Digital photography is a hungry beast

If there is a downside to shooting digital,  it has to be the need for a reliable, scalable backup system.

Scariest abbreviation you should all know is MTTF–Mean Time To Failure.

About 10 years ago, my Powerbook’s hard drive was 6G. Today, the capacity of my one compact flash card alone is bigger than that!

Such is the voracious appetite for storage of our cameras. And mind you, I don’t even shoot RAW all the time.

I came across this Western Digital 1 TB My Passport Essential SE Portable USB 2.0 external hard drive for only $200.

It is BUS powered. That simply means your computer can power the hard drive and you don’t need to plug in an AC adapter to spin it up.

I am considering this seriously for my MacBook Pro to use with Time Machine. I think it would be ideal since my internal hard drive has a 500GB capacity.

Those of you who are impatient and have a “wait problem”, this little 250 GB hard drive by LaCie looks promising. Also BUS powered, it will transfer your files faster if you are on a Mac and have Firewire 800. The internal drive spins at 5400 RPM just like the Western Digital above. But the connector is the key.

Before you go off on me about spending, I already did my part to stimulate the economy, now it’s your turn.

Things You Absolutely Need

There are some things you simply can’t put off or be stingy about, if you are shooting with a digital camera.

Storage space or hard drive space

It would be like owning a gun and not having bullets. Fans of the Andy Griffith show can appreciate how his deputy Barney Fife was only given one bullet which he couldn’t even load in his revolver.

A Spare Monitor or even a CRT Monitor

Don’t forget also if your monitor dies, you have no choice. Even if it’s after hours, you’ll need a monitor. Pray you have friends who can loan you a monitor so you can make the deadline. Better yet, keep that CRT monitor that is big and heavy, but don’t forget to keep that VGA to DVI connector. You won’t be able to connect that heavy, power-hungry beast to your computer without that connector. It’s probably a good idea to keep track of these pesky connectors whenever you get a new computer. Nothing worse than having state-of-the-art hardware only to be stymied by a cheap $10 part like a connector.

Spare Camera Batteries

I’ve said often enough, “Without battery power, all you have is a ugly necklace.”

Memory Cards

These are so cheap now, you have no excuse. The more you have the more options you give yourself.

I usually shoot RAW and jpegs. I archive the RAW and only work on the jpegs.

No sense slowing the workflow. Having the RAW files is a good option but again,  delete those pictures that are obviously misfires. Those shots of your belly, feet etc.

Here are my other thoughts on “some myths about Digital Photography” in general.

10 thoughts on “Digital photography is a hungry beast”

  1. Oh yeah. CDs for archive. Pretty much useless when they are never archived correctly. Might as well be coaster.

    When I first arrived at The Aspen Times, the photo archives were a disaster at best. some of the CDs weren’t labled, photos only had “Untitled-X” as names, no caption information, no way to search and there were no copies.

    It took me 6 months opening a dozen or more photos a day to caption, tone, rename, and then re-save with new names organized by creation date. After which I burned two CD copies, labeled the CDs and used a free program by Iomega called FindIt, to catalog them. What an absolute pain. The paper didn’t find it necessary so they wouldn’t pay for an archiving program. But about once a day I would get asked “I need a file photo of X, can you find it?” But the archive wasn’t important.

    When we went digital, we only saved the edited photos submitted for publication. Our raw shoots were our responsibility.

    And now that there are no photogs working there, I bet the system is going to pot.

  2. Paul,
    Thanks for commenting. Since we have similar backgrounds with a leaning towards photojournalism, we are not entirely in disagreement.

    I don’t advocate JPEG or RAW or vice-versa.

    I wish I had a time machine to go back and shoot everything I did while at the newspaper in RAW. But when you are the pioneer on staff, about 10 years, I didn’t know any better.

    It’s like I said, there is the practical side to things. I wasn’t provided with a fast powerbook back then. Shooting RAW for everything would have been painfully slow.

    You know as well as I the rigors of deadlines working for a paper. As I write this, I’m always wondering in the back of my mind, how big will my next hard drive purchase have to be.

    Remember we used to archive to zip disks, then CD, then DVDs? So now you not only have to figure out your scalable backup scheme but you have to remember to transfer those files as you abandon that storage medium.

  3. Hi Peter,

    As always the Raw/Jpeg controversy sparks up.

