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Posted by Jana Ferreira
Updated: March 1, 2024

Best External Hard Drive for Photographers with 4TB+ Storage Space

In photography, mighty megapixels and an abundance of RAW files are the norm. That’s why reliable storage solutions are an absolute must. But it’s not always easy to find the best external hard drive for photographers in the sea of options out there.

That’s why we’re here! We’ve narrowed it down to the top five external hard drives you can buy in 2024, and they’re all above 4TB in storage capacity. 

But first… let’s get a little technical. You get two types of external hard drives: SSD and HDD. So, what’s the difference between the two, and which option is right for you?

HDD vs SSD External Hard Drives

SSDs (Solid State Drives) and HDDs (Hard Disk Drives) are two types of external hard drives that work very differently. 

HDDs have been around for a long time. They use spinning disks inside to store and find your data. It's a bit like a record player: a needle (read/write head) moves over spinning disks (platters) to read or write data. 

This process can take some time because it has to wait for the right spot on the spinning disk. But HDDs are reliable, often cheaper, and can store a lot of data.

On the other hand, SSDs are newer and faster. They use something called flash memory, like what's in a USB stick. 

There are no moving parts inside SSDs, so they're quicker and more durable than HDDs. Think of it like a digital filing cabinet: everything is stored electronically, so finding data is super fast. 

SSDs are great if you want speed and don't need as much storage space. However, they're usually more expensive than HDDs for the same amount of storage.

So, which one should you choose? It depends on what you need. If you want lots of storage space without spending too much, an HDD might be better. But if you want speed and durability, even if it costs a bit more, then an SSD could be the way to go.

HDDSSD
👎 Old, slower technology👍 Newer and faster
👍 Less expensive👎 More costly
👍 More storage space👎 Less storage space
👎 Less durable👍 More durable

File Size Considerations for Photographers

Image by Freepik with photography memory cards and a camera on a laptop

There’s a reason why we’re only looking at external hard drives with 4TB+ storage space in this article.

In photography, file sizes can vary greatly depending on your camera’s resolution, image formats, and compression settings. 

For example, a RAW image from a high-resolution camera can range from 20 to 50MB or more. If you're shooting a large event or a multi-day project, these file sizes can add up fast!

Let’s say an average shoot consists of 500 RAW images. Then at 30MB per image, you would require around 15GB of storage space just for that shoot alone. 

This brings us to the conclusion that professional photographers who do many shoots need external hard drives with at least 4TB of storage space when the aim is to use it for backup purposes.

Now, let’s dive into our top five picks!

The Best External Hard Drive for Photographers: 5 Top Picks

  1. Seagate Backup Plus 5TB External Hard Drive 
  2. LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C 5TB External Hard Drive
  3. SanDisk Professional 8TB G-Drive Project Portable Hard Drive 
  4. Samsung T9 Portable 4TB SSD External Hard Drive
  5. WD My Passport 5TB External Hard Drive

Note: The prices listed below are subject to change.

Seagate Backup Plus 5TB External Hard Drive 

Seagate backup plus external hard drive for photography backups

The Seagate Backup Plus is an external HDD hard drive that comes in many storage capacity variants, ranging from 1TB to 20TB.

The 5TB Seagate Backup Plus offers a comfortable middle ground in terms of storage, price, and features:

  • Automatic backups (daily, weekly, monthly, or on demand)
  • Compatible with Mac & Windows
  • USB 3.0 (18-inch cable included)
  • Durable metal enclosure 
  • Compact and sleek design

Buy it on Amazon for $129.99

LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt USB-C 5TB External Hard Drive

LaCie external hard drives are great for photography backups

Arguably the most popular external hard drive among photographers, the LaCie Rugged range is well-known for its speed and durability. This Thunderbolt variant takes that to the next level.

The LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt external hard drive features:

  • 5TB storage
  • Strong shock, dust, and water-resistant exterior
  • 3-year warranty (USA only)
  • Thunderbolt USB-C with up to 130MB/s transfer speeds
  • ​​USB 3.0

Buy it on Amazon for $289.99

SanDisk Professional 8TB G-Drive Project

The SanDisk Professional 8TB G-Drive Project is the best external hard drive for photographers looking for expandable storage options

The SanDisk G-Drive Project is a fantastic choice if you want large storage capacity and high-speed data transfers – all packed into a super robust (but still portable) device.

This HDD external hard drive features:

  • 8TB storage
  • Data transfer speed up to 260MB/s
  • Thunderbolt USB-C
  • Mac & Windows compatibility
  • SSD Mag Slot to upgrade SSD capacity and performance

Buy it on Amazon for $429.99

Samsung T9 Portable 4TB SSD External Hard Drive

Samsung T9 SSD external hard drives

Want a compact, powerful, and drop-resistant external hard drive? The sleek Samsung T9 will check all your boxes.

