How To Store and Back Up Your Photos & Videos

10 September 2021

Imagine loading up your camera only to find that you’ve lost your memory card, or that it’s been corrupted - and realising that everything you’ve captured is lost forever. It’s one of the most terrifying and heartbreaking things for any photographer. Sure, in the event of a disaster, you can roll the dice on life-saving data recovery software, but do you really want to take that chance?

The best way to keep your digital photographs safe and secure is with reliable digital storage backed up with the right workflow. As digital storage technologies continue to advance, so too does the workflow. To help protect you from a digital disaster, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide for storing and backing up your digital photos and videos.

Understanding digital file sizes

The best storage solution for you will depend on the size of the files you’re capturing.

How big is the average digital photo size?
The file size of an average digital photo depends on the camera used and the image settings you choose. Most cameras will offer the choice between shooting in JPEG (smaller file size) and RAW formats (larger file size). 

How big is the average digital video?
Once again, file sizes depend on various factors, including the camera and the settings you choose and the length or amount of video captured. Higher-end video cameras can also record in different formats - including RAW - which can impact file sizes. Below is a reference chart for average video sizes.

How To Store and Back Up Your Photos & VideosHow To Store and Back Up Your Photos & Videos
Resolution Bitrate 1 minute Recording Length per GB
4K (UHD) 20 Mbps 84MB 12 min
1080p (FHD) 5 Mbps 20MB 50 min
720p (HD) 1 Mbps 5MB 3.5 hrs
480p (SD) 500 Kbps 2MB 8 hrs
How To Store and Back Up Your Photos & VideosHow To Store and Back Up Your Photos & Videos

What’s the difference between JPEG and RAW?
JPEG images are compressed based on the settings you specify in the camera menu. Depending on what compression level you choose - low, medium, high - you’ll be able to store more images than if you were to shoot in RAW.

RAW is a file type that offers ultimate flexibility and versatility. When photos are captured in RAW, the camera captures everything beyond the settings you select, especially in photo editors like Photoshop or Lightroom. One drawback is that RAW file sizes are significantly larger than JPEG.

How to choose a reliable memory card

Step one for digital photography storage starts with the memory card inside your camera. When choosing a memory card for your camera, you need to consider: the capacity of the card, the speed of the card, and how reliable it is. To the right is a diagram of a standard SanDisk memory card detailing what each marking means.

Capacity Standards
Memory card capacities have increased dramatically over the years, with some as large as 1TB (1,000 gigabytes). Deciding how much storage capacity you need depends on what you intend to capture. The format of your photos or videos will also determine how much storage capacity you may need.

SD: 128MB to 2GB
SDHC: 2GB to 32GB
SDXC: 32GB to 2TB
SDUC: 2TB to 128TB

How To Store and Back Up Your Photos & VideosHow To Store and Back Up Your Photos & Videos

Speed Class
Cameras, like the Sony A1 Full-Frame Mirrorless Camera, can capture images mechanically as fast as 10fps and 30fps electronically. You need a memory card with the correct minimum read/write speeds indicated by the speed or UHS speed class to keep up with your camera’s maximum continuous shooting rates.

Class 4: 4MB/s
Class 6: 6MB/s
Class 10: 10MB/s
UHS Speed Class 1: 10MB/s
UHS Speed Class 3: 30MB/s

How To Store and Back Up Your Photos & VideosHow To Store and Back Up Your Photos & Videos

Video Speed Class
Similar to Speed Class is the Video Speed Class of a memory card, which determines a card's capacity to capture video. The faster the card, the higher resolution that can be captured. 

V6: 6MB/s
V10: 10MB/s
V30: 30MB/s
V60: 60MB/s
V90: 90MB/s

UHS Bus Speed
The final speed measurement for memory cards is its UHS Bus Speed, or how fast data can be transferred. UHS or Ultra High-Speed is a new generation interface for supporting devices with higher capacity and speed requirements. 

UHS-I: up to 104MB/s
UHS-II: up to 312MB/s
UHS-III: up to 624MB/s

Last but not least, you want a memory card that’s reliable. Steer clear of cheaply priced memory cards to avoid digital headaches. Choose brands like SanDisk, Sony, Angelbird, Inca and Western Digital as they offer memory cards that are temperature-proof, X-Ray-proof and shock-proof.

How To Store and Back Up Your Photos & VideosHow To Store and Back Up Your Photos & Videos

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Choosing a suitable storage device

How To Store and Back Up Your Photos & VideosHow To Store and Back Up Your Photos & Videos

Now that we’ve covered capture and storage inside the camera, let’s discuss transferring files to your computer. If you’re not working with too many files, you can import images from your camera directly to your computer. However, if you plan on capturing loads of pictures or videos, you may soon run out of storage space. Fortunately, there are plenty of external storage options available for additional capacity, as well as backing up the files you already have. Like SD cards, hard drives also have various attributes that need to be accounted for before purchasing. The two main varieties are desktop and portable. 

Desktop hard drives have larger capacity but generally require additional power.

Portable hard drives are the most common, and most practical ones for the everyday photographer. Portable hard drives are small to medium capacity devices that can be powered via a USB connection.

Hard drives also come in two formats, Solid State (SSD) and Hard Disk Drive (HDD). An HDD stores digital information physically onto a disk, while an SSD stores data using interconnected flash memory. HDDs offer the largest capacity of the two, with slower read/write speeds. Whereas SSDs deliver much faster read/write speeds, especially useful for video editors and data wranglers. We recommend using an HDD for desktop drives and an SSD for portable storage. However, as SSD technology continues to improve, we may see the appearance of SSD Desktop storage devices soon.

How To Store and Back Up Your Photos & VideosHow To Store and Back Up Your Photos & Videos

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Online cloud storage

How To Store and Back Up Your Photos & VideosHow To Store and Back Up Your Photos & Videos

Stepping away from physical storage devices, cloud storage is fast becoming a popular choice for storing personal documents for school or work, and of course, photos and videos. Cloud platforms like Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud and Dropbox offer online storage systems that can be accessed anywhere you have an internet connection. Unlike HDDs and SSDs that require a physical connection, you can use cloud storage services to access files from your computer and even your smartphone. 

Most online cloud storage typically offers a free storage tier with the option to pay for more storage space if needed. For example, Apple provides 5GBs to every iCloud user and Apple customer, alongside 50GB, 200GB and 2TB online storage tiers for a monthly service fee. The main disadvantage of online cloud storage is transfer speeds are limited by your internet connection.

Which storage device or service should I use?

Though we shared our recommendations above, it’s a decision only you can make, depending on the size and type of files you’re working with. To keep your work backed up at all times, develop a consistent workflow that incorporates at least one external storage device - make sure it’s a reliable one! If you travel to locations that lack an internet connection, you won’t be able to access your online cloud storage, so be sure to carry an external hard drive to create backups on the go.

How To Store and Back Up Your Photos & VideosHow To Store and Back Up Your Photos & Videos

You can never be too careful backing up your photos or videos! If you haven’t invested in proper storage yet, be sure to check out our range of memory cards and storage options, online or at your local Ted’s Cameras store.

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