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13 Best External Hard Drive for Photos in 2023 (Updated)

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An external hard drive for photos is an essential part of the photographer’s toolkit. When you’re taking hundreds of shots at each photoshoot, SD cards and hard drives fill up fast. You need a storage system that meets the demands of a busy photographer.

The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is the best external hard drive for photographers. It has a compact and sleek design. It slips into your camera bag or backpack. It’ll even fit in a jacket pocket. It has plenty of storage. And it’s a durable piece of hardware.

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
This ultra-portable, fast, and reliable SSD is the perfect solution for storing and accessing your photos quickly.
Buy from Amazon

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Finding the Best External Hard Drive for Photos

Standard portable external hard drives are very popular with photographers. They fit in your kit bag, offer plenty of storage, and they’re reasonably priced.

Many photographers are now using the solid-state drive (SSD) type. The storage space isn’t drastically different, but SSD units have a much faster transfer speed. It can be a huge time-saver when you’re transferring hundreds of images. The newer SSDs also tend to be more compact than standard drives.

If volume is what you need, a backup drive might be the hard drive for you. They have a vast amount of storage space. It means they’re larger units and less portable. But they’re excellent for backing up your library at home.

We’ve split our list into two sections, helping you find the best external hard drive for you. The first section looks at portable hard drives. And the second section looks at larger backup or desktop hard drives. We also have more info on digital storage at the end.

Click on the link below to skip to the section you need.

  1. Best Portable External Hard Drives
  2. Best Desktop External Hard Drives
  3. How Much Storage do You Need for Photos
Photography equipment laid out on a wooden floor
© Andrew Neel (Unsplash.com)

Best Portable External Hard Drives

These are the best external hard drives for photographers if you need something portable. They offer far better security than using several SD cards. They fit in your camera bag. And they give you excellent storage space. Every photography needs one these days.

Hard Drive
Why We Love It
Buy From
SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
Our Top Choice
  • Sleek, compact, and lightweight portable hard drive
  • Choice of storage capacity from 1 to 4 TB
  • Includes password-protected encryption for extra security
  • Shock and water-resistant outer casing keeps your files safe when traveling
Seagate Ultra Touch HDD
Most Stylish Portable Drive
  • Sleek and stylish outer body
  • Small and compact with excellent storage capacity
  • Password-activated hardware encryption
LaCie Rugged Raid Pro
Most Durable Portable Drive
  • Rugged outer casing keeps your data protected
  • Excellent max write speed of 240 MB/s
  • Includes an SD card reader
  • Huge storage capacity for digital data and photos
WD My Passport Portable External Hard Drive
Best for Windows and Mac Users
  • A safe and reliable portable hard drive for travelers and remote workers
  • Excellent security features that keep you data safe
  • Specific models for Windows and Mac for more optimized performance
SAMSUNG T7 Portable SSD
Portable with Best Write Speed
  • 1050 MB/s write speed for fast data transfers
  • Sleek body design that's dust-resistance and shockproof
  • Includes internal temperature control so it doesn't overheat
Transcend 2 TB StoreJet M3
Highly recommended
  • Excellent storage capacity options
  • Tough outer case that's easy to transport and carry in your camera bag
  • Transcend Elite software gives you extra data management options
WD My Passport Portable External SSD
Smallest Portable SSD
  • Tiny body that's easy to transport and carry
  • Excellent max write speed of 1000 MB/s for fast data transfers
  • Vibration and shock-resistant for more protection
  • Safe and secure data encryption
SanDisk Professional G-DRIVE SSD
Highly Recommended
  • Fast max write speed of 1050 MB/s for fast data transfer
  • Water and dust-resistant outer casing keeps in safe from harm
  • Fully password-encrypted software protection
LaCie Rugged Mini
Most Durable Mini Portable Drive
  • Tough body design keeps data safe against external hazards
  • Fantastic storage capacity for the size
  • Small enough for a messenger bag or coat pocket
iStorage diskAshur2 HDD
Most Secure HDD
  • Fantastic storage capacity options
  • Outstanding security features for protecting your data
  • Works with Windows, Mac, and Linux systems

1. SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
Storage Capacity 1 - 4 TB
Storage Type SSD
Max Write Speeds 693 MB/s
Dimension 10 x 5.25 x 0.96 cm
Weight 50 g

The Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD external hard drive lives up to the portable label. It’s compact and lightweight so it won’t take up much space in your photography bag. And we love the sleek and smooth body design.

As an SSD external drive, you get fast read/write speeds. The speed sets it apart from other portable hard drives. And while it will rarely reach the max speed in the real world, it can hit impressive transfer speeds.

