Mistakes Almost Every Photographer Makes

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Having been actively involved in photography for a number of years now, I’ve been through many different experiences and behaviors and also taken note of behaviors from other photographers. It seems that at some point in every photographer’s career something shifts inside them and they feel they have to reinvent themselves and their photography. I’ve seen this trait in photographers from all walks of life right up to the top photographers in the world.

Why is it that when you have developed a recognizable style and have found the recipe for your success do you feel the need to change it? Personally I think boredom or a feeling of going stagnant are to blame and that’s just human nature.

Of every photographer I have seen or known who felt the need to reinvent themselves, virtually every single one spent several years “trying” to unsuccessfully reinvent themselves and after a lengthy frustrating journey they realize that what they were doing all along was the right thing and they go right back to doing things the way they have always done it. Sadly some seem to get stuck permanently reinventing themselves and end up getting very lost and even losing their audience or worse giving up photography.

Please don’t misinterpret this topic as me saying you should not improve or advance in your photography, that’s not what I am saying. I advance and improve on a daily basis, I thrive for creating new and interesting images, I learn new techniques all the time but I do not reinvent the way I do things, I perfect them. I have been down this road like everyone else I’ve known but I luckily realized it quite quickly and stumbled back onto the path I was already travelling.

Happy Shooting 😉

Backing Up Your Safari Photos and Memories
Whether you’ve grown your image collection into thousands of images or only have yourself a few hundred prized photographs and memories, just how securely backed up are those images of yours. Do you even have them backed up at all?

Everybody at some point in their life will experience the awful feeling of data loss. This normally happens on a day when you least expect it, when out of the blue your perfectly functioning computer system crashes and dies. You take the system to a technical person who then tells you the bad news, all your data is gone. What do you do other than nearly have a nervous breakdown?

First off there are data recovery labs that in many cases can get your data back, some of them are so good they can even take a hard drive that has been smashed into pieces and get data back bit by bit. This however is an extremely costly scenario, for the most part the charges are by the hour and it can literally run into hundreds of hours and there is no guarantee’s offered whatsoever.

“Oh why didn’t I backup my images” starts to play over and over in your head even haunting you in your dreams.

The answer is to avoid this scenario altogether, it’s not pleasant and I speak from experience. Once you’ve lost data once you spend the rest of your life making sure everything is securely backed up and sadly many people only learn this the hard way.

So what are your options for backing up your images?

Many people with a smaller image collection can get away using CD-roms for their backups. They are one of the most affordable forms of media around and this allows you to make multiple copies to store in different locations. But how safe are CD-roms? Many people mistakenly assume that a CD-rom will last for ever. This is a picture painted into people’s minds in the early days when CD-roms first came onto the market, they were marketed as indestructable. Well quite simply they are not. Simply dropping a CD-rom from a desk can damage the disc badly if it contacts the ground wrong. A CD-rom is nothing more than a plastic disc with a microscopically thin layer of foil material which is the recording surface. If you took a sharp knife and ran it quickly over the recording surface you’d see silver flakes (and data) come flying off. In modern times CD-roms are in mass production and the materials used to manufacture them are cheaper resulting in lower quality products. You can buy CD-rom discs for less than a Rand a disc and you can buyCD-rom discs for a few Rand a disc and there is indeed quite a difference. Cheap no name brand discs will become your worst enemy, they seem fine and seem no different than their more expensive counterparts but there will come a time when you take data written onto a cheap disc, put it into your Cd-rom drive and discover your drive cannot read the disc. You try in a friend’s drive to find the same problem and you eventually discover that disc no longer works ….. what happened …. your data is GONE? “This can’t be happening” you say to yourself. Well uh yes it can. There is major differences in the price of CD-roms due to the quality of the foil recording surface. Cheap CD-roms may only last 1-5 years, more expensive ones may last 5-10 years and then you can get what we call medical grade CD-roms which have a “claimed” lifespan of 100 years. The price between them is remarkably different, the cheap discs can cost R1.00 a disc, the more expensive “name” brands could cost you about R2.50 per disc and medical grade discs could cost you abour R20-R25 each. So depending on just how important that data is, the choice is yours. If you choose to use cheap CD-roms then every year you will need to re-record them and discard the old ones. Trust me this ends up being a tedious process and once your image collection starts requiring several discs at a time it’s time to look at another solution.

The next best solution which works very well is to use external hard drives to back up your image data. Having been personally involved in the high-tech industry for nearly 20 years I have been through just about every brand of hard drive and above all Seagate drives seem to have the longest lifespan and the least chance of failing. I have Seagate external hard drives that are nearly 5 years old and still functioning perfectly so I have standardised on Seagate as a trusted name. Seagate produces a variety of external hard drive solutions called FreeAgent ranging from 250GB drives upwards to 2TB. They also have a range called FreeAgent “Go” which are small enough to fit in your pocket. Using an external hard drive for your backups is quick and easy. You get yourself a program like Super Flexible File Synchroniser and set it up to mirror your images and other data and you can run it daily or once a week. Simply having one external backup is not enough. If you buy yourself one 500Gb external drive you actually need to purchase two and every time you do backups you do it onto both hard drives. One hard drive you can store in your safe (hopefully fire proof) and the other you should store off site at a friend or family member’s house, and preferably in their safe too. Having everything in triplicate stored in 3 different locations guarantees you that should trouble strike you have one totally safe backup. The cost of external hard drives have come down dramatically and they are by far the most cost effective form of storage around but you really need to refrain from saving yourself a few bucks considering cheaper external drives, stick with Seagate (no I do NOT work for them) do your backups in duplicate and store one off site and you’ll be good to go for many years.

When your image collection grows beyond the confines of a 2TB external hard drive it may be time to start looking for a more serious back solution. For this photographers are turning to the Drobo system because of it’s great offerings. Drobo has essentially taken very expensive RAID technologies which were out of the reach of the average Joe for many years and brought out a fully redundant raid product with a more affordable price tag. A basic Drobo which can house 4 hard drives could cost you around R12-14000 or thereabouts. Then you could move onto a Drobo Pro system which is a lot more expensive but can house 8 drives, it all depends on how much cash you wish to part ways with and just how serious you are about your data. Again, having one Drobo storing all your data, even though it has full redundancy, is no guarantee your data is safe. I know of several people whose Drobo’s have crashed on them so essentially like above with external hard drives, if you buy one Drobo, you actually buy two and one gets locked away very safely, preferably off site.

When it comes to data backups you need to have a plan, something you’ve invested some thought into and you need to stick to it religiously. It’s no good storing a backup off site and never updating it. If you formulate a backup plan you will thank yourself one day when things do go wrong, you will rest assured knowing your data and images are securely backed up. I’ll revisit this topic again one day. For now, get backing up.

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