How to back up your photos like a Photographer

As an aspiring photographer and mother to four, I know the benefit of backing up your photos especially when it comes to our digital memories. There is value in backing up our family’s precious memories. Today, you will learn the 3-2-1 Rule to easily backup your digital photos in 2020.

(You never know when something disastrous can happen; many people have shared their story of how a house fire destroyed everything still the most devastating loss was their family legacy of photos especially special events you can never redo. I do not want that to be YOU or ME! Here is how many professional photographers back up their photos.)

backup your photos using free software

HOW? Back-Up Your Photos with the 3-2-1 RULE

I use the 3-2-1 backup rule for all my personal/biz photos and video files.

Back up your images in at least three areas which could be two storage devices and one OFF site (like cloud storage) at a minimum!

3.  Make THREE copies of your images – just copy the ENTIRE folder of your images on your computer and make two more copies.

2.  Leave ONE copy on your desktop. Cut/paste ONE copy on your external hard drive and/or USB storage device.

1.  Cut/paste ONE copy onto a cloud storage space such as Google Photos, Amazon Photos, Dropbox.

321 rule_backing up your photos


Step One: Prep your photos before you back up

Prior to backing up ALL your digital images, it would be a wise decision to go ahead and prep your albums with a thorough weeding out of images and a proper organization system.


1. Cull (weed through) your images

Ok, so you have captured at least 1000 images from your son’s first tee-ball game, another 500 from a day at the park, and 5000 from day-to-day activities. Your phone is screaming “CRITICAL STORAGE” issue.

Now what?

If they matter to you then you should cull them THEN back them up! (You could also just backup today and CULL once a month or once a year.

Any professional photographer will immediately back up their images then CULL them which means they will sift through ALL the images deleting the worse and keeping the best. I am assuming most moms today have most of their images on a smartphone, therefore, culling them before backing up 3,000 images it will eliminate the 1,500 blurry selfies taken by your toddler.

By deleting the ones that were so-so or absolutely no good, will leave you with a much smaller and easier to manage photo album with the very best images.

tech_computer_pink_back up your files

2. Create a filing system for backing up your memories

You can easily lose images on your computer without a good storage filing system. Using folders and metadata will help you find images quicker and easier.

“A place for everything and everything in it’s place.”

If you are saving your photographs and video files all willy nilly then it will be a hard time finding that precious close up of your daughter from her ballet recital three years ago.

Here is a simple filing system utilizing folders within your file explorer (PC) on a computer.

First, create a BIG category and niche down to smaller categories. I like the use of years, months, days, and events.

  • Start with a folder labeled with the year the media was captured = 2020
    • Within the year folder create a NEW folder(s) with the individual months = 01.2020; 02.2020
      • Within the month folder create a NEW folder(s) for the day and event = 03.16.2020_Quarantine

Filing System_321 Rule

Here is a sample filing system for your photo organization.

Once you have mastered using File Explorer and regularly organizing your photos from your smartphone, cameras, and smart devices then you can move to meta tags and attributes. You will be able to label images with “ocean”, “dog”, or “baseball” so they will be easier to search and find when you need an image fast.

Side Note: Cloud storage devices utilize very smart algorithms and artificial intelligence that immediately recognize specifics in your images so you can search them IMMEDIATELY. I think that is pretty cool and creepy. So make sure, if you utilize a cloud storage device that you don’t mind these images being indexed (i.e. “toilets” could bring up some interesting images if you captured a toddler’s potty training days).

Step Two: Copy/Paste your photos FILE FOLDER on TWO media devices

At this point, you have can back up your images to your computer’s, laptop’s or smartphone’s internal hard drive so they are safe on these devices – for now! Again, all it takes is one spilled coffee cup, one drop of the phone, or a hard drive CRASH to lose all the images saved on these devices.

Hopefully, you were able to create a wonderful filing system within your File Explorer therefore all you have to do is copy the BIG category file and save it to an external media storage device.

⇒ External Storage Devices:

    • USB
      • Small and compact
      • Easy to use
      • Capacity has increased
    • SD cards
      • Small and compact
      • Used in most cameras
      • Mini or Micro SD cards can be used in smartphones and cameras
      • Easy to store for safekeeping
    • CD or Blue Ray disc
      • People may have these already on hand
      • Slim and easy to store in fireproof safes
      • Small capacity but you can be very specific and label them clearly
    • External Hard Drive
      • “My personal favorite”
      • Capacity is wonderful and for most people, you only need one or two
      • Can be very slim but normally bulky like a small hardcover book
      • Fast and easy to organize data

external hard drive_back up your photos

I personally use the following products:

back up your photos

Step Three: Back up your photos to ONE cloud platform

You can have an automatic backup for your phone using one of the below options so your digital day-to-day snapshots are always safe in the cloud.

⇒ Cloud Storage Options (FREE and PAID versions available):

    • Dropbox
      • Used it when it first came out but have since migrated to free options such as Google Photos and Amazon Photos.
      • Dropbox offers one free option and two paid.
    • Amazon Photos
      • Use it in conjunction with an Amazon Prime account.
      • Amazon Photos offers unlimited, full-resolution photo storage, plus 5 GB of video storage for Prime members.
    • Google Photos
      • Securely back-up your photos and videos to Google Photos and enjoy them from any device.
      • You have Unlimited free storage at high quality.
    • Google One
      • Perhaps you already know about Google Photos and you want to back up your RAW images and 4K footage. Google is now offering a new option of storage called Google One. Pricing starts at $1.99 a month for 100 GB.
    • Google Drive
      • Store, share, and collaborate on files and folders from any mobile device, tablet, or computer.
    • iCloud (Now available on Windows)
      • Keep all your photos, videos, documents, and more up to date on your PC.

Step Four: Protect your devices

The last step is optional but highly recommended – PROTECT your memories!!!

We use and love Malwarebytes and have been using it for years on our desktop computers, laptops, and smartphones.

Malwarebytes* is a FREE scanner that cleans your PC in just a few minutes and secures your PC, files, and privacy 24/7. We have used this software protection program for years and have upgraded to the paid version to protect our PC. They also recommend the 3,2,1 Rule and explain it further.


The key to this article is to motivate you to take your data seriously, specifically, your family photos and films. However, if this article has inspired you to take a proactive approach in protecting ALL your data. Here are some further resources.

If you own a PC and would like to know more about the 3-2-1 rule, PCWorld has a great article that goes more in-depth on specifics.

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