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Last updated on April 27th, 2021

With the advancement of entry-level digital cameras, the average cost per photo has substantially decreased and more money-saving than film.

On the other hand, the quantity of photos we take has skyrocketed. 

The advanced photography workflow depicts the succession of steps and methods from shooting an image to its end result, which is usually a high-quality digital photo or a print.

External hard drives for photography assume a significant role in the multi-step workflow. They are helpful for securely storing photographs since they are relatively inexpensive and give quick access to data, and it is not difficult to duplicate an entire hard drive to another.

Editor's Top Pick: SanDisk 1TB Extreme PRO Portable SSD
6,932 Reviews
Editor's Top Pick: SanDisk 1TB Extreme PRO Portable SSD
  • Save time storing and transferring data with powerful NVMe solid state performance featuring up to 2000MB/s read/write speeds. (Requires compatible devices capable of reaching such speed. Based on internal testing; Performance may be lower depending on host device, interface, usage conditions and other factors. 1MB=1,000,000 bytes.)
  • A forged aluminum chassis acts as a heatsink to deliver higher sustained speeds in a portable drive that’s tough enough to take on any adventure.
  • Travel worry-free with a 5-year limited manufacturer warranty(1) and a forged aluminum chassis-silicon shell combo that offers a premium feel and added protection.
  • Up to 2-meter drop protection and IP55 water and dust resistance(3), and a handy carabineer loop for securing your drive all deliver extra peace of mind when you’re out in the world.
  • Help keep private content private with the included password protection featuring 256‐bit AES hardware encryption.(2)

The Need for External Hard Drives for Photographers

External hard drives are cost-effective and are often cheaper and more reliable than internal hard drives for desktops or laptops.

Consequently, many Macbook users prefer purchasing an external hard drive than paying a premium for added internal storage. Let’s be honest, increasing your storage drive capacity on your laptop will hurt the bank.

An external hard drive is usually cheaper than an internal one since most of them are manufactured and sold by the same company. Cutting out the middle man for internal components for desktops, and especially laptops, will save some coin.

Adding to an external hard drive’s inexpensiveness and reliability is portability.

External hard drives provide a suitable medium for backing up your data at home, work, or during your travels (when WiFi is not available). However, cloud storage saves your photos offsite and is accessible remotely as long as you have an internet connection. But most cloud storage plans beyond the included free 5 GB of storage charge a subscription fee.

Another alternative, especially if your laptop has a card reader, is to get one of the best SD cards with a high storage capacity.

If you forgo having cloud storage, it’s recommended to have at least two external hard drives for your photos, with the second hard drive being a backup.

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What Size External Hard Drive Should You Buy for Your Photos?

When it comes to the storage capacity of hard drives, it is recommended to use 1TB or higher since RAW files take up significant space. Plus, many photographers also have an action cam, drone, or 4K camera for video storage that takes up even more space. If you shoot video, then 2TB is the minimum.

What Type of External Hard Drive Should You Buy?

The best type of external hard drive for photography is a solid-state drive due to its storage capacity, transfer speed, portability, and durability.

SSDs allow you to instantly back up your files and carry them wherever you travel. With them, reading and writing data and information is easy because they have no moving parts. They can be encrypted, password-secured, and can be formatted for Windows or macOS.

In case you’re not up with the times, an SSD is faster and more reliable than a hard disk drive (HDD).

External SSD USB Compatability

Modern SSD external hard drives now have a USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 interface and are often cross-compatible with older USB versions/interfaces (cable may be required). USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 have the same physical interface, but TB3 is faster than USB-C in transfer speeds. In addition, modern external solid-state drives are also powered via the USB-C or Thunderbolt 3 port.

7 Best External Hard Drives for Photography

1. WD 1TB My Passport SSD External Portable Solid State Drive

WD 1TB My Passport SSD External Portable Solid State Drive

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Accelerated performance: Western Digital has been in the digital storage industry since the 1980s. The My Passport SSD has transfer speeds of up to 1050MB/s, so you can quickly access your photos anywhere.

Password protection with encryption: Your computerized world is significant. That’s why to help guard your information with a secret key; it’s empowered with a 256-digit AES equipment encryption and straightforward reinforcement.

