This question has arisen from this post:

Lost card and no backup

This crisis happened because I did not backup the SD card.

This is how I organize photos today...

  1. Create a directory based on year on my external USB drive.
  2. Create sub-directories like; family, hobbies, boating, etc
  3. Copy the photos from SD card into the appropriate folders. For example, copy all photos on a boat to z:/photos/2019/boating.
  4. Format the SD card
  5. Backup external USB drive to external USB backup_drive for safety.
  6. Repeat the process for all my SD cards

This is a laborious process and I had to spend good money to rescue the SD card because I was in a rush and did not backup.

What can I do to make this easy so I can so this regularly?

In addition, much time is used to post process some of the photos I want to print
  • What do you do if you have family pictures taken on a boat? (Photos from a single session that cross multiple categories.) – xiota Sep 11 '19 at 18:21
  • @xiota It's up to my personal discretion, of course, but that would add to the time it takes to organize them. – Marinaio Sep 11 '19 at 18:47
  • @xiota Yes, that is why I am trying to find a better aka quicker solution to mitigate that risk. – Marinaio Sep 11 '19 at 18:49
  • Did you have multiple days, weeks, months of photos on that SD card? – xiota Sep 11 '19 at 18:51
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    "Meant to backup, but just got lazy" - then that's the problem. Don't do that. Transfer to computer frequently, then your regular backup schedule takes over… Don't have a regular backup schedule, then get one. – Tetsujin Sep 11 '19 at 19:00

One method for somewhat organized transfer with large cards, no special software needed (not recommendable with cameras that are known buggy with regards to filesystem handling. Works great with Sony.):

  • Label all the cards you have in use

  • As soon as you are near a computer, insert SD card, rename the current DCIM folder meaningfully (with the card label included in the name), and copy the renamed folder into a collection area on a hard drive.

  • Return card to camera the moment that folder has been copied, let it start a new DCIM folder.

  • Cull the folder contents in collection area from images you really do not need anymore when you have time (you still have the card as a backup if you delete something you did not want to delete), rename them again to mark them as culled.

  • Occasionally, copy all the folders that have not been backed up from the collection area onto a backup drive, then move them to a second area (eg "collection-backed-up"). Preferrably, only back up fully culled folders so not to back up dross.

  • For more narrow selection/culling, make a copy of the roughly culled folder, leave any folders that were backed up already alone.

  • Repeat until card is full.

  • Either do not reuse cards at all (feasible with standard speed SD cards these days if used for photography), and keep them labelled and archive them as original media (and additional backup), OR only reuse them when everything on them is on both the collection and backup drive.

This flies in the face of old school wisdom regarding messing with the filesystem from multiple devices. Be careful with cameras that are ill-reputed in that regard (that is why I still have a question open which cameras are known for such problems).

For full-pro or critical use, replace "occasionally" and "when you have time" with defined values, and keep the backup drive off site (or back it up again to an off site drive or cloud storage).

  • Nice idea. Seems this type of process could be automated with software, no? – Marinaio Sep 11 '19 at 18:51
  • Software doesn't stick labels on cards, move cards between camera and computer, or send backup drives to bank safes. – rackandboneman Sep 11 '19 at 18:54
  • OK, point taken! – Marinaio Sep 11 '19 at 18:56
  • Instead of labeling cards, you could purchase different capacity and speed cards. I have blue/green/red 32GB/64GB cards (3*2 = 6, so 6 cards total). All from Kingston. Blue is Canvas Go, green is Canvas Select, red is Canvas React. – juhist Sep 14 '19 at 8:12
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    @juhist that only works if you reuse cards or shoot little :) – rackandboneman Sep 14 '19 at 8:38

First and foremost, I don't trust my camera as a storage device. It goes outside, it can be stolen or damaged, so no picture is really safe as long as it is only in it. I prefer using "small" cards (16/32GB) and swap them. The risk to lose, misplace or reformat a full card is IMHO smaller than the risk to lose/damage the card in/with the camera. In addition SD cards are not that reliable.

So my process is:

  • copy the SD card to the hard disk, and separate the JPG from raw files in two folders.
  • do a first pass on the JPG to cull the obvious: out of focus, bad exposure, bad subject, canted, etc...
  • create a bunch of folders (usually "date + subject") and move the JPG to the appropriate folders.
  • do a second culling pass on each folder (when I have 25 pictures of spiders, I can likely drop a few more...)
  • run a script that creates a subfolder in each folder and fetches the raw files that match the remaining pictures
  • erase the remaining raw files in the initial folder (they correspond to pictures I have deleted).
  • make the backup
  • erase the files from the SD card

When the pictures aren't too important(*) I'm a bit less careful:

  • I move the files from the SD card to the HDD
  • I backup the HDD later

I'll eventually later do a 3rd culling pass, for instance checking the new spider pictures against older ones and keeping only the best.

(*) Of course, being an amateur, no picture is really important; but there are some I won't be able to shoot again for a while.


Back up first, before formatting!
Use quality hard drives.
Please, have 2 back ups!

I use Lightroom to organise my images, folder organised by date (2019.01.01). Use Lightroom to keyword all images, so easy to search.

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