The Sandisk Extreme Portable SSD has password-protected encryption for data security. And it’s shock-resistant, and water and dust protected for physical security. It can connect to computers and smartphones using a range of USB-C connections.

The storage size options range from 500 GB to 4 TB, with the 1 TB version being our top recommendation. The 500 GB will leave you wanting, and the 4 TB is a little pricey.

While the Sandisk Extreme Pro Portable SSD might tempt many, this is still the better option. The Pro model has faster read/write speeds, but not all computers can utilize that power. Unless you have a very high-end computer, it makes little difference.

2. Seagate Backup Ultra Touch HDD

Seagate Ultra Touch HDD
Storage Capacity 1 TB
Storage Type HDD
Max Write Speeds 120 MB/s
Dimension 11.22 x 7.8 x 1.16 cm
Weight 155 g

For an external hard drive for photographers, the Seagate Backup Ultra Touch has it all. It has a stylish outer body with a woven exterior plate. And it has excellent storage while being compact and portable.

The Seagate Backup Ultra Touch comes in two sizes. The standard has 1 TB of memory, which is pretty good for an external drive of this size and weight. But you can also go for the 2 TB option if you need something with a bigger capacity.

The security features also make this external hard drive stand out from the competition. It offers password-activated hardware encryption. It protects your files, so you don’t have to worry about data theft.

This external hard drive uses and USB connection, so you can connect it to your laptop or desktop computer. Once connected, you get read/write speeds of 120/120 MB/s, so you won’t be waiting hours for files to transfer.

As a portable drive, the Seagate Backup Ultra Touch is the full package. The memory space is impressive for its size. It’s secure and has a stylish touch that sets it apart. And the price is very reasonable for both the 1 TB and 2 TB options.

3. LaCie Rugged Raid Pro

LaCie Rugged Raid Pro
Storage Capacity 4 - 8 TB
Storage Type HDD
Max Write Speeds 240 MB/s
Dimension 9.09 x 2.99 x 14 cm
Weight 480 g

The LaCie Rugged Raid Pro combines storage capacity and durability like no other external hard drive. It’s made to last, and it can store thousands and thousands of RAW file photos.

The body has a robust outer casing that protects the hardware if dropped. And it’s water and dust-resistant. The Rugged Raid Pro is made for a life of work, which is perfect for a professional photographer.

The read/write speeds are quick for an HDD device. And it has a straightforward setup with Windows and Mac devices. It has a USB-C connection and an SD card reader, which is a handy bonus. The LaCie Rugged Raid Pro is a versatile device many photographers like to use.

4. WD My Passport Portable Hard Drive

WD My Passport Portable External Hard Drive
Storage Capacity 1 - 5 TB
Storage Type HDD
Max Write Speeds 120 MB/s
Dimension 10.72 x 7.49 x 1.11 cm
Weight 118 g

The beauty of the WD My Passport hard drive is its simplicity. It has a basic, no-thrills design. The outer casing is strong and durable. And the dimension and weight make it the perfect portable hard drive.

The WD My Passport won’t break any records for transfer speeds. But it can store a lot of RAW file photos, and it’s dependable. This model has been on the market for a few years and it has a reputation for being reliable.

When you make your purchase, you need to specify if you have a PC or a Mac. There’s a different model for each OS. You can also choose between storage options, which range from 1 to 5 TB.

The WD My Passport offers security and reliability as an external storage device. If simplicity is what you’re after, this is the one for you. And it’s one of the most reasonably priced options on the list.

5. Samsung T7 Portable SSD

SAMSUNG T7 Portable SSD
Storage Capacity 500 GB - 2 TB
Storage Type SSD
Max Write Speeds 1050 MB/s
Dimension 8.38 x 5.58 x 0.76 cm
Weight 136 g

The Samsung Portable SSD has a sleek and professional design. It’s lightweight and the perfect size for your backpack or messenger bag. And it offers excellent storage and fast transfer speeds.

You have three size options to choose from with the Samsung Portable SSD. There’s 500 GB, 1 TB, and 2 TB. We’d recommend either the 500 GB or the 1 TB as there’s a big price jump from 1 TB to 2 TB.

As it’s a portable SSD device, the maximum read/write speeds are impressive. At least on paper. To achieve the maximum transfer speed, your computer must support USB 3.2 Gen 2. If you’re using a standard USB port and cable, the data transfer will be slower.

The hard drive is dust-resistant and shock-resistant for drops of up to 6 ft. Its solid aluminum body keeps your files safe when shooting on location. This external SSD also has internal temperature control, so it doesn’t overheat.

