Photography Storage

As cameras produce larger files and your archive increases, storage becomes more complex. Hard drives eventually fail, so you likely store your files on one drive and back them up on another. Once you reach the capacity of those drives, then you are faced with migrating the material to two larger drives, taking the first drives offline or setting up some array of drives. At this point, one begins to think about simplifying things, and RAID drives make more sense. If you are using more than one computer or have to share resources, then a RAID NAS drive might make more sense.

Why You Might Want to Use a RAID drive.

Understanding RAID

The first problem in understanding RAID is which method of RAID to use. The recommendation, from several sources, is to use RAID 5 or 6. RAID 5 allows you to recover everything if one of your disks fails. If two drives fail, then all your photographs will be lost. Moving to RAID 6 allows for two drive failures, which is added protection but will reduce your storage capacity. In RAID 5 two 10 Terabytes of storage might give you only 16 TB of storage. These RAID versions allow for the hot swapping of drives and various different-sized drives in the enclosure. A RAID 10 requires a minimum of four hard drives, but it will only survive a single drive failure. Thus, RAID 6 is likely the best choice for survivability. Even so, one should always be backing up your RAID drive. Most enclosure manufacturers provide an easy-to-use proprietary system, such as Snyologyies SHR2 RAID. However, keep in mind this locks you into their system, and you can not simply transfer your drives to another manufacturer’s RAID enclosure. Most companies produce these versions for non-professional use.


A quick review of photographers’ sites seems to indicate that Synology drives are a popular choice for storing images. This enclosure, like those of many other manufacturers, can house either 2.5 ” or 3.5″ drives, and the Synology systems 5 bay DS1522+ can scale up to 15 bays using an expansion unit. This is a NAS unit that can also be connected to your home ethernet network.


Setting up Lightroom on a NAS

Storing your images on a NAS works well with Lightroom Classic provided the catalogue resides on your local drive. If work from more than one computer remember that there is no official support from Adobe if you want to place your catalogue and images on a NAS drive. To get around this, use a local sync client to sync a local folder to the NAS continuously or after you finish. Make sure the synchronization has finished before you shut down.

Drive Configuration and Number of Bays

In order to acquire over 20 TB of storage and run with either RAID 5 or 6 you would need a minimum of three bays for RAID 5 and a minimum of four bays for RAID 6. So if one went with four bays Synology’s site suggests the maximum storage would be 49TB using RAID 5 and 32.7TB using RAID 6. Using five bays, these numbers would go from 65TB to 49TB respectively. This would suggest that a five-bay drive would future-proof your storage.

The real downside of RAID is the smallest drive reduces the storage of all drives. For example, if you had a five-bay enclosure filled with 18TB drives your storage with RAID 6 would be 49TB, but if you remove one of these drives and replace it with a 4TB, the capacity drops to 10TB immediately.

A Scenario for Moving Systems

Suppose you had a Drobo, a proprietary system that has gone out of business. You have three 8TB drives and two 4TB drives in the Drobo, which has given you over 20TB of storage. If you bought a Synology five-bay enclosure, reformated these drives, and placed them in the bay, you would get using RAID 5 14 TB or RAID 6 10 TB of storage. This is a considerable reduction in space. Unless you opt to use Synology’s proprietary system, then you would jump up to 21.TB, but you would then be locked into their system, and would not be able to move these drives to any other manufacturers’ bays, unless you first download them to an external drive. If you had had the experience of Drobo going extinct, this may not be a scenario you would want to repeat. You may be more inclined to use a transferable method like RAID 5 or 6.

The Cost

The initial cost would be the enclosure itself, and a five-bay Synology enclosure is listed at $1000CDN. In the scenario above, you would place the three 8TB in this enclosure. Thinking of the future, I imagine you would purchase the most significant drive the system appears to be tested for, 18TB. Two Iron Wolf, Pro NAS drives, would cost $ 440 CDN each. This would mean the total investment would be $1800 CDN before taxes, giving you 29.1TB at RAID 5 and 21.8TB at RAID 6.

The downside here is the storage would remain at 21.8TB until all drives were replaced with 18 TB drives. If you had added only two more 8TB drives, you would have reached the 21.8TB level. If you needed more storage, you would have to replace all the drives. So, what you choose may be dependent on the cost of drives.

The current cost of an “IronWolf NAS HDD, SATA III w/ 256MB Cache” drive is as follows:

  • 12TB $299
  • 16 TB $349.99
  • 18 TB $439.99

Keep in mind the drives you choose should be drives that are designed to be used in as NAS RAID drives and preferably on their compatibility lists.

The cost of the five-bay Synology NAS compared to other options:

  • $999, DS 1522+ 5-Bay DiskStation NAS w/8GB RAM
  • $899.99, QNAP TS-653D 6-BAy NAS with 4GB RAM
  • $1349.99, QNAP TS-673A 6-BAy NAS with 8GB RAM
  • $449.99, QNAP TS-431K 4-Bay Personal Cloud NSA w 1GB of RAM