Whether you’re a photographer or a client looking for a hard drive for image storage, or a creative entrepreneur who would prefer to store documents and data on an external hard drive vs your computer’s hard drive, here are my recommendations for external hard drives based on ones I’ve tested and researched.
If you want to jump right to what I recommend, here are my recommendations in order of preference:
If you want a little more about the External Hard Drives and why I recommend one vs the other, read on, my friend!
I only ever want to recommend products I ACTUALLY use in my business and have come to trust. Yes, these are affiliate links, which means I get a small kickback—but like I said, I wouldn’t ever tell you to use something I don’t use and adore in my own business.
First of all, I try to minimize storing anything on my computer’s hard drive as much as possible, because past experience has taught me that this can significantly slow down the processing speed for basically any function.
Second, when I became a photographer, I realized early on I needed some kind of system for organizing and managing client photos. I thought to myself, what’s it going to look like 10 years from now to have allllll of these portrait sessions and wedding photos? When you think about it that way, that’s a lot! Not to mention, RAW file sizes take up a lot of space. So I quickly decided (and coupled with reason no. 1) client photos would entirely be housed on External Hard Drives.
Third, while I do use some “cloud” storage, I really don’t love the idea of not having my own physical backup. Too many times in the past, I’ve gotten “lazy” and thought that a cloud based-storage system would be around forever so I’d always be able to find my files, and then years later, that system actually closed up or only stored my files for so long and I was no longer able to access them.
Early on when I became a second photographer for weddings, I came up with my own backup plan for how to get the photos I took back to the photographer (You know me by now, I develop systems for everything 😂). I’d read on another blog that someone (very cleverly) purchased an extra External Hard Drive just for this purpose, so that while they were still at the wedding they would copy over all their images onto the External Hard Drive and give the External Hard Drive to the main photographer with a pre-paid envelope to ship it back within a week. (This way you still have all of your own images to edit and add to your portfolio instead of handing over your SD cards). I liked the idea, and she recommended getting an inexpensive hard drive. So that’s what I did. It was a bad decision.
I’d had thousands of images to transfer over from an 8 hour wedding.
What took about 30 minutes to transfer from my SD cards to my Lacie external hard drive (approx $100 hard drive), took 6 hours on the inexpensive (approx $30) hard drive.
I was floored.
“Never again,” I said to myself through gritted teeth.
I’m confident you’ll regret it if you go for an inexpensive External Hard Drive with a lower processing speed. It’ll be like watching paint dry. You won’t be able to use your laptop while you wait for things to transfer over (else you risk slowing it down even more!). Save yourself the frustration and spend the extra money.
For clients – I do not recommend using a flash drive. The storage limits aren’t high enough to hold much. Additionally, your full-size images are large files. When you print your files, you should be using the large-size files, NOT the web-sized images. Using web-size images for printing will give you fuzzy/blurry low-quality prints. Additionally, you are storing your family photos year after year – you’re going to accumulate a lot of them. A 1 TB size external hard drive should meet your needs. (1 TB is one of the smaller size offerings. Some available options are 1 TB, 2 TB, and 4 TB.)
For photographers – flash drives won’t work. Believe me, I tried. 😂 When I was new and clueless, I thought I could just use flash drives I had sitting around. They just aren’t capable of handling the file sizes and the processing you need to access and edit your images.
Here’s the thing about technology: it’s not a matter of “if” it will fail, it’s a matter of “when” it will fail. Technology does not last forever. This is why having duplicates as a backup is necessary. Tempting as it may be to save $180 now, you’ll sorely regret that if hundreds of images are on an external hard drive that falls and decides it can no longer be accessed.
I don’t know about you, but I have totally lost count of how many times a flash drive has done that to me (most conveniently, when I was in college 😑).
That said, I recommend getting at least two identical hard drives. The second one should be an identical copy of the first.
There are two types of External Hard Drives I’ve tried:
HDD is what I see most often recommended, but I’ve found SDD to be far superior.
I prefer SSD over HDD external drives because the obvious advantage of an SSD is the lack of moving parts. As a result, an SSD is physically smaller and less susceptible to damage when it experiences a bump or shock. Using a microchip instead of an electromagnetic disk, an SSD can also read and write data faster than an HDD. I’ve heard stories of dropping an HDD Hard Drive just one time and losing the photos. They can be that sensitive. Scary thought, right?
That’s it! While there are certainly many other options available out there, I can only speak to the ones I’ve personally tested and used. I selected these specifically based on my own research. I hope the external hard drive you choose brings you just as much satisfaction as they’ve brought me!
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