- 1 The Best External Hard Drives for Photographers and Travel
- 2 Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB
- 3 WD My Passport Ultra Portable
- 4 Seagate Seven
- 5 Features to Look for in a Portable Hard Drive
- 6 Tips for Managing Your Backups
There’s nothing worse than losing all of your photos after a long day of shooting.
Sure, you could go back and make an effort to recreate all of the same shots you took. We all know it never comes out the same.
After such a setback you probably wouldn’t be in the mood to head back out anyways.
Having your memory card corrupt on you is problematic. It’s also painful since your photos are the reminders you had, your digital memories, of your trip.
Losing photos during a client photo shoot is just as bad. The client won’t be happy and you’ll likely lose out on any payment or commissions.
Don’t worry though! By taking a small precaution you won’t have to worry about losing your photos. You just have to make the effort to back them up.
You might not have access to a laptop, especially if you’re out on the town or on a client shoot. As soon as you have access to your laptop consider backing everything up.
There are two different methods to backing up your photos:
- Cloud storage
- Hard drives
When you’re traveling you probably won’t have the internet speeds needed to back-up your photos online. In this case a portable hard drive is the next best thing.
The Best External Hard Drives for Photographers and Travel
If you’ve ever looked online or at an electronic store you’ve probably seen a wide range of different portable hard drives available.
It’s hard to know which ones are the most reliable, practical and that meet all of the requirements that I’ve just discussed.
Here are a collection of what I believe to be the best portable hard drives for photographers and the options that I recommend are the most suitable for traveling with.
Seagate Backup Plus Slim 2TB
I’ve been using Seagate products for nearly 10 years and since 2012 I’ve been travelling with their available hard drives.
I’m currently using a 2TB Seagate Backup Plus Slim and I believe that it’s a top contender for the best portable hard drive for photographers and travellers.
With the Seagate Backup Plus Slim there are a few different sizes of drives available.
I’m currently using the 2TB model but you’re able to choose from 500GB, 1TB, 2TB and even 4TB. I’m in the market for a new drive this year and I’ll definitely be upgrading to the 4TB option.
If you’re shooting in RAW or you’re filming a lot of videos I would say that you’ll want to consider at least 1TB in storage space. For video you’ll probably want even more, especially if you’re shooting in 4K.
On a recent road trip I took in Romania I was using my GoPro Hero 3 Black to capture the incredible scenery from the road and in one day I took over 250gb of footage. I actually had to go out and buy a new drive for the trip but you can see how easy it is to fill up the drives if you’re shooting a lot of video.
Portability and Durability
I find the Seagate Backup Plus Slim to be a very portable drive. The 2TB one that I have is quite small, weighing just under 5 ounces, and 2 of them fit easily into my laptop bag or backpack, depending on what I’m travelling with.
If you’re using a dedicated backpack for photography there’ll likely be enough interior space that you could fit one drive into your pack without having to worry too much about the weight or the space it takes it.
When I hold it the drive fits nicely into my hand and it’s about 4.5 inches in length, 3 inches wide and roughly 0.5 inches thick, just to give you some perspective.
I usually upgrade my drives every year so I can’t comment too much on the reliability but my Backup Plus Slim was able to withstand 2-months of constant bumps and shakes during my road trip and nothing ever went wrong.
I’ve flown with it, hiked with it, taken it on busses, trains and even dropped it a few times and the one I have is still running very nicely.
Ease of Use and Additional Features
The Seagate Backup Plus Slim comes with plug-and-play connectivity so if you’re using a PC you just plug it into the USB port and you’re good to go.
I had some trouble with it at first with my Mac but I only needed to download a driver from the Seagate websites and it has worked great for me ever since.
You can use your own file manager to manage and arrange your photos but the drive also comes with a Seagate Dashboard software that will let you manage your images as well. You can also choose settings for a back-up schedule whether you want to back everything up once per week, once per month or every time you upload new data.
Additionally, it’s USB-powered so you don’t need an extra power supply and it even comes with 200GB of OneDrive cloud storage for free for 2 years of use which gives you another option for backing up your photos.
I definitely recommend checking out the Seagate Backup Plus Slim if you’re looking for a hard drive that’s suitable for photography, travel and general use.
This is my favorite external hard drive and it’s what I’d recommend to anyone looking for one that’s reliable, practical for getting around and durable enough to use regularly.
