File storage

Shooting digitally produces lots of files, which is turn creates the problem of how to store and access all these files.  Here’s how I do it.

For several years now I have used an external storage enclosure that holds five hard drives, each of which can be up to 2 TB in size.  It’s a reasonably small enclosure, 6 x 8 x 11 inches, has its own power supply, and connects to my desktop computer via one eSata cord.  I bought this box on-line from, (the actual enclosure I have is the TowerRAID TR5M).  You might think this is a RAID configuration, but instead it’s set up as a JBOD (Just a Bunch of Drives).  When I power on the box, the drives show up as five separate, additional hard drives.

I file my images by year, date, and shoot name, renaming all my files to YYMMDD as I download.  Nikon lets me name my cameras so that a file from my D4 might be named something like 120621_D4N_3746 (YYMMDD = June 21, 2012; D4N = D4 Nikon; 3746 = file number generated by the camera).

I keep track of all my files with Lightroom, which is programmed using templates to automatically organize my files as images are imported.  My files are added sequentially by date and by shoot.  For example, there is a 2012 folder, which has subfolders by month and by shoot, such as an 03 Arizona  folder (pictures taken in Arizona in March 2012).  03 Arizona is then broken down into each day’s take, organized once again automatically by Lightroom.  If I do several locations the same month, these are labeled and named as 03.1 Oregon, 03.2 Arizona, 03.3 Utah, etc.

All files are stored in chronological order on the external hard drives.  Each drive has one master folder (Digital Images 1, Digital Images 2, etc.) for all the data on that particular drive, which makes reassociating drives much easier as I mentioned in an earlier blog.  As each hard drive is filled, I simply start adding files to the next one.  But all five drives are available at all time.  Click any image in Lightroom, and it is immediately available.

The hard drives are on sleds, and are hot-swappable.  The makes backup relatively easy, since I can insert another hard drive, copy any changes to this backup drive, and pull the backup drive out.  Note that I don’t want a proprietary backup format; I want a copy of the data.  I use ViceVersa Pro software to take care of this.  When Drive 1 has been backed up, I have no reason to back it up again, unless I make some change to a file on Drive 1.  I actually have two sets of backup hard drives, exact copies that is, of the working set of drives.  I rotate through these drive sets (working set becomes backup 1 set, backup 1 set becomes backup 2 set, backup 2 set becomes working set, etc.).  If any one hard drive goes down, I can plug in a copy of that drive and keep right on working.

One Comment

  1. Dave Spindle October 2, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    Thanks for a great explanation on your file storage. I have just a quick comment that might seem a little odd, but I hope you’ll understand.
    I have to smile when I read some of your posts. I think it is because I still can’t believe how completely you have embraced digital photography. I have no rational explanation for feeling that way other than I grew into photography using your books during the film days.
    I thank you for your ebooks and posts on Photoshop/Lightroom etc, because just like the film days you have a way of cutting through the BS and making things easy to understand.
    But I’m betting you still get some people like me who still find it hard to believe!