Funny how circumstances sometimes dictate blog post topics. Instead of posting a couple of photos showing how you can improve on some photographs you already think are pretty good, or take a terrible photo and salvage something from it, I find myself writing a post about recovering my digital photographs. By writing this, I hope to help you avoid what’s happened to me, or if it does, keep you from sinking into despair (kind of like I did). I know data backup isn’t exactly a compelling topic, especially for this website, but making sure you can easily recover from data loss is worth investing some time and money.
Over the last several months a hot Disney discussion topic has been the removal of various attractions and entertainment from the Disney Parks. But if you’re a photography buff, make sure you have a good working backup, or your Disney photographs may disappear faster than the American Idol Experience.
Here’s a bit of background on how I’m setup for my digital photography – I now use Adobe Lightroom 5 for about 100% of my editing where I want to share any kind of pictures, but since 2006, I’ve used iPhoto to store, organize, and do simple edits. I also use iPhoto to create any projects – books, calendars, cards, you name it.
One good thing about iPhoto is it keeps all your photos in one place, so all of your digital photo data is in one file – your iPhoto library file (which is really a big bucket that hold all your pictures and databases cataloging your stuff). The bad news is that all of your digital photo data is in one place, and if your iPhoto library gets out of whack, look out. You may have problems ranging from not so bad, and repair is easy, to nuclear winter, which is what I’ve been facing.
Technology is great – as long as it works. For some reason iPhoto has gone “scorched earth” on me. Not a good feeling to know you have 20,000+ photos in your library, only to see that your computer is telling you they’re not there.
What did I lose? albums, projects – books, ratings, edits. One thing that’s particularly annoying is losing the book I’m working on. When each of my kids turn 10, I give them a photo album showing the “greatest photo hits” of moments so far in their lives. iPhoto makes that absurdly easy, and it’s not too expensive for a one of a kind keepsake. And of course, there are photos from our Disney trips in there. Losing edits isn’t not a huge problem since most of the time I just used iPhoto’s “Enhance” tool. But I did a fair amount of red eye removal, and was pretty sure that’s all gone.
I was panicking.
Then I had that Apollo 13 moment where Ed Harris tells the NASA engineers not to panic, so I calmed down. I have an online backup with Carbonite. I’ll get the data back and restore my iPhoto library. Or I’ll get my data back and export everything to Lightroom. There are tons of iPhoto users doing just that right now since Apple is looking to migrate iPhoto and Aperture users to their new Photos app. But for now, getting iPhoto back to normal is the first thing to try since it’s the easiest – from a data management and organizational perspective.
Don’t get me wrong – I still like iPhoto, and if I can get my iPhoto library backup from the cloud, I’ll probably try to reinstall iPhoto and see if everything magically comes back. And if that happens, I’ll probably continue to use iPhoto. But I’m not sure how this is going to turn out. I may get my files back, but the organizational structure may be ruined.
I decided on a two step method to get my files back: 1) access my online photo file folders and download them. 2) restore my iPhoto library file from online backup. If only one or the other works, I get my stuff back, and even if I have to spend hours sorting through everything, I have my images. Now I’m congratulating myself on how smart I am.
Restoring from online backups is “easy” – if you have time to let your computer just sit. You may have slow downloads – and limitations of number of files allowed in a single download, so instead of one click and even a long wait, I was faced with lots of clicks and multiple long waits, while trying to stay sort of organized.
One funny thing about hogging up our internet bandwidth is watching my kids panic when Netflix doesn’t stream as it should. I just shrug as if I don’t know, then run to another room and laugh maniacally.
The restoration is taking a long time – I use my MacBook Pro for work, so at times I have to interrupt the restoration and travel or go to the office. And at the office, our internet speed is just a tick past dial up speeds. Another observation is that even with super fast internet, your restoration may take a while since Carbonite has to put all those files back where they’re supposed to go – one at a time. I’m still going to have a cloud backup, but I also purchased a 2TB Western Digital external drive. I’m putting my music and photos there. I’m going to do my best to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
I was able to download my photos! But that introduced another problem – since I’ve downloaded the files, the file dates appear to show February 21, 2015 as the “created” date. So using the Mac OS X Finder (or if I were on a PC, Windows Explorer) to search by photo file date will now be problematic. So the .jpg photo file created during our 2009 Disney Trip no longer has the photo date readily available. If it comes to that, I hope the embedded information in each file still contains the photo’s date. Fortunately, I downloaded files and folders by year, so the entire organizational structure shouldn’t be whacked.
I may end up with a lengthy process of sorting files and trying to create albums or collections by event. Let’s hope not.
So, to avoid this misery, and I hope you do, make sure you backup files regularly. This could be photos, music, important files, whatever. Online backups are great – but restoring a lot of data from an online back up will probably take a while. Have a somewhat current backup on another drive that’s close to you. Large capacity external drives are pretty cheap now – I got my 2TB Western Digital for about $99. Not too bad considering.
Is having a cloud based backup worth it? I think yes, even now that I know restoration of a lot (or all) of your data is slow. External drives are great, and now obviously I recommend having one. But those drives can fail too. Knowing what I know now, I recommend having both. Nothing is ever 100% fail safe, but I think having the two helps in case one or the other doesn’t work for restoring data.
This is a Disney related website, so that means this story must have a happy ending. We’ll see.
This restoration is taking longer than the dismantling of The Hat. Let’s have some more coffee. I’m gonna be here a while.