PC Gear Lab

5 Best External Hard Drives for Photographers in 2021

As a photographer, having an external hard drive is necessary for times when you need to offload pictures from the camera’s storage or just to archive your photos.

For the best experience, you will need one of the best external hard drives for photographers. Many features go into making an external hard drive ideal for photography.

Two features you should always look for is good storage capacity and performance.

SSD drives tend to be faster than HDDs but you tend to get smaller capacities. You should also be looking for a durable drive if you travel.

List of Best External Hard Drives for Photographers

The following mix of SSD and HDDs are highly popular among photographers for various reasons. Some for speeds, others for affordability.

  1. Samsung T7 Portable SSD – NVME SSD, 1050MB/s transfer speeds
  2. LaCie Rugged SSD – IP67-rated drop-resistant rugged SSD
  3. Seagate Backup Plus – Quick backups, portable 2.5” HDD
  4. WD My Passport Wireless – Supports Wireless file transfers
  5. WD My Book – High capacity desktop hard drive

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1. Samsung T7 Portable SSD – Recommended External SSD for Photographers

Samsung T7

A high performance external NVMe SSD operating at 1050 MB/s.

Whenever you want to move large files, having high transfer speeds is crucial. The Samsung T7 portable SSD is the best external hard drive for photographers who appreciate the high performance.

It uses NVME technology which enables very high transfer speeds. With this drive, you can enjoy speeds of up to 1050MB/s which is great for moving files around in little time. This may, of course, vary depending on the technology your computer supports.

You get a USB 3.2 interface that lets you connect to your computers. This is also compatible with most of the common Operating System with a quick reformat.

The device has a sturdy metallic build. This makes it durable against shocks and scratches that may damage the internals. It is also resistant to drops from about 6 feet high which is great if you intend to travel a lot with your hard drive.

Furthermore, the drive is protected from overheating which can significantly reduce its lifespan. Performance may be throttled if necessary. At the same time, you get password security to protect your photos from any unauthorized access.

2. LaCie Rugged SSD – IP67-rated drop-resistant rugged SSD

LaCie Rugged SSD

Rugged high performance NVMe SSD.

For photographers who travel a lot and visit new sites, having a rugged and durable hard drive is essential for security.

This is where the LaCie Rugged SSD shines, making it the best external hard drive for photographers.

It has a rubberized case that offers protection from shocks and bumps. At the same time, it lets the device survive drops from up to 3 meters.

The case is also IP67 water and dust resistant which lets it survive submersion in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes. At the same time, no dust can penetrate and compromise the internals.

Besides being hardy, this drive also offers top-notch performance thanks to the fact that it’s an NVME SSD.

You will notice the performance of up to 1050MB/s in transfer speeds with this, making it ideal for moving a lot of pictures around.

It also comes with data encryption to secure your photos if you ever end up losing your drive. You also get a 5-year warranty as well as a free one-month subscription for Adobe CC which is great for those who do editing.

3. Seagate Backup Plus Ultra – Quick backups, portable 2.5” HDD

Seagate Backup Plus Ultra

Portable 2.5″ affordable HDD with backup software and support for Apple Time Machine.

The Seagate Backup Plus is a useful device for external data storage. It also comes with a free subscription for Adobe CC Photography which will give you access to a suite of photo editing applications for two months.

If you have pictures you need to store, this drive offers the capacity and security at an affordable price.

It’s portable, measuring just 2.5inches. This allows you to take it when traveling as it can fit inside your pockets. This makes it the best external hard drive for photographers. It also has an attractive design with an embedded fabric pattern.

You get hardware encryption which means that the drive encrypts the data you save on it using a secure password. When reading from the drive, the files also get decrypted.

This offers security as only the person with the password will be able to read from the drive. This keeps sensitive photos private.

The drive offers quick backups that can be done manually with a single click or be scheduled via the product’s software to occur at intervals of the user’s choosing.

4. WD My Passport Wireless – Supports Wireless file transfers

WD My Passport Wireless

Wireless enabled portable 2.5″ HDD. Also offers SD card support.

The unique thing about this device is its ability to transfer data wirelessly. That makes it the best external hard drive for photographers because it lets you do things like view its contents from a phone.

