Why I Don't Backup My Photos Using Lightroom

If you’ve used the Import dialog in Lightroom, you’ve probably noticed an area under File Handing called “Make a Second Copy To:”. This is Lightroom’s way of letting you make a backup of your photos as you import them. That way you can get your import and your backup all done at once. A while back, some one pointed out that when you use this feature, you don’t have much control over how the backup drive stores the photos. Basically, it just stores them in a folder named “Imported on….”. For me this is a big problem because it’s not how I store my photos in my main photo drive. So now, my backup drive and my main photo drive would be out of sync.

That’s why I leave this feature turned off. Instead, I simply import my photos like normal (by the way, I cover this stuff in my Lightroom In Depth classes on Kelby Training by the way). I store them on my main photo drive in a “Photos” folder and I put subfolders under that for each shoot. So it looks something like this:

Then, once a day/week/however long I simply clone the main photo drive to the backup drive. You could use a simple copy/paste or you could save some time by using a program like Super Duper (some other options including PC). Either way, the goal here is to have your photo backup drive look exactly like your main photo drive. That way, recovering from your backup drive is simple. Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather you use the 2nd copy feature in the Import dialog over nothing at all. But if you want my actual backup solution and why I don’t use Lightroom’s features to help me with this, now you know.

Author: Matt K

Matt is a full time Education Director for the NAPP and Kelby Training. He's a best-selling author of various books on Photoshop and Photography co-hosts the live weekly photography talk show "The Grid" and is co-host of "Photoshop User TV". In his spare time he practices as a 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo and enjoys spending time with his family in Tampa, FL.

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8 Comments

  1. Matt,
    I use the 2nd copy to send to a DVD. But only for reasons stated above. Its truly what I believe are the little annoyance’s in LR that drive me crazy!! This is one of them. The ability to Copy folder name,and send to a 2nd, 3rd,4th location. How hard can that be?

    In fact that would be a great topic : what are the “Little annoyance’s” in everyone’s workflow that they wish LR would fix or add.? ( Not The big wish list of example face recognition or networking)

    Thanks Matt for all you do for LR!

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  2. Ditto Matt,

    Besides import takes longer if you’re doing the back up with LR.
    A clone of drive is way to go and it can be done while you sleep and don’t need
    the puter.

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  3. I don’t use any of Lightroom backup features.
    I let Time Machine do the primary backup and when I finish editing of a set of photos I use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone my data on an external drive.

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  4. The odd and completely un-configurable second copy feature is really annoying. It would be terrific if they’d allow you to specify the naming convention for this in LR4. That said, I think I fall in your camp of ‘better than nothing.’ Also I’m paranoid, and this at least guarantees my pictures are always in at least two places as soon as they come off the card, so I don’t have a window of vulnerability before some kind of backup sync runs. Importing to mirrored drives would certainly also guarantee that, but that’s less feasible on a portable workstation.
    Thanks for pointing out the weakness of this feature–hope Adobe listens!!!

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  5. Clone of drive is not necessarily the way to go. For example, I do a lot of HDR work. RAW’s become useless once they are processed. Do I really want to keep all those RAW’s twice? No.

    So the solution is backup the RAW’s on import, and discard them once processed on the working drive.

    Simplest solution? Lightroom get your shit together. Let me control how the backups are names, stored etc.

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  6. I don’t know where to leave this search for answer but here it is.

    I recently consolidated most of my 30k+ photos into two separate drives in trying to clean up my system drive. Now, as expected, many of my thumbnails show a ? since the picture can not be found. Searching works but it is a tedious and time consuming task.

    Is there a way to a) create a filter in LR4 that will show ONLY missing files -i.e. only the ones with a “?” b) is there an external program that can do a thorough search for more than one picture file at a time? c) am I searching for the impossible?

    Thank you in advance for ALL your tips and suggestions, most of all for your solutions. Oz

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  7. Agree with comments made earlier.

    What about using the LR4 2nd copy feature to be sure you have a back up. When finished processing in LR (or at least first pass, deletions, stars, keywording, etc)
    Then import “edited/developed” folder onto external drive and now delete the “imported on” folder

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  8. I started using make 2nd copy option – Images saved in lightroom duplicate folder.
    I then process images from master drive/folder. Develop, delete, crop, add keywords, etc. Then I select all (that remains) and export to external drive – being sure to check add to catalog box.

    Now the images, megadata, post processing changes, etc are saved and cataloged. And reduced from full shoot to the 10-20% I want to keep

    Then I go to the lightroom duplicate folder- find the images by import date and delete the entire set.

    What is left – original – on master drive, duplicate of master folder on back up drive and unused, unwanted removed.

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