I'm looking for advice on a simple workflow with a stress on keeping a backup of the original files and the images I worked on.

I have a laptop with limited drive space. Let’s say I can fit a year of photos on my local drive. I also have two external hard drives that I want to use for backups of my originals and modified files.

I also want to backup my Lightroom catalogue, because I’m learning it’s pretty important.

My thinking is I want to import NEF files from my memory card, and as part of the import I want to also generate a folder of DNG copies for me to work on in Lightroom so that the edits on files can be stored as part of the image file itself - unlike en extra file needed when using other RAW file formats.

This is where things get fuzzy for me. I’m not sure i need to backup the original files and the DNG, and the edited and keepers that I am thinking I would exports when post processing is completed.

I am thinking I can get away keeping thins local to my laptop and copy to external drives manually once a month.

What would it make most sense for me to backup without sacrificing originals and edited masterpieces?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I am thinking I can get away keeping thins local to my laptop and copy to external drives manually once a month. That depends: do you want to lose up to a month's worth of photos when your laptop drive fails? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Oct 10, 2013 at 3:27

2 Answers 2


If you're already backing up your originals and the catalog, you are done. The edits and other changes you make are stored there; you don't need to write these changes to either DNG files or to XMP "sidecar" files. You can if you like as extra insurance, but I don't think that's necessary. (And it's faster to not do it.)

I would suggest, fairly frequently, making high-resolution top quality exports of your "keepers", and backing those up independently. Top quality JPEG will do fine in most cases, although if you have a lot of super-fine detail or very delicate tones, you could use TIFF. If backing up your NEF files is like keeping your negatives, this is like making sure you've got a nice print too.

It's pretty unlikely that you'd stop being able to run Lightroom, but let's say it's 20 years in the future and technology has gone in a weird direction. I have papers I wrote in school in Lotus Ami Pro format -- that was a big company and it seemed pretty safe. Turns out, nope, it's gone. I could use some sort of complicated emulation of an archaic environment, but it'd be a lot of trouble. If they were precious, I'd consider doing that, and you might someday want to do that for your lightroom edits -- but if you have high-quality exports, you won't have to resort to that.

I think it's also good discipline to get in the habit of saying "Okay, this is done" and putting a finished label on it. Of course you can always go back, but there's virtue in at least saying "this is how I envisioned this in 2013", and having a good copy of that.


you could use an external drive to backup the catalogue to and in a separate folder, backup the images. To check the size of all the photographs you would like to backup, go to the root folder that holds all your photographs, and right click it (MAC ctrl click) and go to properties. it should calculate the space and all you need is an external drive with enough space to back that up.

I used another computer to keep an onsite copy of all my images and a backup of my catalogue for Lightroom and I have a series of external drives that I keep another backup on that I store offsite. I work as an IT Backup Administrator, its why I think of these things.

another option could be is to look into getting "cloud" space somewhere and set that up as a local drive to backup your images and Lightroom catalogue. This may not be viable depending on how much data space you are looking for.


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