In October 2014, I shot a beautiful wedding at Lost Creek Winery. One month later I delivered the edited JPEG files to the happy couple. They loved the photos, I loved their reactions, and everything was great! Fast forward to January 2016, when I got an email from the bride saying her computer crashed and she no longer had any of her photos except for the tiny thumbnails she posted to Facebook, which cannot possibly be printed with any kind of meaningful quality.

This scenario–where former clients have come to me after their files became lost–has happened four different times in my wedding photography career. See the bottom of this post for how it turned out for my clients, but first, let’s talk about why this occurs and how to prevent it.

Almost every couple wants the digital files of their wedding photos. I offer them with every wedding, and frequently they are the only tangible product my clients order from me. The issue is that we live in a world of rapidly changing technology. Today’s flash drives are tomorrow’s floppy disks. All of the memory devices shown above will become, or already are, obsolete and can just as easily be corrupted or damaged. Instagram and Facebook are very likely to become out-dated (anyone remember MySpace?). None of these are ways to store wedding photos.

In contrast, a professionally-bound, leather wedding album is designed to survive for generations. It will never go out of style nor become corrupted or obsolete. And your grandchildren will not need to scour the Earth for antique technology just to open it. Ordering an album immediately after receiving your wedding photos is a sure-fire way to preserve your photos in the face of changing technology.

I completely understand the logic of owning wedding files so that a couple can save up and order an album later. Just be careful if you go that route. For example, it took me 8 years before I got around to ordering my wedding album. By that time, I had moved three times and lost one of my CDs storing my reception photos, so my album only contains getting ready and ceremony photos. In addition, I lost nearly a decade of enjoying my wedding album.

To prevent the situation where all wedding files are lost, I recommend the following:

  • Order a professionally-bound, leather wedding album as soon as possible after your wedding;
  • Order at least two complete copies of loose-prints with one set of copies residing at your parents’ house;
  • Make at least five back-up copies of your high-resolution digital files in the most current type of industry-standard technology (whether that is a flash-drives or something else);
  • Store each flash drive in a different location, including one at your parents’ house and one in an in-home fire-proof safe or a bank safe deposit box, and one copy of files on the Cloud;
  • Update your method of storing digital files to the most current form of technology on every fifth wedding anniversary.

As for my clients who reached out to me after their photos became lost, I was able to provide replacement files for all of them. I do keep extensive back-ups of my clients’ wedding photos. However, in my wedding agreement it specifically states that I am not responsible for keeping archival copies. So, while I am happy to keep back-ups, I don’t want to be legally responsible for photos twenty or thirty years down the road.

If you should ever find yourself in the situation where you have lost all your wedding photos, I would recommend that you:

  • Reach out to your wedding photographer to see if she has copies–it cannot hurt to ask;
  • If the loss of photos is due to a computer crash, take your computer to a data recovery service;
  • Reach out to your family and friends who attended your wedding, perhaps they ordered prints or have their own photos;
  • Back up your wedding Facebook and Instagram posts to the best of your ability;
  • If all else fails, you could also consider having portraits re-taken in your wedding attire.

The bottom line is that, while digital files are nice to own, a wedding album that you can hold in your hands will never become corrupted and can be enjoyed and passed down in your family for generations.

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