The portable Samsung T9 SSD external hard drive features:

  • 4TB storage
  • 3m drop resistance
  • Windows, Mac, iPhone & Android compatibility
  • Read & write speeds of up to 2,000MB/s
  • Advanced thermal protection to control its temperature

Buy it on Amazon for $315.81

WD My Passport 5TB External Hard Drive

The Western Digital 5TB My Passport Portable External Hard Drive is the best external hard drive for photographers if they want a long warranty

This slim HDD external hard drive by Western Digital includes backup software and password protection, making it a secure and sensible choice for photographers who want to protect their work.

The WD My Passport external hard drive features:

  • 5TB storage
  • Automatic backups
  • 256-bit AES hardware encryption
  • USB 3.0 port & USB 2.0 compatibility
  • 3-year warranty
  • Windows compatible (download the NTFS driver for macOS)

Buy it on Amazon for $139.99

Comparing the Best Hard Drives for Photographers

External Hard DriveSpaceSpeedTypeProsCons
Seagate Backup Plus5TBUp to 120 MB/sHDDAutomatic backups, MacOS & Windows compatible, durable designSlower transfer speeds compared to SSD counterparts
LaCie Rugged Thunderbolt5TBUp to 130 MB/sHDDRugged durability, fast transfer speeds, long warrantyHigher price point, may be overkill for casual users
SanDisk Professional8TBUp to 260 MB/sSSDLarge storage capacity, good transfer speedsHigher price compared to HDD counterparts
Samsung T9 Portable4TBUp to 2,000 MB/sSSDHigh-speed transfer, compact and durable designRelatively lower storage capacity compared to HDD alternatives
WD My Passport5TBUp to 120 MB/sHDDData security features, large storage capacitySlower transfer speeds compared to SSD counterparts

What to Consider When Choosing an External Hard Drive

Hold on! Before you click “buy” on whichever option you believe to be the best external hard drive for photographers, let’s take a second to think about what you need.

Compatibility

Is the external drive compatible with your computer’s operating system? It’s an all-important factor! You don’t want to buy a hard drive you can’t use. 

Storage Space

How much space do you need? Will this be your main external hard drive where you store everything or just a portable on-the-go device for your current projects?

We recommend aiming for at least 2TB of storage space. But if you want something for your main photography backups, go bigger with 5+TB.

Pro Tip: Compress your images with lossless image compression tools before uploading them to external hard drives. This way, you save on space without compromising quality.

Strength 

Will you travel with your external hard drive? Think about how durable it needs to be. 

It’s always a good idea to go for a shock-resistant drive, but at the very least, get one with a strong outer case or a protective cover.

Backup Security 

Do you need built-in backup options? We say yes! Rather be safe than sorry and keep your images secure at all costs.

Ensure the hard drive uses reliable software that has retrieving options in case of data loss or breakage. 

Speed

Are you laid back about how fast your external drive can transfer files or do you want to work at max speed?

Consider the external drive’s transfer rate before making your decision. 

Price

Last but not least, what does your budget allow for? 

You get expensive external hard drives with all the bells and whistles that look really cool, but that actually have similar speed specs and storage space to cheaper alternatives. 

Consider what you’re willing to pay for when deciding on the right external hard drive for you.

Final Thoughts

While we’ve focused on external hard drives in this article, it's important to note the ever-evolving landscape of storage solutions.

Cloud storage is a viable alternative to using external hard drives for photography backups

Cloud storage is a popular alternative with several advantages:

  • Accessibility: Access your files from anywhere if you’re connected to the internet.
  • Automatic Backups: Schedule automatic backups to ensure your photos are always safe, even in case of hardware failure.
  • Scalability: Easily upgrade your storage space as needed, often through flexible subscription plans.

However, the following drawbacks of using cloud storage may sway you to stick to “old school” external hard drives:

  • Reliability: Internet dependence means it’s not always a reliable option. External hard drives don’t require an internet connection.
  • Security: You have to make sure to choose a reputable cloud storage provider with robust security measures to protect your photos. With external hard drives, you’re in charge of their security.
  • Cost: Initial cloud storage plans might be affordable, but long-term storage can become expensive when you compare it to the one-time purchase of an external hard drive.

Ultimately, the best storage solution depends on your specific needs and preferences. 

If portability, affordability, and offline access are priorities for you, an external hard drive is the way to go. 

However, if you want remote accessibility, automatic photography backups, and upgradable storage space, cloud storage is a compelling option. 

Our suggestion is to make use of both! Create backups of your “older” photographs with cloud storage while using an external hard drive for more current projects and easy offline access while traveling. 

If you liked this review of the best external hard drive for photographers, check out our other review articles listed below.


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