6. Transcend StoreJet M3

Transcend 2 TB StoreJet M3
Storage Capacity 1 - 2 TB
Storage Type HDD
Max Write Speeds 122 MB/s
Dimension 12.95 x 2.10 x 8.23 cm
Weight 218 g

The Transcend StoreJet M3 is durable and well-priced. It doesn’t have the sleek and professional design of other portable options. And it isn’t quite as fast as the SSD drives. But the StoreJet M3 is one of the best external hard drives for photographers.

If you’re looking for a durable hard drive, the Transcend Storejet M3 could be the one for you. It’s shock tested to a US military level, making it extremely durable.

To get the fastest read/write speeds, you’ll need to use the USB 3.1 Gen 1. And you’ll also need to download the Transcend Elite software for the data management options.

7. WD My Passport SSD

WD My Passport Portable External SSD
Storage Capacity 500 GB - 4 TB
Storage Type SSD
Max Write Speeds 1000 MB/s
Dimension 8.99 x 4.49 x 0.99 cm
Weight 45 g

We’ve already seen the HDD version of the WD My Passport on this list. And WD has also produced some excellent solid-state drives. The reason they’re further down on this list is the price and the reliability. But the My Passport SSD options are still great for photographers.

The data transfer speed is much quicker than the HDD device. But this only makes a difference if you’re using a high-end computer. It’s cross-compatible with USB 3.2 Gen 2 and USB-C, which makes it versatile.

It has 256-bit AES hardware encryption for security. And it’s vibration and shock resistant for peace of mind when you’re out and about. It’s another excellent portable storage option for busy photographers.

8. SanDisk Professional G-Drive SSD

SanDisk Professional G-DRIVE SSD
Storage Capacity 500 GB - 4 TB
Storage Type SSD
Max Write Speeds 1050 MB/s
Dimension 9.5 x 5 x 1.5 cm
Weight 204 g

If you’re looking for a fast external hard drive, the Sandisk Professional G-Drive is worth consideration. It has data transfer speeds of up to 1050 MB/s. If you’re using an older computer, you might not hit top speed, but it’s still quick.

The Sandisk Professional has a durable outer casing that protects your data from the dangers of professional life. It’s crush-resistant up to 2000 lb. And it’s water and dust-resistant.

You can connect it to computers and laptops using the USB-C port. And you can download the G-Drive SSD software for full password-encrypted protection.

9. LaCie Rugged Mini

LaCie Rugged Mini
Storage Capacity 1 - 5 TB
Storage Type HDD
Max Write Speeds 130 MB/s
Dimension 13.46 x 8.6 x 1.9 cm
Weight 226 g

Much like the Rugged Raid Pro, the Rugged Mini is built to last. The strong and durable outer casing protects your data from anything life can throw at it. It’s crush-proof and water and dust-resistant.

The 2 TB memory gives you excellent storage space in a compact package. The transfer speed isn’t the quickest. But the LaCie Rugged Mini gives you peace of mind when it comes to protection. It also has a USB-C port that connects to any computer.

10. iStorage DiskAshur 2

iStorage diskAshur2 HDD
Storage Capacity 500 GB - 5 TB
Storage Type HDD
Max Write Speeds 143 MB/s
Dimension 11.98 x 8 x 1.50 cm
Weight 215 g

The iStorage DiskAshur 2 is an external hard drive with an emphasis on security. All data transferred to the device is encrypted for protection against unauthorized access. You even need a 7-15 digit pin to access the data stored on the device.

This hard drive is strong on the outside too. Its durable body is shock-resistant and dust and splash-proof. It keeps your files safe from harm no matter what you’re getting up to.

The iStorage portable hard drive works with any device with a USB port. There’s no problem with Windows, Mac, or Linux systems. And the transfer speed is fast for an HDD external drive.

The iStorage DiskAshur 2 doesn’t offer the best price-to-storage ratio. But it’s the most secure external storage device you can find. It’s strong on the outside, and there’s no way anyone can steal your data from the inside.

Best Desktop External Hard Drives

A desktop external hard drive gives you all the digital storage you need at home. These hard drives are bigger than the portable options. But they offer incredible storage for your home office. They’re ideal for photographers with thousands and thousands of photos and catalogs.

