You know that sinking feeling you get when you go to open a file and it's not there or the entire hard drive just won't mount? Your mind races. You wonder where you put that backup. Wait! Did you back that up?
It is usually an event like this that finally makes all those articles about backing up make so much sense. Well, if you haven't paid heed thus far perhaps this article will finally give you that extra push. At least as far as Lightroom is concerned. That's it. Start small and build up to full backups!
Before we look at what Lightroom provides for backing up we should touch on the general need for backing up your data overall. The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), with funding from the Library of Congress, has put together an amazing site that every digital photographer should visit regularly, dpBestFlow.org. For our purposes you should take a look at the backup sections for a complete discussion of backup philosophy. Develop the mindset that no file exists until it exists in three places (and one of those needs to be offsite!).
Now, back to Lightroom. There are two separate backup issues when dealing with Lightroom; the catalog and the original source image files. Lightroom let's you make a backup copy of your image files while you import them.
Choose a backup location in the Import dialog and Lightroom will make a second copy of the files there. I suggest that this location be on a different drive from where you are storing the files used in the catalog.
One issue with this is that Lightroom makes a copy of the files using their original names. So if you are renaming them during import it may be challenging to match them up later should you need to recover a file. Lightroom 3 Note: This has been addressed in Lightroom 3 Beta. Files you choose to backup during import will be backed up using the same renaming conventions you choose for the imported files.
Even with this provision I recommend you regularly make a backup of your source image files as they are saved on the hard drive.
The Lightroom catalog is another file that needs to be backed up. This is the file with the extension .lrcat and is the database that houses all the information about your images and the work you have done. Lightroom lets you choose a regular backup routine for this file in the catalog settings.
Your choices here are:
- Once a month
- Once a week
- Once a day
- Every time Lightroom opens
- the Next time Lightroom opens
What you choose depends on how much security you want. I generally choose to backup every time I open the catalog. Choose the option that best fits your workflow. However, I strongly caution against choosing Never.
So where is the backup? You get to choose that when the backup dialog appears upon opening the catalog.
Again, choose a location on a different drive than your working catalog.
Lightroom 3 Note: This seemingly backward approach of backing up BEFORE you work on your images has been addressed in Lightroom 3 Beta. Now you are asked to backup when closing the catalog (i.e. - AFTER you have worked in the catalog.
So take advantage of the backup resources Lightroom provides. Take a look at the dpBestFlow.org site and adopt an overall backup discipline. Never have that sinking feeling again when a file goes missing!