WD My Passport Ultra Portable
WD, or Western Digital, is another popular company that produces some great hard drives.
Along with Seagate I also use Western Digital drives and they’re the ones that I leave at home as my static, non-portable backups.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d still recommend them if you’re looking for something suitable for photography and for traveling with but personally, I just like to travel with the same two pairs of drives and it’s just random that my Western Digital drives stay behind.
I would have no problem bringing them along and they’re still a great option that I recommend.
The WD My Passport Ultra Portable comes in four different storage options. There is a 500GB, 1 TB, 2TB and a 3TB drive available depending on how much space you need.
As I mentioned above if you’re taking RAW photos or shooting a lot of high definition video then I would definitely suggest considering a 1TB, or even higher storage, model.
Portability and Durability
I’ve found the WD My Passport Ultra Portable drives to be portable and a suitable choice for traveling with and for photographers. The 1TB is a little bit heavier than the Seagate drive I just mentioned, but at 5.4 ounces it’s a barely noticeable weight difference.
The 1TB WD drive is also a bit thicker, at 0.6-inches compared to 0.5-inches, but again that’s not much of a noticeable difference between the two drives.
For traveling the WD My Passport Ultra Portable hard drive is still an option that I’d recommend. It comes with a three-year limited warranty which I believe makes it a suitable choice if you’ll be doing a lot of off-road and off the beaten path traveling where you’ll be experiencing a lot of bumps, shakes and vibrations.
Ease of Use and Additional Features
If you’re using a PC the WD My Passport Ultra Portable is a plug-and-play drive. You just need to attach it to your computer through the USB port and you’ll be able to start uploading your photos right away.
Keep in mind that you have to reformat it if you’re planning on using it for a Mac computer but I’d still recommend it for both Mac and PC’s.
It takes advantage of a 3.0 USB connectivity for faster file transfers and you will also have the optional ability to take advantage of a 256-bit AES hardware encryption to keep some of your more important photos or other documents safe.
I love using my WD My Passport Ultra Portable drive and it’s the one that I actually keep in my home office to use for backing up my most important photos, videos and other documents.
It was a bit tricky to start using with my MacBook Pro but after some quick research online I found out how to format it and it was good to go.
If you’re planning on heading out into the field with your laptop on a photography job or your traveling with your camera and you want to keep all your photos backed up I definitely recommend checking out the WD My Passport Ultra Portable drives.
If making an effort to travel as light as possible then I suggest checking out the Seagate Seven.
Seagate themselves claim that it’s one of the world’s thinnest 500GB portable hard drives and if you’re looking for an ultralight alternative to the options I listed up above then this is the drive you should consider.
The biggest drawback to the Seagate Seven is its own storage.
There are two different options available, 500GB and 750GB, and if you’re spending more than just a few days out in the field or abroad then it’s likely not enough but for just one or two days on a client shoot or traveling somewhere nearby then it’s likely a suitable choice.
Portability and Durability
With Seagate claiming that this is one of the world’s finished portable drives it’s of course a portable option and a lightweight alternative to the other drives I’ve talked about today.
Keep in mind that there’s only a difference of about two or so ounces between this and the other two models and it’s only a good choice if you really want to cut out any additional weight in your bags or luggage.
It’s also much thinner so it of course takes up less space but what you gain in space-saving capability you lose in storage so it’s up to you to decide what it is you’re looking for.
As for durability, the Seagate Seven is made entirely of steel which I think gives a more durable and rugged design compared to some of the hard plastic or aluminum alternatives.
Ease of Use and Additional Features
Like the other drives I’ve mentioned here today the Seagate Seven is USB-powered and doesn’t require any additional power source.
The actual Seagate Dashboard app is pre-loaded onto the drive itself so it’s good to go once you plug it into your PC. You might have to do some formatting if you’re using a Mac computer but mine worked right out of the box.
Another great feature is that it it comes with a three-year limited warranty so you’ll be able to get some support if something goes wrong with it while using it during that timeframe.
And finally, it looks really cool and while it might not be the most practical for storing large amounts of video or photo data it’s definitely cool to travel with and thin/lightweight enough that you can pack two or three away into your luggage without having to sacrifice too much additional space.
