Small portable hard drives are considered essential tools for any photographer today. Combined with the slim size and high storage capacity that the latest drives feature, they fill a number of important functions for shooters of all styles.
A small USB drive that fits inside your pocket or camera bag can house your entire image library. Paired with a laptop that’s running Lightroom, you have the freedom to take your entire business on the road. This means you can edit and process images anywhere, fulfill photo requests from clients, share any photo with anyone, anytime, send images for printing and update your catalog as you shoot new photos.
Portable drives can also be used to deliver images to clients and they make for perfect backup solutions when you’re on location. For many assignment photographers, it’s standard procedure to backup each day’s work to a pair of drives.
Finally, external drives offer a great solution for off-site backup. Having an extra drive allows you to keep an extra safe copy of your image archive, just in case there’s a fire, flood, tornado, hurricane or break-in at your home or studio. Think about it: a hundred dollar hard drive is pretty cheap insurance. The idea is that you keep an current backup at home and swap it out each week with the off-site drive.
With these examples, it’s easy to see why you should probably have at least a couple of external drives, if not more. Here are three of the most popular slim style USB drives on the market today, I’d recommend any one of these models. They all run on Macs and PCs and are Apple Time Machine compatible.
The #1 best selling slim external hard drive is the Western Digital My Passport Ultra. It’s is a rock solid storage unit that comes in three sizes (500GB, 1TB and 2TB) and four colors (black, blue, red and gray), which lets you differentiate your drives way better than labeling them with masking tape and a sharpie.
I’ve used multiple incarnations of this drive for years for and they’ve never let me down. It’s small, reliable and reasonably priced. I’ve got three of them sitting on my desk right now.
The Seagate Backup Plus Slim is another very reliable and versatile drive, and they’re the thinnest portable drives on the market for the size. I just used a pair of these on my last big assignment for master storage, backup and delivery of image to the client and I loved how small and sleek they were. The Backup Plus Slim come in four sizes (500GB, 1TB, 2TB and 4TB) and four colors, just like the WD Ultra.
The LaCie Rugged Mini Disk has become a very popular hard drive with outdoor photographers because it’s built with a shock absorbing rubberized housing that protects your data if you drop your hard drive or get it wet. It’s rated to withstand being driven over with a one ton car, and it offers reasonable weather resistance in the rain and snow.
The LaCie Rugged comes in 500GB, 1TB and now there’s even a 2TB version as well as Thunderbolt compatible drives for the newer Macs. Here’s a complete list of all the different configurations and sizes. They cost a little more, but that’s a small tradeoff for the how much more durable it is compared to other non-rugged external drives.