Photo Backup Scheme

I'm obsessed with the idea of how to backup the digital life that I've strewn across the internet and also accumulated on my laptop. Last year -- and I suppose this year also, if I turned it on -- my laptop was dying. When I was at ISU in France in summer 2006, I fell asleep on my laptop and busted the adapter. After two years with a power adapter borrowed from a European computer, the cord melted, sparks flew, etc. Naturally, I blame the French.

How to back up photos has taken the bulk of my archival brainpower. If my laptop died, the worst possible scenario is that all of my digital photos that weren't burned onto CDs would be annilihated. It would be selfishly devastating. Maybe that sort of thing doesn't keep you up at night, but I worry about it. It's not the loss of property that worries me -- it's the loss of history that worries me. What I've seen is what I've become. I'd like you and others to see it as well, if only out of my own narcissistic tendencies (i.e., please tell me my photos are amazing).

The system I've developed for myself goes as follows. The basic idea is to (1) keep the whole of the photos in multiple places so they can't be destroyed in a single oops moment; (2) put the best out there where others can enjoy them.

1) All of the digital photos that I've ever taken are backed up online at You can't see them all. For every set that I add to Flickr, I unlock the corresponding album on There are a lot of junk photos there; there's a reason they weren't all added to Flickr. The photos are all open for rating, so perhaps the cream will eventually rise to the top. Or not. I don't care. The purpose of is solely backup, not entertainment.

2) Flickr. I try to add only my most interesting photos to my Flickr account. The truth is: the more photos there are, the fewer you will see. Too many is overwhelming. That's why the number of photos in my Flickr account is decreasing even though I'm adding new photos every week. I'm separating the chaff, which will still be visible at

3) Panoramio. I really like Panoramio, though it is not as full-featured as Flickr. Panoramio is cool because you geotag your photos, and if they're selected by the staff, they show up in Google Earth. As a geophile, I enjoy scanning the Panoramio layer in Google Earth, getting a feel for what the places actually look like.

4) Panoramas. (Not to be confused with Panoramio.) For years, I've been taking shots that I later wanted to stitch together into panoramas. Finally, in October, I discovered hugin to do this. And I've been on a roll since then: see my panoramas on Flickr.

That said, I've been working slowly through my old photos. It's a long process. My goal is to process one album of photos every week. At this rate, it will probably be a year, maybe two, before I finish. It takes time to add tags, descriptions, geographic locations where the photos were snapped, etc. Some of this is easy: editing the information on Flickr; some of this is difficult: editing the EXIF data on the photos.

So far, I've completed three albums this year:

Big Bend National Park, 26-28 January 2005 Big Bend National Park, 26-28 January 2005

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, 28-29 January 2005 Guadalupe Mountains National Park, 28-29 January 2005

Saguaro National Park, 30 January 2005 Saguaro National Park, 30 January 2005

Conclusion: "Yes! I am inveenceeble!"

Postscript: Hey, Ben, the next album out of the showroom will be for you: life in Mojave.

2 thoughts on “Photo Backup Scheme

  1. Ben

    You should also have an actual backup process, and CDs are not a good one as they can rot within a few years. is my standard link for people thinking of backups. It's anti-Windows, as jwz always is, but the basic idea is valid cross-platform.

    It's what I do; I too am worried about my photos, and so have them on two different hard drives, regularly making sure that they both work. I need to do off-site as well, I may use Flickr for that, or I may just set up a server at work.

    1. kirk.kittell Post author

      Actually, these days I'm also using a Mac. All of the backup I do -- including databases and files for web sites -- is manual. I'd love to learn how to do it automatically as your man Jamie suggests. It would save me a little effort and a lot of time.

      Just like you, I consider CDs/DVDs to be a temporary backup. Those are what I would use as an off-site backup to hide in a drawer at work or at my parents' house or wherever.

      Flickr for me is quasi-backup. I put my "best" photos there, but it's more for entertainment than utility. However, this current scheme was born out of that when I realized: hey, it's really annoying to put my crappy photos here, I should put those somewhere else. Then I started working on my mom's web site, and that gave me an idea on how to use Gallery to backup my photos online.


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