How I lost my precious digital files and 5 ways to avoid it happening to you

baby wrapped in towel
meeting new baby sister

Today I am going to give you some tips on saving, storing and protecting your digital images.

It’s taken me a while, but I’m finally ready to reveal and acknowledge a disastrous loss of personal photographs that I suffered six years ago. Sound dramatic? It was! Read on to find out all about it, and how not to let it happen to you!

kitten black and white
baby close up ear

Your digital photographs are everywhere; on your computer, your phone, on random USBs hiding away in a drawer, still on your camera, organised on Facebook…… Everywhere.

Perhaps you also share some images to a cloud somewhere and then forget which ones are backed up?

You’d love to print them all one day. To go through them and even make an album. But that feels like a mammoth task.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have every image organised in a simple way? Imagine the peace of mind you’d feel knowing they are as secure as they can be, as well as being easy to find and print quickly! I’m sure I can help you with some of that right now. 

playing in the snow
puppy in garden
Easter egg hunt
children and iphones
games console

My disaster

It all happened almost 6 years ago, but it’s only now that I can bear to contemplate it. It was April 2013. I was looking through my precious images trying to decide which ones to print for my mum’s birthday.

My 14 month old son climbed onto my knee and placed a magnet on top of my laptop, which wrecked the hard drive. The laptop where I stored all of my images. The images which weren’t backed up or printed.

It cost me over £400 for a retrieval attempt. I would have paid anything to try to rescue just some of those files. The experts salvaged about half of them. Those ‘saved’ files are recognisable as photographs, but many have rainbow lines over them and all are of extremely low quality.

I felt like I’d lost not just the photographs, but a huge part of my life at that time.

Back then (as an emotional new mother) I felt like I’d lost not just the photographs, but a huge part of my life at that time. Like the previous 14 months didn’t really happen. Those sleepy moments that I photographed to look back on when I had more energy. Those adorable neck creases only newborns have. The downy hair on his shoulders. All gone.

How could I have allowed that to happen? It’s almost comedic if it wasn’t so tragic; magnet to computer under the watchful eye of someone who should know better. Even now, I feel uneasy writing this and grieve for the lost memories.

However, I may have lost some beautiful images of my own babies, but I can provide you with amazing photographs of your own children and, from today, can guide you to keeping your files safe.

Ready? Here’s my advice on how to organise and store your images easily and securely.

home photograph baby girl
brother and sister with cat
child and butterfly
  1. Upload your images as soon as you’ve taken them

It’s tempting to leave your images on your camera until the next time you need to use it. But it takes no time at all to upload them. Trust me- it’s the start to having organised files.

2. Do not save images onto your computer

Use an external hard drive to store your photographs. This will help keep files organised as well as keep your computer running smoothly. A computer running slowly because it’s loaded full of images, is no fun to work on.

3. Use the cloud

Advice I wish I’d taken in 2013; make sure the important images are backed up.

I back up all of my personal shots to Amazon Photos. Amazon offers free unlimited online storage to Prime members, so it’s worth checking out if you already subscribe to Amazon Prime.

You may also like Backblaze. (I use this for client work.)

4. Organise your files in a simple way

An elaborate filing system might look impressive, but a simple solution is more likely to work for you; ensuring you follow it every time (OK, most times) and can find anything you’re looking for instantly.

Here’s what I do;

I use a new external hard drive every year and label it with the date.

There are 12 folders in there, one for each month.

Every time I use my camera, I upload the files into the relevant folder and give them a specific name, such as ‘walk at Crathes’. Labelling your folders according to what they are, rather than the date, means it’s easy to find what you’re looking for later.

Keep a ‘favourites’ or ‘to print’ folder on your desktop and get into the habit of copying your favourite images from each collection to there. This makes it really easy to go back at a later date to choose the images you want to print. You could even get that album made at the end of each year as you won’t have to wade through thousands of images to find what you need.

5. Print

Turn that invisible vulnerable digital file into a photograph that exists in real life by printing it.

Many online printing services do a great job. I recommend DS Colour Labs to clients. Photobox is also a good shout for reasonably priced albums (and file backup too, actually!).

Bring them to life. Do the right thing and let your images be seen. You won’t regret it.

girl cuddling toys

I would love to know how you go about organising your digital files. Have you had any mishaps that have taught you the hard way? Let me know in the comments or on my Facebook page.