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Pro Photo Rental

File Storage - Staying Organized During a Shoot
By Zac Henderson

     File organization and backup is easily the least interesting aspect of being a photographer or videographer, yet it is simultaneously the most important. Maintaining proper backups and organization of your files while on the job is crucial to ensure your data doesn’t get lost, overwritten, or accidentally deleted.
    If you’ve never been in a situation where, even if just for a moment, you’ve misplaced or lost track of missing files while on a job it can be easy to shrug off the idea of creating on-site backups or maintaining consistent, repeatable on-site organization. The reality is that even one screw up could have a severe effect on the outcome of a shoot. In a (very possible) worst case scenario, it could be the difference between sending final deliverables, and delivering nothing but an excuse. Below we’ve outlined some tips and best practices to stay in front of your organization so you can feel confident the next time you record that all important data.

    Shoot to both card slots

    Most modern camera bodies have the benefit of two card slots- some with the same, and some with a different form of storage (One SD slot and one CF slot, two SD slots, etc). Putting both slots to use whenever possible is an excellent way of ensuring against disaster. The phrase, “two is one and one is none” is a good mantra for file storage, so the benefit of creating two copies at the point of capture ensures from the very beginning that you can already survive one failure. It’s an even better bet if the card slots are of a different type of storage, like one SD and one CF card.

    Make On-Site Backups

If you’re shooting to both card slots then you’re already a step ahead. Another way to ensure your data is as safe as it can be is to make on-site backups to an external hard drive. This typically involves bringing your computer along, which also probably means bringing along a power cable and maybe a couple other accessories. Sometimes this may not be an option during a shoot, but at the very least it will usually be an option right after the shoot is finished. The benefit here is that the sequencing of the shoot is fresh on your mind, so you’ll likely be the most efficient at creating file organization to be referenced later while also backing up your data.
    If you can’t (or just don’t want to) bring your computer along, you might consider investing in a portable backup solution like GNARBOX. These devices provide backup solutions mentioned above, but without a laptop. Simply connect a card reader, follow some on screen prompts, and presto: you have a backup of all the data on your memory card. Some options are even weather resistant which can be a life saver when shooting on location.

     Shoot Tethered Whenever Possible (Stills Only)

    If you’re able to shoot tethered then you’re in even better shape. Shooting tethered (camera connected to computer via USB cable) to a piece of software like Capture One Pro allows you to make specific folders which are dedicated to specific sets of images. Setting these folders as capture folders allows you to send each new file to that folder instantaneously.     For example, If you’re shooting fashion, you have the option of making different folders on your local or external drive named for the specific shot, like “look 1, look 2, look 3,” etc. After you’ve finished shooting into the “look 1” folder, set the “look 2” folder as the capture folder while your model is in makeup or is getting a wardrobe change. This is an excellent method for staying organized on a shoot, since you’re creating your organization before the shoot even begins. When the shoot’s over you can easily find each set of images. What’s more, during some downtime, all you have to do to make a backup of all your images is to copy the parent folder to another drive. Easy.

    Be Disciplined with Organization

     Multi day shoots involve lots of data. Sometimes this data is complex, so in order to stay organized you should be disciplined with regular backups and committing early on to an organizational scheme. There’s not much worse than a client asking to review a specific piece of footage from two days ago and you’re not able to quickly bring it up on screen. Not being able to recall footage quickly makes you look unorganized and unprofessional.
    Before the shoot even begins, you should speak with other members of your crew if applicable and decide on an organizational scheme, whether it be based on the day and time, shot names, or other factors specific to the shoot. This ensures everyone is on the same page, so if another member of your team needs to find a specific piece of footage, they can do so without having to consult you or whomever backed up the footage.
    On a multi-day job, backing up every day after the shoot is over is extremely important. Backing up daily helps ensure your data is safe (two is one, one is none), but backing up while the day’s events are fresh on your mind allows you to make better organizational decisions regarding your file structure. Sometimes, however, this can be a real challenge. Its not uncommon on some jobs to shoot will into the evening. Arriving at a hotel in the wee hours of the morning with only a few hours to clean up, charge batteries, backup footage, and maybe get some sleep before the next shoot can be exceptionally challenging. Its no secret that you make more mistakes when you’re tired, and the last place you want to make a mistake is when backing up or organizing footage. Therefore it’s important to be smart about your backups and only handle footage when you’re not the most likely to make a mistake. Sometimes that means backing up footage to a separate drive to be organized later when you’re not drooling on your keyboard.

Hire a Digital Tech

    Some creative professional just don’t get along with technology. For some, computers are a necessary evil. You’ve got the creative mind to make something amazing out of nothing at all, but accessing the google may be a real challenge at times. Even if you’re good with this kind of thing, If you’ve got a big job coming up and you’re not 100% confident you can keep your data efficiently backed up, organized, and easily accessed, then it might be in your (and your client’s) best interest to bring on a digital tech. A digital tech’s sole responsibility is to make sure files are coming in correctly, are organized efficiently, and are backed up properly. That takes the pressure off of you, the creative, to do what you do best (be creative). A good digital tech can be the difference between a disorganized mess and a clean running machine.

Like we said above, talking about staying organized on set can be a drag. Still, it’s the most important part of any professional endeavor. Fortunately, just a little forethought and a touch of discipline can help ensure you’re as protected as is reasonably possible. Accidents happen, and often at the worst times. Take some time to analyze your current practices and see what you can improve on. Stay safe out there!

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