Most of my Digital Print Archive disappeared

At some point recently, most of the files in my Digital Print Archive went missing.

I started keeping the archive in early 2019. The idea was that I’d have a _permanent_collection of curated and edited files, “burned” as JPG files so that if anything ever happened to my RAW processor, I’d always have a copy of the edited files.

Suddenly, most of those JPGs are gone. The folder structure remains, and all of the matching .xmp files are there. But the actual image (JPG) files are missing. Disappeared.

I have no idea how it happened. They’re just gone. Of course I have backups, right? I thought so too, but there’s no sign of the files in any old backups, external drives, or cloud storage. There’s been some impossible combination of events that have left me with important files, gone. I’m not able reconstruct the story that led to this. I move shit around too often and now I’m paying for it.

Now, I do have the original RAW files, but I change RAW processors often enough that I’d have to go digging to find my original edits.

I’m embarrassed by this. It should never have happened. I pride myself on having a thorough, redundant process around my backups, and yet I have suffered unrecoverable data loss. I’m an idiot, and I’ve sworn to myself that I will learn from this.

Here’s what I’m doing

  1. Plugged in an external drive and am using Time Machine. I was using ChronoSync because it’s fancier and also wasn’t working as expected. Time Machine has always worked fine so just use that.
  2. Moved the DPA into Dropbox. I’ve got 2TB of storage in Dropbox. Use it. Also, Dropbox is good at keeping old versions of files.
  3. Upgraded Backblaze to keep 1 year of revisions. I started using Backblaze again in late July, but my DPA files went missing before that.

I may add one more drive and back up the internal HD to it using Carbon Copy Cloner, which is working great for cloning my main external images drive.

The takeway for me is to stop changing the processes around important things. Again, I didn’t lose any original photos, just the edited JPG copies. But still, I now have to go back and recreate the DPA as best I can, which will take days. Don’t let this happen to you.