My Currently Constipated Workflow

atmtx Hard Drives - Austin, Texas

atmtx Hard Drives – Austin, Texas

I have a problem. A storage problem. I’m down to 100GB on my drive that holds my main photo library. At one time, 100GB sounded like a lot, but not any more. Not when SD cards are 64GB and larger. I actually have a backlog of cards to load into my workflow, but I need to delete my rejected images first, before adding any more. Hence the major constipation.

Above is the atmtx central storage center. Two 4TB drives, two 3TB drives, one 2TB drive, and one 1TB drive. All but the 1TB are the nice aluminum Western Digital externals. The black plastic 1TB drive, which is hard to see on the right, is used for MacOS based Time Machine backups. The rest hold my photos, and I have multiple copies of my photo libraries.

I actually don’t have as much data as this setup would suggest. My primary 4TB drive holds all the pictures, which I automatically backup to a second 4TB drive, daily. I also have the primary 4TB backed up automatically to cloud storage. So I have at least three complete copies of all my photos, including off-site backup. I’ve bought matched pairs of drives for a while. First with two 3TB drives and now with two 4TB drives.

I’ve never seriously considered RAID. I believe a simple setup of separate external drives are cheaper and more reliable. I’ve seen too many RAID systems fail, even when they are not supposed to.

Of course, I can spend a lot of time and cull my work, reducing my library size. Except, that’s slow going and I find it cumbersome. I actually like post processing photos, which I consider part of the image creation process, but finding my selects and deleting all the near duplicates is an arduous task. It’s a lot easier to buy more drives and kick the culling can down the road; maybe to when I eventually retire.

Next up, two 8TB drives. That seems to be the sweet spot now. Every time I upgrade, the cost per drive is about the same — $140 to 160 dollars each — thanks to the continuously expanding hard drive capacity and the rapidly increasing price performance. Pretty incredible. I can date myself by saying, my first personal computer had only 140K floppy drives.

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11 thoughts on “My Currently Constipated Workflow

  1. Glad you mentioned offsite…

    That’s critical since all onsite storage mechanisms have short and unpredictable life spans.

    As Marilyn said, we’re all in the same boat and on this one.

    Good luck making it all work.

    1. Thanks, Paul. Automatic offsite is really important. Luckily, automated cloud backups make this easy. I use Backblaze. I’m pretty happy with my system, I just have to bite the bullet and buy two 8TB drives.

  2. Yowza, that’s a lot of disks. I’m going the opposite direction, continuing to cull and minimize the photo archives. My main library of personal images, not including “pro” work like the Texas Stars images, is down to 570G currently and I have more room to shrink as I go through old stuff as I have time. Of course, new images get added as well so things are somewhat static lately.

    I’ve changed my approach to photography and I’ve become very intentional. I try not to overshoot to make culling easier. For most things I like to photograph, such as live music, I tell myself I’m going to shoot 2, maybe 3 rolls of film worth. That’s around 100 shots. Usually I don’t even go that high. I’ll put my camera away after 3 songs typically, regardless.

    Back at home, culling is quick and increasingly ruthless. I don’t fret over quantity of keepers. I’ll make a first pass direct from my card with Photo Mechanic – a very quick selection of images that initially look good. Only the first round of potential keepers gets copied to my hard drive. Then I open Lightroom and import the first pass. I step away from the screen for a few minutes and come back with fresh eyes. Second culling pass in Lightroom to delete images that are too close to a better one, things that don’t look as great on closer inspection, etc. Then I edit and I may end up trashing more images that don’t hold up to editing as well as I hoped. I try to keep the final collection no more than about a roll of film worth (36 shots) for most things. I’m not going for any particular number really; I’m just trying to be more mindful and curate what I consider to be my best at the time.

    I have a single 4TB drive on my disk and a backup disk that I attach and clone to periodically. My drive is backed up nightly to Backblaze. My original images are also backed up in Adobe’s cloud. Edited images are backed up to Smugmug. My drive is only half full and more space is taken than necessary because there is a lot of duplication due to switching from Lightroom Classic to CC. On one of my breaks from school I plan to resolve the duplication and do some cleanup to see if I can get below 1TB because I know I have a lot of crap (not just photos) that doesn’t need to be there anymore. I’d actually like to move to an SSD drive this year and be done with conventional spinning drives, other than for a backup.

    1. Mike, I have a lot of respect for your discipline. You’ve gotten rid of all your extra cameras, thus simplifying your equipment. And, as you mentioned, you have greatly reduced your shooting and have a small and tight library.

      Perhaps someday, I’ll head that way.

      But for now, my photography serves many creative masters. I have pictures that I appreciate just for photography. I have a lot of family snapshots. And, I also keep extra images for blogging and story telling purposes.

      If I go to India or overseas trips, which I don’t do very often, I’m going to overshoot. Events close to home, which are not as important and stuff that I can go to next year, I shoot less.

      The worst is probably all the model portraits I make during Drink and Click. Many similar shots which I need to weed through. Tiny changes in gesture and expression can make or break a portrait, so this takes more time than I like.

      1. I got to the point where all those photos that I told myself I’d get to someday were overwhelming and stressing me out. Now I try to cull up front as much as possible. I tend to over analyze things so I’m training myself to make quicker decisions about my images. Is the image a “hell yeah”? Would I print this in a book or hang it on my wall? Does it carry any personal significance? If not, delete. This approach works better for my brain. Fewer choices equals less stress for me.

  3. Andy,

    I’ve used Drobo hardware for five years now, storing media and local backups of all the house computers.

    I have had drives fail. I have yet to lose any data. I configure the Drobo to use a single spare drive inside the enclosure to cover failures.

    I’m glad you have a good backup process. I have my Drobo backed up to BackBlaze too.

    My second line of defense is to keep one spare drive of the same model as the ones in the RAID. When I get the notification of a drive failure, the spare goes in and I order the new spare.

    Congrats on your first book in publication!

    1. Hi Michael, great to hear from you. Looks like a very solid backup strategy and I’m glad the Drobo is working well for you.

      I’m really happy with BackBlaze. It’s so much faster than Crash Plan. In fact, BackBlaze works so fast, I first doubted that it was working.

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