I would recommend the Seagate Seven drive if you’re only spending a few days out in the field traveling or on a client shoot and you don’t need that much space for your backups.
It’s also a good choice if you’re making an effort to travel as light as possible and you’re looking for areas where you can cut down on any additional weight.
Keep in mind that if you’re planning on shooting video, especially anything in 4K quality, you’ll want to consider traveling with a hard drive that offers more storage capability.
Features to Look for in a Portable Hard Drive
Now that we’ve looked at why you should always travel with a external hard drive and some of the alternatives for backing up your photos here are the features that you should look for when you’re considering a new portable hard drive for photography.
I typically travel with two portable hard drives just so that I can always have at least three different backup options but if you’re using cloud storage, a hard drive and your computer then you could get away with just carrying around one.
Here are the features you want to look for:
One of the most important features that you want in a portable hard drive is that it is indeed portable.
There are some bigger options available but try keep an eye out for the smaller, more streamlined models that can easily slip into your backpack and carry around without having to sacrifice any additional space in your bags or luggage.
If it’s too big and unwieldy then you’ll be more likely to leave it at home so always look for the smallest and most portable drives that you could find.
I haven’t used one in a long time but I know there are still some hard drives that you actually have to plug into the wall for it to power up.
You’ll want to avoid these ones and you should always keep an eye out for one that’s powered by USB. This way, you can quickly plug it into your laptop and it will have all the power it needs.
You won’t have to look for any power outlets or carry an additional travel adapter just to charge up your drive.
Another reason why I love the USB power ones is that it’s just one less cord to travel with and depending on the smartphone you’re using you might be able to use the same cord for more than one of your devices, which helps to save space in your bags.
Robust and Durable
Even if you’re making an effort to back up your photos using a external hard drive things can still go wrong if you buy a cheap and unreliable one.
There are quite a few different options available, and you can see the ones I recommend down below, but you still want to make sure to read reviews and check out the specs before’s just buying any random drive.
There are some newer SSD drives that are faster, thinner and not as prone to corruption and damage from bumps and shakes.
These drives are more costly but I find them to be a more reliable option in the long run, which is important for backing up your photos and being able to access copies of your digital images if something goes wrong.
Price and Value
The price of a portable drive is something you also want to consider. I wouldn’t suggest cheaping out and just buying the cheapest one there is but I don’t think there’s also any need to spend a significant amount of money on the most expensive option.
Look around for the best value drives and set aside a reasonable budget to buy a new one every year or at least every other year.
I recommend traveling with a pair of reasonably priced hard drives just so that you can always have your photos backed up safely but there are some affordable options as well if you’re only interested in buying one.
Tips for Managing Your Backups
Never Store Everything in One Place
The reason I recommended using both cloud storage and an external hard drive is because you never want to keep all of your photos stored in just one place.
Using cloud storage in combination with portable hard drives allows you to keep your data safely stored in two different places so that when one format crashes, which is inevitable, you’ll hopefully have a backup on another storage format.
Thankfully, it’s really easy to copy your digital files and store them using a variety of different devices and formats.
I actually recommend keeping four back-ups.
For many people this is overkill but it’s a lot more of a guarantee when it comes to worst-case-scenario to have as many copies as you can.
Always Backup Everything
One of the best ways to prevent losing all of your photos from a crash, corrupt drive or by losing them is to store everything on a variety of different devices and formats.
When I’m travelling I try to keep 4 back-ups of all my images and video using these formats:
This way, if something happens to one of these formats or devices I’ll always have my backups available somewhere else and I don’t have to stress out about losing everything.
Consider Additional Memory Cards
These days memory cards are very affordable, small and they come with a lot of storage space.
What this means is that you can pick up a handful of 64GB, 128GB, or even 512GB, memory cards and use them to keep an additional back-up of your images.
These cards take advantage of a solid state memory format, they’re not very fragile and you can store a lot of them in a small space.
Some of them are also waterproof, impact proof and not as susceptible to corrupting compared to portable hard drives.
The problem though is that compared to portable external hard drives memory cards don’t offer as much space and they’re not as well suited for long-term photo storage, especially while you’re traveling or out on a client shoot.
However, if you are traveling with a laptop or your camera can write to two cards at once and you’re only going to be spending a short period of time away from home then you could definitely get by with just using memory cards to back up your photos.