At a time of limited photo shooting opportunities, there are plenty of useful things you can do with your photography.

Social isolation and self-quarantine have left many of us locked-in, anxious and wondering how to keep sane during what may be a prolonged time without work or social engagement. To help you survive this challenging, and so far, indeterminate, period we have accumulated a selection of resources to help you while we all wait for the SARS-COVID-19 emergency to end.

One of the best ways to stay sane is to keep busy. This can be challenging for photographers, who are often accustomed to going out to find subjects to capture. It will be particularly difficult for those, such as wedding and event photographers, where social engagement plays a vital role in the work they do.

Fortunately, there are plenty of useful things you can do while you’re trapped at home. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Organise Your Images

Although this is the most obvious task to tackle, many people put off doing it because it’s too hard (too many images to collate) and too boring (for the same reason) and they lack the necessary resources (primarily storage drives). Well, with days to fill there’s no longer any excuse.

Start by determining what you need. Survey your current collection of image files and folders. Where are they stored? How easy is it to find images you want quickly when you need them? Have you culled the ‘duds’ (out-of-focus and/or poorly exposed shots in the main)? Do you have an effective system for backing up the images you love?

If you’ve used one of the editors that include automated image management facilities, like those found in ACDSee Photo Studio Professional, Adobe’s Photoshop Elements and Lightroom applications or the Bridge tool in the Creative Cloud suite, Corel PaintShop Pro, or CyberLink PhotoDirector or Zoner Photo Studio, the software will provide a consistent protocol for naming and searching folders and files.  Once you’ve learned how to navigate the system, finding files should be straightforward.

Unfortunately, many of us find that’s not always the case. Some programs are difficult to get working satisfactorily, while others don’t work in ways that are compatible with our individual workflows. So many of us set up our own system, usually based on creating folders containing shots taken at the same place during a specified time slot. Folders are identified by the location and/or date.

Whichever system you currently use, now is a good time to decide whether it works for you. If it doesn’t, you have plenty of scope to change to a different system or to tweak the one you currently use so it better meets your needs. This can be challenging if you have lots of folders and files stored in different places. But it will pay rich dividends in the long run by saving you time and minimising fruitless searches.

There are plenty of resources available free of charge on the Photo Review website as well as other specialist websites to help you with image organisation. Click on the links below:

How to organise and archive your photos

The wise (but a little wordy) advice from Nikon guru, Thom Hogan via the following links:

Photography in isolation Part 1

Photography in isolation Part 2: Organisation

  1. Check Your Backup System

Adopt the professional backup strategy: make three copies of each image you value, saving one on your computer where it’s easily accessed, another on an external storage device and the third on another storage device that is kept off your premises as insurance against potential disasters like theft, fire or flood. Storage is relatively cheap in the light of the possible loss of images you love.

Work out how much capacity you need, looking ahead to possible future requirements once the emergency is over and you’re able to travel. Check your existing drives; if you’ve been using a drive for more than about six years (the median life for magnetic hard disk drives), it should probably be replaced.

Solid state drives (SSDs) are usually considered more reliable than magnetic drives, although they, too, can fail because they use similar flash memory chips to memory cards. Most of these devices are warranted for around five years, although many will last longer, depending on usage. You just can’t predict how much longer.

If you don’t have enough storage capacity, now is a good time to buy more since even if the shops are shut, online transactions can still be accomplished and goods can be delivered to your home. Additional storage devices are easily found online and you have time to carry out comparison shopping.

Current prices range from under $100 for a basic desktop expansion drive with 2TB to 4TB capacity to high-capacity Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices ranging from about $850 for 8TB for a basic unit to those with 20TB to 40TB capacity and multiple storage bays plus Cloud storage capabilities.  SSDs are more expensive, with priced ranging from $150 to $200 for a 1TB drive to around $1500 for 4TB, which is currently the highest capacity.

Many storage devices com with backup software that will provide automatic backups to a storage drive or Cloud service. Popular computer operating systems also include built-in backup facilities through Back up and restore in Windows and Time Machine in Mac OS.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to delete important image files accidentally, particularly when you’re rearranging your image collection and moving files between folders. If you’ve already implemented an effective backup scheme, it shouldn’t be difficult to find copies of the shots you’ve lost and replicate them in the original folder.

But what happens in the event of a computer crash or corrupted drive if you haven’t made any copies?  Fortunately, data recovery software is available and you may already have access to it through memory cards or flash drives you’ve purchased – as long as the card or drive is functional.

Photo Review has a pocket guide dedicated to backing up your image collection.

A couple of general guides to backing up personal data can be found here:

The Beginner’s Guide to PC Backup

What’s the Best Way to Back Up My Computer?

A useful summary of current data recovery can be found here:

Paid and free file recovery solutions

Flash memory device manufacturers also offer downloadable file recovery software, which is often developed by other companies but tested and recommended for their own branded products. Check out the links below.

Kingston’s digital image and file recovery utility, MediaRECOVER™ 4.0 covers a wide range of files types and supports the ability to preview and recover over 200 hig-end digital camera RAW file types.

Sony’s Memory Card File Rescue is available free of charge for the company’s CFexpress Type B Memory Card, XQD Memory Card, SD Memory Card and Memory Stick products as well as its USB flash drives.

Panasonic also provides free data recovery software that can recover footage accidentally deleted from an SD memory card.

SanDisk no longer provides data recovery software with its memory cards but recommends using RescuePro or RescuePro Deluxe in the event of data loss.

  1. Print the Photos You Love

Photographic prints have been the main way of preserving images ever since the dawn of photography and they still represent the most reliable way to archive your most important pictures. ‘Hard copy’ can be relied upon when digital storage fails because it’s tangible.

Chances are you already have a desktop photo printer, which means you can print your own photos at a size that is suitable for storing in an album, mounting on a display board or framing for display. You can also create your own photo books either through one of the many online services that can be found on the internet or with your own software, paper and ink.

Printing at home is not necessarily cheaper than using an online service. But it allows you to control every step in the process from choosing the inks and papers to editing and printing. On archival quality papers, inkjet prints will usually last a lot longer than prints made on traditional silver halide paper.

We’ve produced plenty of articles on printing for Photo Review readers, including a couple of dedicated pocket guides. The latest of them can be found in Photo Printing pocket guide.

Also available in the Tips pages on our website are the following:

Choosing a printer

How to select the right photo paper and ink

Why your prints don’t look right

How to use the printer driver

Print your own photobook

Create a photobook

Choosing inkjet printing papers

And see regular photo printing tips and advice in Photo Review quarterly magazine.