Quite the question, isnâ€™t it? To be perfectly honest, itâ€™s not one that we ask ourselves around here all that often – we tend to err on the other side of the coin and worry more about making pictures than worrying about the space they take up. Of everyone on our crew, Iâ€™m admittedly the most technically oriented (read: geekiest) so this is naturally a question I wanted to explore while working on a system-wide offsite backup for all of our files.
As I sat at my desk staring at the quantity of hard drives these files were filling, I took it upon myself to break things down a bit more and try and find the answer to how much we shoot, how we shoot it, and how itâ€™s changing. The answers didnâ€™t necessarily surprise me, but they werenâ€™t exactly what I was expectingâ€¦
I should preface this discussion with the simple fact that this entire inventory occurs within the digital space, working in gigabytes and terabytes as opposed to rolls, sheets, binders and drawers of film. Chrisâ€™s professional career as a photographer began digitally and weâ€™ve stuck to the format since 2004. Inherently, this has created a legacy of digital files, seemingly ever expanding as time goes on.
To add it all up, weâ€™re working with just about 35TB of active storage (mirrored for a grand total of 70TB) and as much as I hate to say it, out of that active storage there is not a ton of free space. Only a few terabytes. So where the hell does all of that space go?
When I broke it down year by year and took a closer look at history, I did notice a few strange things. Obviously the numbers have increased over the years, but I was surprised to see huge growth from 2009-2010. What could have happened that our volume of files went from 750 gigabytes in 2009 to over 2 terabytes in 2010?
Initially this was puzzling, but there were a few key things that happened in this period of time that escalated the quantity and file size of what weâ€™re shooting. Technology plays a huge factor into this – Chris bought our Phase One P45+ digital back at the end of 2008. Although we shoot with a mix of our Canon cameras and medium format system, thereâ€™s no question that adding these files increased our demand for storage.
The other factor wasn’t entirely clear until Chris and I were discussing the anomaly. 2008-2009 were years of recent economic crisis in the United States and as a result, Chris was shooting less. When things began to pickup in 2010, the difference was marked – more assignments, more shooting, and more files to store. Ever since the growth has followed a similar pattern of gradually increasing every year. I never thought that greater economic factors would influence the amount of storage we’d need to worry about, but there’s a first for everything.
Aside from actual file sizes of our captures, the scope of work and size of our the actual assignments we were shooting began to grow as well. As Chrisâ€™s career has develops, weâ€™ve been continually working on bigger and better projects, shooting more and more for each assignment. Whether weâ€™re on a high profile advertising shoot with a two dozen models, or off the grid shooting in the wilderness for a week, weâ€™re certainly going to make a lot of photos – tons more than a one off portrait editorial assignment.
So what does this mean for the future? Essentially it means that we keep doing what we do – we make pictures and we store them. As we grow, our storage will simply need to grow to accommodate the demand. Our ears are to the ground listening for the next biggest hard drives or storage solutions, but the big idea here is that we’ll never limit the capabilities of what we can shoot and create by a factor of storing it all.