Backup Plans for the Traveling Photographer


Backing up your files on the road can be a massive headache for many photographers. When you're travelling, you have the compounded problem that you are probably shooting a lot, but you don't want to take massive amounts of kit that will weigh you down.

Well, his is a response to a question posted on the Forum about storage solutions for the traveling photographer.

[url=]Portable Hard Drive[/url] by [url=]tonyhall[/url], on Flickr

thetravelingstach wrote:

“… any insight into storing files that big, en mass, while out on the road? I do a lot of travel photography in some remote places — usually 3 – 8 weeks at a time — and at 48mgs a piece, it seems like I’d be blowing through SDHC cards (in places where I can’t just buy more cards)…”

My answer to this question is based on personal experience and is not a comprehensive review of all the storage solutions for the itinerant photographer.


If you are going to carry your laptop any way as you travel and you are lucky enough to have an internet connection, a great solution is Dropbox. Dropbox is a free service which works like a remote folder much like a folder would be on your desktop.

You can download Dropbox and install it on every machine you own, and it automatically synchronizes every time you are connected to the internet. It works pretty much like a big folder. You can save a lot of files in it, up to 2GB for the free account.

Dropbox allows you to share folders by emailing a link from the Dropbox website to the person with whom you want to share the files in a folder. If that person signs up for the service, you get a referral bonus of 500MB added to your account.

[url=]iPhone Dropbox[/url] by [url=]yto[/url], on Flickr

In my work, I can get files to an editor even when on the road, or across the city, without hassle, so there is this added benefit of having a Dropbox. The only drawback I see with Dropbox is that large files, like submissions of TIFF or Illustrator files, take a long time to synch—sometimes when I am submitting some 16 GB of files, it will take up to two days to synch my folders. But I have never had a problem with Dropbox and it has helped me with storage and space management on the road.

Epson Multimedia Storage Viewers

The Epson multimedia storage viewers have made it possible not to have to bring your laptop on a photo shoot. Epson storage viewers have a double function: as a hard drive (the latest model, the P-7000, has up to 160GB of storage capacity) and as a viewer for after hours editing.

Obviously having that much space allows a lot of mobile storage, and your photos are always with you while you’re on the road. The second advantage, being able to edit after a day’s shoot, means you can free up space on the Epson storage viewer while you are on the road, culling the files that don’t really work, and keeping only those that do.

I have worked with the Epson P-2000 (40GB), P-5000 (80GB), and now have the P-7000 as well. If I am on a very long trip of up to 8 weeks, shooting in RAW and having both the P-5000 and the P-7000 helps to lighten the load on the road. These machines are the size of a thick pocketbook, fitting easily into a side pocket of the camera bag.

[url=]dinner's served (bitches)[/url] by [url=]limaoscarjuliet[/url], on Flickr

For editing while on the road, the Epson storage viewers are indispensable. The screens are four inches wide, making it easy to see the image versus how it would be on the camera’s LCD. There is a zoom button to check for detail and sharpness.

An added bonus is being able to store a folder that contains portfolio shots in your Epson. Before the iPad, the Epson held my portfolio of 12 signature shots, and allowed me to take it to every place I went. Why is this important? If an opportunity arises for you to show someone work and they hire you, you’re ready with the portfolio if they ask.

These are just two backup solutions when on the road, that worked for me. What's worked for you?

About Author

Aloha Lavina is an Asia based photographer and writer whose photographs and writing have appeared in CNNTravel, Canon PhotoYou Magazine, Seventeen magazine, The Korea Times, and several books. You can see her work at her website and follow her on her blog.

If your are a big shooter with heavy files and a few dollars to spare, grab yourself a solid state laptop like the Mac Air or Samsung. My Samsung is lighter than the iPad, not much bigger, I have CS5 loaded and do some preliminary editing in the spare moments when I’m not shooting, it has 64G of space and 4g of RAM so with a backup portable hard drive I can go for quite some time without running short. It tucks neatly into my camera bag and doesn’t break my back. There are quite a few brands and models like this on the market so if you are taking things seriously you might consider the option.

When the Belkin iPod adapter came out in 2003 I used that to store images on my 4GB Gen 2 iPod and it worked a treat.

On a recent trip to Greece when we shot about 200GB of photos, the MacBook Air was a godsend. On an earlier trip to Spain, we shot about 50GB and saved it to the iPad, which was lucky because the camera was stolen but we had already backed up most of the images.

Online storage just makes no sense in most instances because the bandwidth just isn’t there in most parts of the world or is too expensive. It’s really only any good if you’re backing up a few, selected images but who wants to spend their holidays processing images?

Otherwise, consider an image tank. But whatever you do, backup, backup, backup.

there are so many different approaches to this and like so many things it is personal taste and dependent on where and for how long you are traveling. for me the one thing that remains constant is don’t keep everything together

I use a combination of Dropbox and an automated task on my home PC to pull the synch’d files onto a 2TB attached drive at home….freeing up Dropbox for the next batch.

I take a small notebook travelling with me and when there is an Internet connection (eg. Hotel), leave it running overnight.

Alternatively, create a VPN connection to your home PC (logmein) and FTP server, and upload your photos that way.

I did this for a 6 month world trip. Took 10k photos and sent them all home that way.

List me as another Dropbox supporter. Portable storage and laptops are pretty cheap nowadays, but with Dropbox you can access the files from anywhere that you have internet connectivity.

it sure beats the “old days” of having to email files to yourself!

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