The device also comes with a card reader. If you have filled up your space, your SD card, you can take it out and plug it into the device and transfer files without having to use a computer.

Furthermore, the drive has a feature that lets you stream high-resolution content straight from the drive.

You can take it out on a photoshoot as it’s portable and it comes with a 10-hour battery life which should be sufficient for a day’s work.

It also has a built-in power bank that can recharge devices like your phone if you run out of power while away giving you the freedom to work longer.

You will be able to preview your images with this. With a companion app that you can install on your phone, access to your pictures will be quick and efficient.

5. WD My Book – High capacity desktop hard drive

WD My Book

A 3.5″ desktop external HDD. Mos affordable GB / dollar value. Great for archiving large media. requires external power source.

This is the best external hard drive for photographers with large volumes of photos. It offers a convenient way to store numerous files and allows easy access to them on your computer.

As a desktop hard drive, this unit isn’t built for portability. This can also be seen from the fact that it needs to be powered up before use.

Nevertheless, it’s an excellent choice for users who are looking for large capacities for their files. You can get up to 24TB of storage space (with the dual-drive option) for your photos. This space is enough for countless high-resolution shots.

The drive has password-based encryption that keeps your files safe from unauthorized access. You also get a reliable drive that will serve you for long before it starts wearing out.

To further safeguard your files, there’s a backup software that’s compatible with the device on Windows. Mac users will also appreciate the fact that this drive is compatible with Time Machine.

Performance is decent thanks to USB 3.0 performance and it’s also compatible with USB 2.0 devices.


Guide to Choosing the Right External Hard Drive If You Are a Photographer

Many users get external hard drives for convenience. These allow photographers o carry their work wherever they go. It also offers a medium to store pictures when you run out of space in your camera’s SD card.

The kind of external hard drive a photographer gets depends entirely on the features they need as well as the performance of the hard drive.

External SSDs

Best External Hard Drives for Photographers

If you want faster transfer speeds then external SSDs are the way to go. These offer high-performance storage solutions and will significantly reduce read and write times.

Most importantly, because of their high performance, you will also be able to do things like editing your pictures straight from the external drive.

NVME SSDs are some of the fastest storage devices available. Unlike SATA SSDs, they can deliver high transfer speeds above 6Gb/s which is the limit for SATA 3.

SATA SSDs while slower than NVME SSDs are still better than even the fastest HDDs.

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External HDDs

While they lack in performance when compared to SSDs. HDDs are usually much cheaper. This lets users with large amounts of pictures to store get access to an external HDD at the fraction of the cost of what an SSD would demand.

Because they are very economical, external HDDs are the best for photographers on a budget.


desktop external HDD
Desktop external hard disks are large and not quite portable as they require an external power source. But they are very cheap. Source: WD My Book

Both SSDs and HDDs can be portable and durable depending on the model you buy. Durability is essential if you will be traveling a lot with your drive. It should be able to handle minor bumps and shocks so that the internals don’t get damaged.

This is especially necessary for HDDs because they have delicate moving parts.

Not all external drives are built for portability though. Desktop hard drives are more ideal for stationary use.

Some of them are so large that carrying them around would be cumbersome. Some even tend to require connection to a power supply to run and this may not be provided via USB.

They do offer large storage capacities though, and if you get one with multiple drives, you can leverage features like RAID (if supported) which will offer more data resilience against losses.

Other Features

In terms of durability, you may also need water and dust resistant external hard drive if you will be shooting near water bodies.

Furthermore, there are wireless hard drives that will let you transfer and preview pictures wirelessly.

Backup For Photographers

Final Words

If you are photographers running out of space on your primary machine, then procuring an external hard drive is an investment.

When it comes to external hard drives, there are two routes that you can take. You can either go for performance based storage i.e SSD or affordability based option i.e the HDD.

SSDs are generally used for hot data, or data that you use very often whereas the HDDs are generally used for archiving large media files.

Here we looked at the best external hard drives for photographers from both the HDD and SSD category.

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We are team of two engineers with a keen interest and a passion for PC builds and hardware.

PCGearLab.com is essentially the culmination of our enthusiasm towards this subject. We review PC peripherals and hardware, talk about custom builds and informative topics regarding troubleshooting issues, understanding a component better and general tips for DIY PC builders.

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