    ALL my work, even my work at my former paper, was shot in raw. I just liked the flexibility over the Jpeg. Especially the ability to color correct my white balance I forgot to change.

    Yes. I shoot manual. Manual everything pretty much. I’m old school when it comes to shooting. But that’s a different blog.

    And how does this relate to your blog? Raw takes up more space.


    Thanks for the informative article.

  4. Thanks for the response! 🙂 When you put it like that it makes sense. I wasn’t thinking about who you were shooting for when I asked that question.

    Keep shooting and sharing your stories! I love to feel the love for photography!

    Dwayne D.C. Tucker II
    Nassau, Bahamas

  5. Hello Dwayne,
    Thanks for reading and leaving your comment.

    In answer to your question about why I shoot both RAW and jpeg but only process the jpeg, well, it depends really on who the client is i.e if it’s a wedding or a magazine.

    Generally speaking if I know an image has no chance of “growing up” to be more than an 8 x 10, I still shoot both but just process the jpeg.

    If the final image is intended for publication, then just edit i.e sort my keepers from my losers based on the jpegs which are faster.

    Then I go to the RAW file with the same number and process the image then. Hopefully that makes sense to you.

    Let’s say it’s a wedding. I know my clients are not going to be ordering enlargements of the reception beyond a 5 x 7, so why slow myself down unnecessarily? Just process the jpeg in that instance.

    Even with Aperture and Lightroom speeding up RAW file processing, it’s still an extra step.

    So I archive the RAW and work on jpegs.

    I dare say your mentors didn’t work in photojournalism which is my background. If they did, they will know RAW is not suited for deadline work. Just the mere downloading of huge files from memory card to your hard drive takes a long time, so for news photography, RAW is impractical.

  6. I enjoyed skimming through this article. Great headline and it kept me reading because my mates and I literally just finished talking about memory space over the last few years.

    My question to you is why do you shoot in RAW but only edit on the JPEG? Even though you sort of answered it in your post; I think you should be working with your RAW images..I am only saying this because it works for me but hey if working on the jpegs works for you do that..

    From my mentors I learned to shoot RAW and edit RAW..

    Dwayne D.C. Tucker II
    Nassau, Bahamas

  7. Paul,
    Sounds like you’ve put a lot of thought into your schema. I don’t shoot as often as I used to ever since I quit the newspaper biz.

    Losing a week of pictures is not bad depending on the size of the staff.

    I wouldn’t want to be the lab manager responsible for losing a week of 20 photographer’s work, That was the number of photogs on staff at the paper I worked for 5 years ago. Now there’s 9 photographers.

    Great to hear there’s still a healthy crop of talented PJs out there plugging along still.

  8. Shane,
    First let me apologize.
    I don’t generally try to outdo my guests, especially those who are so kind to comment so often.

    BUT ..I still have my survival gear like MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) 40 gallon drum of freshwater from when the world was supposed to end when the Y2K bug hit all the computers in the world.

    So you’re just being careful after being burned. You’re not being anal at all. 🙂

  9. digital is one hungry beast. I put mine on a diet.

    I shoot only raw and then use Photo Mechanic to edit to about 1/4 of what I shot. Then caption those photos (general info, and my name and copyright), caption the final edit and save them into a separate folder. For example: I have one folder called: “Unbearable Bears.” In that, there’s one for the edited raw and another for the toned Jpegs.

    After that, I copy the files with the raws and toned Jpegs to a 500G AND 1T Lacie for backups and being able to search for stock image requests. Then I burn 2 DVD’s as a hard copy back up in case They all crash at one time. One just never knows. Better safe than sorry, and all that jazz. To note, we had a hard drive crash at a newspaper I worked at that the raws shoots were saved on just before a scheduled back up so a week of shooting was completely lost. It does happen. So I’m just safe.

    If, yes if, the hard drives get over 1/2 full, I edit the less needed shoots as I do have those on DVDs. I keep the Jpegs and trash the raw.

    Oh yeah, and I do have an old monitor. And an portable 500G Lacie for my laptop.

    I think that’s it.

  10. Call me anal, but I have an additional monitor in my closet. I have been down the “can I borrow your monitor” road already. It’s like having a bag of Oreos and no milk.

    I like your work flow idea with RAW and jpeg. I typically shoot RAW on special occasions. This would allow me to do both and save the unedited RAW files on the external hard drive. Thanks Peter!

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