Durability: Convey your information with certainty. The My Passport SSD has an intense, metal design that is shock and vibration resistant. Drop-resistant up to 6.5ft (1.98m).

2. LaCie Rugged SSD Pro 1TB Solid State Drive 

LaCie Rugged SSD Pro 1TB Solid State Drive

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Maximum speed and elite strength: The Rugged SSD Pro is built with Thunderbolt 3 speeds and outrageous in-field toughness. Photographers and videographers can view 8K and super slow-mo video files at any place without lag.

Five-year data rescue: If your files become corrupted, there is no need to worry. It’s covered by five years of Rescue Data Recovery Services.

High capacity: The Tough SSD Pro can save up to 2TB of data. That’s room to store 65 hours of 4K 30fps compressed film or 200K RAW pictures.

3. SanDisk 1TB Extreme PRO Portable SSD 

SanDisk 1TB Extreme PRO Portable SSD

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Fast and dependable: The incredible NVMe solid-state drive offers transfer speeds up to 2000MB/s. It’ll meet the needs of all photographers and video editors.

Take it anywhere: Up to two-meter drop insurance, IP55 water and dust resistance, and a convenient carabineer loop to secure it to your workstation or backpack.

Heatsink aluminum chassis: Built with an aluminum chassis that acts as a heatsink to deliver higher consistent speeds and take on any travel photography adventure.

4. SAMSUNG X5 Portable SSD 1TB 


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Drive at lightning speed: The X5 external drive is built with Thunderbolt 3 ports and is ideal for tech-savvy enthusiasts who need to accomplish and deliver high-quality media without thinking twice. Its warm administration and secret phrase insurance offer both solace and security.

Thunderbolt 3 and NVMe: The X5 is here to extinguish your hunger for trend-setting innovation. Thunderbolt 3 transfers up to 40 Gb/s. Furnished with the astounding speed of the NVMe interface, the X5 helps with taking care of heavier information at bursting speeds.

Built to last: The body is protected with a magnesium alloy that can withstand 6-foot drops and a heat sink that keeps the drive cool. 

5. Seagate Barracuda Fast SSD 1TB External Solid State Drive

Seagate Barracuda Fast SSD 1TB External Solid State Drive

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Full speed ahead: With a minimal design, the Barracuda Fast SSD has transfer speeds up to 540MB/s, which is fast enough for any photographer.

Easy backup and syncing: Seagate includes their Sync Plus software for seamless syncing between your computer folders and this external hard drive. It’s perfect for photographers that already have enough storage for their images on their computer but don’t want to pay for a cloud storage subscription.

6. Crucial X8 1TB Portable SSD

Crucial X8 1TB Portable SSD

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Built for tough conditions: Inside or outside, at work or off the beaten path, the X8 is designed to be tough, rough, and minimal. It has been tested in severe temperatures, vibration, shock and can survive a 7.5-foot drop. The drive will endure in the elements for travel photography.

Total data protection: Save your digital media and critical files with certainty. You can use Windows Backup or macOS Time Machine to back up your data to the external SSD. Furthermore, secure them with 3rd-party endpoint-protection software suites like McAfee Symantec for added peace of mind.

Phenomenal speed: Now you can have access to your games, photographs, and videos swiftly while offline, with no cloud storage required. With transfer speeds up to 1050MB/s, you can move image files up to 1.8x quicker than most compact SSDs, 7.5x quicker than external HDDs, and 100x quicker than USB stick drives.

7. Sabrent Rocket Nano Rugged 1TB

Sabrent Rocket Nano Rugged 1TB

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Simple and portable: Increase your photo storage capacity with Sabrent’s smallest external hard drive. The Rocket Nano is the ideal blend of dependability, execution, and plan.

Crafted to perfection: It is exclusively made from high-grade aerospace aluminum alloy for rigid sturdiness. The body is intended to absorb heat and shield the drive from overheating, providing a longer life expectancy.

Fast speed: The Rocket Nano’s inherent USB 3.2 interface gives rates of up to 1000MB/s, 9x quicker than traditional external HDDs. Transferring and backing up RAW files and 4K video is completed practically in no time.


The best external hard drives for photography are solid-state drives. As the name suggests, they don’t have any internal moving parts. This decreases the chances of file corruption and helps make these photo storage options durable and compact in extreme conditions.