you don’t want to lose – old shots on film, family photos, your XMP files, and so on. If you’re not already backing up your photos properly, take this as the sign you’re been waiting for. Get it done today.

Nikon Z6 with 14-30mm f4 Sample Landscape Photo
NIKON Z 6 + NIKKOR Z 14-30mm f/4 S @ 14mm, ISO 100, 1/4, f/8.0

2. Save Your Camera Setup File

Just like hard drives, all cameras will fail eventually. Likewise, you might end up changing a setting by accident that throws the camera out of whack.

Whatever the case, it’s useful to store a backup of your “correct” camera settings. Almost all modern cameras have a Save/Load Settings option in the menu, which creates a file that you can drag onto your computer for later use. (I recommend also keeping a copy on your laptop in case you need it while traveling.)

Considering how quick it is to create this file, there’s no reason to put it off any longer.

Interesting landscape photo of light and clouds at sunset
Sony A1 + FE 70-200mm F4 G OSS @ 200mm, ISO 100, 1/2000, f/7.1

3. Start Using Unique File Names

Most of us have probably taken well over 10,000 photos by now. (Henri Cartier-Bresson would be proud.) But on most digital cameras, the standard file name – like DSC_1234 – starts to repeat itself after 9999 photos. 

So, ask yourself: Do you have multiple photos with identical file names? That’s just a disaster waiting to happen. If you ever drag them into the same folder on your hard drive and accidentally click “replace,” you’ll lose one of them completely.

I’ve already written an article called How to Avoid Duplicate File Names that covers the easiest way to fix this issue, including renaming your old photos quickly. Now’s the time to fix this if you haven’t already!

Black and White Winter Photograph
NIKON D800E + 70-200mm f/4 @ 200mm, ISO 100, 1/1250, f/8.0

4. Sell Your Old Equipment Sooner Rather Than Later

Old camera equipment usually decreases in price on the used market over time. A Nikon D500 that might sell for $1500 on eBay a few years ago is closer to $900 today (https://ebay.us/xjuohz)

So, if you have any old camera equipment to sell, don’t keep waiting until “next month” arrives. You’re just losing value as time goes by. You’ll have to sell it eventually, so why not just do it now?

You might find that you have a lot of value stored in old cameras, lenses, and accessories that you’re never actually going to use. The sooner you go through your equipment, the more you’ll get paid. And you’ll get a head start on Spring cleaning while you’re at it.

Two Landscape Photographers with Tripods at Sunrise from an Overlook
Sony A1 + FE 20mm F1.8 G @ 20mm, ISO 100, 1/5, f/16.0

5. Back up Your Lightroom Catalog (or Similar)

While you’re in the process of backing up your photos, don’t forget to save a recent copy of your Lightroom catalog. The same applies if you’re using a different cataloging software instead of Lightroom.

Maybe you’re the type of photographer who always backs up when you close out of the software, or regularly backs up once a week or so. If so, I commend you! If not, it’s time to change that. 

I recently lost my regular Lightroom catalog when my computer failed, but I had a backup from just a few days prior that saved my bacon. Otherwise, it would have been a long process to re-edit a lot of my old photos.

Warm and Cool Colors in Aspen Trees
NIKON D810 + TAMRON 15-30mm F2.8 @ 15mm, ISO 64, 1/60, f/16.0

Conclusion

Maybe you’re a Type A photographer who always remembers to do the “housekeeping” parts of photography. Or maybe you’re like me. Either way, I hope this article was a helpful reminder to safeguard your photos and keep your photography running smoothly in the new year.

Feel free to share some reminders of your own in the comments section! I’m sure that other readers will find them useful, and so will I. (You caught me; this article is secretly a way for me to be reminded of things I’ve forgotten to do…)

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