Asheville Wedding Photographer | If you do only one thing after your wedding, do THIS!

Mountain top wedding photo groom kissing bride on head at Hawkesdene with mountain views.

Planning a wedding is hard. It’s stressful, lengthy, and full of all kinds of emotions, but near the end, when the big day arrives, it’s FUN! It’s exhausting, but FUN! So for most couples, when their wedding is over and they return from their honeymoon, the boxes of wedding decor and unopened wedding gifts patiently wait in the corner for weeks, and sometimes even months. It’s hard for a couple to finish their wedding experience. It’s very much a bittersweet feeling. There is one thing though, that each couple should do right away, without waiting a minute longer… Back up your wedding photos!

Make a back up copy of your wedding photos! 
Raise your hand if you have a DVD or USB drive of photographs that are extremely important to you and you only have that one single copy. (Raising my hand! Well, not anymore, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) We all do it. We all get our amazing photographs from our photographer and put the USB drive in a place where we will always remember it is, with the intention of making another copy, and then life gets busy and we don’t ever make that copy. That’s exactly what happened to me… 

I lost my own wedding photos because I did not make a copy of them. Yes, me! A professional photographer who backs up client files in 4 places after each wedding and photo session. A professional photographer who preaches to her clients about backing up and making copies of their photographs so that they are always accessible, did not do that very thing. The DVD that held our wedding photos got scratched over time, even though it was stored and untouched for years, with only being read 4-5 times in a DVD drive. I could not view the files. I could not copy the files. I could not do anything and I felt so helpless! It was heartbreaking and heart wrenching all at the same time. I was so very disappointed in myself and felt like I had lost a part of me, a part of my past. It was awful. I panicked for a bit, asked friends for help, and panicked some more. My husband reassured me that we would figure out a way. I wasn’t so sure. Actually, I was so unsure about it that I let this unsettled matter sit for over 8 months, likely because I did not want to face the fact that our wedding photographs were really gone. 

After all that time I finally reached out to my wedding photographer from 11 years ago with no luck. I could not find him. He is no longer in business and even if he was he may not have our wedding photos still. Photographers aren’t responsible for keeping digital files forever, but it was worth trying. I reached out to more friends, even one who works in IT. He tried to help me and still, no luck. He called some digital media restoration companies and they were unable to help. They said a scratched DVD cannot be fixed. I wanted to crawl into a hole. I felt awful that it was my job to keep our digital wedding photographs safe and I didn’t. I felt like I let my husband down. I even felt like I let my clients down, though they didn’t know I was experiencing this. I felt awful. 

While I was hosting a pity party for myself, my IT friend had reached out to an old colleague who lives across the country and asked for advice. Remarkably, this friend of a friend thought that he had an old DVD restoration device in a box somewhere in his house and he would look for it. He found it, and was willing to give it a try for us. THANK GOODNESS! I talked with him on the phone and he made it clear that there were no guarantees that he could recover our wedding photos. I understood and mailed him our wedding DVD via UPS, all the way across the country, in hopes that he could get something off of that DVD for us! Days later I got a text… it was working and he was able to recover all but ONE of our wedding photos! Holy cow! I was thrilled! I could hardly believe it, and I was so incredibly relieved! I wanted to get on a plane, and go give this man a hug! I was SO grateful! 

Over the next week this friend of a friend mailed me a freshly loaded USB drive of our digital wedding photographs and the very day I received the package I made back up copies of our photos all over the place! I was not going to let this happen again. A copy now resides in cloud storage, on my laptop, on a USB drive in our fireproof box, and on an external hard drive in our fireproof box. Plus, the next time I visit my parents, I will take a USB copy to be put in their safe. 

How and where to make another copy of your photos: 
Trust me when I say, digital photographs do not mean they will forever be accessible. We have to keep up with the changing technology and be sure our files are stored on devices that we can access in the future. For now, that means making a second and third copy on different devices. My recommendation is to keep one copy on a USB drive in a fireproof box or safe, upload one copy to cloud storage, and keep one copy on a working computer. You can even take it one step further and make another USB copy and store it at your parents house or best friends house in case of a home disaster like I plan to do. 

How to keep up with changing technology: 
Media storage is ever changing. That means we have to update the media on which our files are held from time to time. Do you have photos on a DVD? I recommend moving them to a USB drive and cloud storage right away. For now, that’s modern technology. In 5-10 years you will likely have to move them again. Remember though, ALWAYS print your favorite photos so that they will truly last forever! Print them and use them as wall art, print them and put them in an album, or have your photographer create a beautiful coffee table book with them. Make your favorite photos into prints and they will always be accessible. More on this over at 5 Reasons Why You Should Print and Display Your Photos.

Whew! Just writing about my personal experience brings back all of the feels. It was stressful, challenging, and oh so awful to experience first hand. Take it from me, not only as a professional photographer, but as a friend who experienced it first hand- back up and make copies of your digital photographs right away! Then every 5-10 years take note of technology changes and adjust accordingly. You do not want to end up wishing you could look back on your wedding day or your baby’s first birthday photos and never be able to.

I am beyond grateful to have our wedding photos back! These are two of my favorite photographs from our wedding day. ♥︎

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