Hard Drive
Why We Love It
Buy From
WD My Book Desktop External Hard Drive
Our Top Choice
  • Incredible Storage capacity for extensive photography libraries
  • Super-fast max write speed of 5 GB/s
  • Fantastic password-encrypted security features
  • WD Backup software gives you more data management control
Seagate Backup Plus Hub
Highly Recommended
  • Gives you excellent digital storage capacity but doesn't take up much space
  • Seagate Dashboard software gives you great data management options
  • A reliable backup hard drive for Mac and Windows users
G-Technology G-DRIVE
Highly Recommended
  • Excellent port options for establishing a fast computer connection
  • Durable aluminum body protects data against external dangers
  • Great capacity options for photographers at different stages in their careers

1. WD My Book Desktop External Hard Drive

WD My Book Desktop External Hard Drive
Storage Capacity 4 - 36 TB
Storage Type HDD
Max Write Speeds 5 GB/s
Dimension 13.97 x 4.82 x 17 cm
Weight 960 g

The WD My Book isn’t exactly a portable hard drive. It’s a desktop hard drive for at-home backup storage. And it’s the best backup option currently available.

There are different options for storage size, ranging from 4 to 14 TB. That’s a lot of memory. We’re talking hundreds of thousands of RAW file photos. But the price does increase with the storage capacity.

The hard drive requires the WD Backup software for device management. The process of downloading and installing the software is simple. And it gives you excellent control options for your stored files.

The WD My Book Backup includes 256-bit AES hardware encryption for security. And the device is USB 2.0 compatible so you can link it to your computer. The data transfer speed is also very pleasing.

2. Seagate Backup Plus Hub

Seagate Backup Plus Hub
Storage Capacity 14 TB
Storage Type HDD
Max Write Speeds 120 MB/s
Dimension 19.81 x 4.9 x 11.81 cm
Weight 1.06 kg

The Seagate Backup Plus Hub can satisfy your biggest digital storage requirements. It can store up to 14 TB of data, which equates to hundreds of thousands of photos. That’s for JPEGs and RAW files.

You can use this external hard drive with Windows and Mac computers. You’ll need to install the NTSF driver for use with Mac. But once you’ve installed that, you can use the device interchangeably between the two systems.

The Seagate Dashboard software makes file management straightforward. You don’t have to spend hours rummaging through 14 TB of files to find that old photo you need. The read/write speeds aren’t the fastest, but it’s a reliable machine.

3. G-Technology G-Drive

G-Technology G-DRIVE
Storage Capacity 4 - 18 TB
Storage Type HDD
Max Write Speeds 250 MB/s
Dimension 21 x 13 x 4.5 cm
Weight 1.24 kg

The G-Technology G-Drive is another great hard drive to back up software and data at home. It’s a desktop external drive, not one for your kit bag. It’s a big unit, but it has plenty of storage space. The smallest option is 4 TB.

The G-Drive from G-Technology uses dual Thunderbolt 3 ports and a USB-C port. It also supports USB 3.1 Gen 1. As an HDD device, data transfer isn’t the quickest. But the G-Drive is reliable.

Despite being a desktop drive, it still has a durable aluminum body. It will survive a few knocks without any trouble. It’s a solid backup external hard drive for photographers.

External hard drive connected to a laptop
© Poravute Siriphiroon

How Much Storage Do You Need For Photos?

The amount of storage you need depends on how many photos you take. If you’re taking hundreds of photographs each week, you’ll need a lot of storage. But we also need to consider the size of a photo file.

The file size of a JPEG image is usually between 10 and 20 MB. And this can be higher if you’re using a professional camera.

Many photographers prefer to shoot in RAW file format. They allow for more creative freedom in post-production. And they carry more information because they’re not compressed. But that means RAW files are larger than JPEGs.

If you’re using a high-resolution camera, RAW files can surpass 80 MB per shot. A 16 GB SD card will be full after just 200 photos. That’s not a lot of shots if you’re shooting on location.

You can take several SD cards when you’re shooting. But SD cards are small, fragile, and easy to lose. An external hard drive gives you more storage capacity and durability.

The exact amount of digital storage you need is an equation between how much you shoot and which file type you like to use. And you need to consider the camera resolution. It’s hard to come to an exact number, but we do know that it’s better to have too much than too little.

Bear this in mind when you’re buying external hard drives for photography. You don’t want to run out of space in the middle of a shoot. The bride and groom won’t be pleased if you only capture half of their special day.

Conclusion

Digital storage is an essential part of modern photography. You need space to store all your digital photos. And if you’re using RAW files, you’ll need a lot of space. Thankfully, there are some excellent external hard drives on the market.

We’ve included portable HDD and SSD options in our list. The SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD is our favorite. It’s portable, durable, and offers excellent storage capacity. The WD My Book Desktop is our top external desktop drive. The capacity levels are great. And the write speeds are unbeatable.

SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
SanDisk Extreme Portable SSD
This ultra-portable, fast, and reliable SSD is the perfect solution for storing and accessing your photos quickly.
Buy from Amazon
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