REVIEW: WD My Passport Wireless for Travel Photographers

It has been almost a year since I purchased the WD My Passport Wireless 1 TB hard drive. Now, I am ready to review it and reveal how it has impacted my photography.

REVIEW: WD My Passport Wireless for Travel Photographers

It is rare when a piece of equipment that is not directly related to photography actually affects it on such a profound level.

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I spent the last couple of years trying to simplify and streamline my photography workflow starting with my equipment and photo techniques to the finals steps of editing and publishing.

The goal was to eliminate any unnecessary and replaceable pieces of my workflow.

It all started with my equipment when I stopped using graduated filters and replaced them with the digital version in Lightroom. I stopped using a cable release in favor of the 2 sec delay functionality on my cameras.

The next big step in my simplification process was making the switch from a DSLR to a mirrorless. As a result, my equipment became much smaller and lighter.

I also simplified my editing workflow by developing a new editing approach called Lightroom Rapid Editing, which saved me an enormous amount of time on processing.

The only part of my travel photography I could not simplify was the necessity of traveling with a laptop computer. Even though mobile devices have almost completely eliminated the need for a computer, my travel photography workflow was dependent on a laptop.

Since I shoot quite a lot and only in RAW format, each day of the trip requires backup routine to transfer a large number of files to multiple devices. This always requires a laptop or at least a netbook.

When Western Digital released the WD My Passport Wireless with an SD card slot, it immediately sparked my curiosity.

After I realized that it could autonomously transfer the contents of the SD card without the need of another device, I bought it right away.

I later discovered the WD hard drive has even more features and important functions:

  1. It works as any external USB hard drive
  2. It backs up the contents of the SD card automatically and without the need for another device
  3. You can wirelessly backup contents on a mobile device to the hard drive
  4. It allows you to access photos and videos on the drive with a mobile device using a dedicated app. You can also preview contents of the drive and transfer them to a mobile device, if necessary.
  5. It allows you to stream media (videos, music, etc.) to a mobile device

When I familiarized myself with the features, I was confident that I would use all of them.

After taking the WD My Passport Wireless on five major photography trips, I can say that it has exceeded all my expectations. But, at the same time, I do not use it the way I first intended.

First of all, the WD My Passport Wireless not only eliminated the need for a laptop even on extended trips, it also made my travel routine safer.

My normal travel routine was to wait until the end of the day when I was back in the hotel room to back up the contents of my SD cards using a laptop. I always worried about the possibility of losing hundreds of precious photos if my SD card failed before the backup was completed.

Now, not only I do not need a laptop to back up my photos, but I can do it on multiple occasions throughout the day.

​Real life example:

During my Southwest trip, for example, I had about 400 new RAW images on my SD card after spending the entire morning hiking down the Canyon de Chelly. I was ready to drive to the Valley of the Gods for sunset so, while driving, I inserted the SD card into the WD My Passport Wireless and all my photos from Canyon De Chelly were safely backed up to the hard drive.

After I finished the day in the Valley of the Gods, I made a second backup on my way to the hotel. By the time I was in my hotel room, all my new photos were safely backed up on two devices.

At the same time, I do not use the WD My Passport Wireless to preview and edit my photos while I am on the road. I take a lot of photos and because most of them are either bracketed shots or multi-shot sequences, going through all of them with a mobile device takes too much time. I find it much easier to take an extra shot with my phone and do quick edits in Snapseed.

Also, I have found that streaming movies or music from the device is not very useful to me. I have only used it once or twice while initially testing the device.

To summarize my use of the WD My Passport Wireless:

  1. I backup the contents of my SD cards while I am on the road
  2. I use it as an external hard drive to transfer the photos to my desktop computer when I return home

That's all. It is plain and simple.

At this point, I do not use wireless capabilities of the drive at all. I do not even have the WD My Cloud installed on my phone or tablet because I do not currently have a need for it.

After incorporating the WD My Passport Wireless into my travel routine, I now have three variations of my travel photography workflow:

Scenario 1 - Short Trips Without a Laptop

I bring only one WD My Passport Wireless and plenty of SD cards. I often backup the photos to the drive during the day while ensuring I always keep the original photos on the SD cards.

Scenario 2 - Longer Trips Without a Laptop

I bring two WD My Passport Wireless drives with me and continue to back up the SD cards during the day as I normally do. At the end of the day, I create another backup on my second WD My Passport Wireless drive.

Scenario 3 - Longer Trips with a Laptop

For these types of trips, I only need a single WD My Passport Wireless drive plus an external portable USB drive. I follow my usual backup routine during the day by performing multiple, incremental backups. At the end of the day, I import all the new photos into my Lightroom Travel Catalog and store all the photos on a second external hard drive.

Update (August 2017)

Western Digital released the second edition of the WD My Passport Wireless by adding PRO to the name of the drive. The original version of WD My Passport Wireless was discontinued.

Even though the Pro version looks completely different it did not change the way I use it.

You can find my review of WD My Passport Wireless Pro here: WD My Passport Wireless Pro Review

WD My Passport Wireless (left), WD My Passport Wireless Pro (right)

The  Negatives:

  1. It is bigger and more expensive than a regular, portable external hard drive. But, when you take into consideration that it has an SD slot and an internal battery, it all makes sense.
  2. The setup process is not straightforward and takes some time to learn how to access and configure.
  3. The SD card transfer is slow. First, it takes at least 30 secs to boot the drive. Then, the process of incremental backups takes time. For me, it has never been an issue because I usually insert the SD card into the WD My Passport Wireless, put it in my bag and forget about it.
  4. You cannot preview RAW files.

The Positives

  1. The battery life is decent. I have never run out of battery at a critical time.
  2. The process of CD transfer is totally autonomous and does not require any intervention.
  3. Each backup is incremental, meaning it only transfers new photos.
  4. The drive organizes the backups exceptionally well by creating a separate folder for each SD card and a dedicated folder for each backup.
  5. The build quality is good.

My Essential Travel Setup

Sony a6000 (AmazonB&H Photo)

WD My Passport Wireless (AmazonB&H Photo)

Sony Vario-Tessar 16-70mm f4 (AmazonB&H Photo)

Sony 10-18mm Wide-Angle Zoom Lens f4 (AmazonB&H Photo)

Sirui T-025X Ultra Lightweight Travel Tripod (AmazonB&H Photo)

External Battery Pack (Amazon)

Universal Quick Release L-Plate Bracket (Amazon)

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  • Chris Newham says:

    The story you tell of your journey to a lighter efficient workflow almost mirrors mine I have the full sony equipment lineup but I was able to cut a corner or two though as for instance I invested in your presets rather than developing my own.
    I also got one of these drives after seeing Trey Ratcliff reviewing one and as for you its a revelation and I totally agree with your review I also fly a drone so putting the micro SD into an adaptor and putting into the device is handy to do between flights.

    Couple of things I would add
    1: Yes you can use the drive as a USB drive and note that is is in fact USB3 so that works very nice and fast/
    2: There are several capacites available I have the 2TB unit and there is now a improved version 2 of the device (which I do not have [yet]).
    3: As the unit is charged via the USB cable you can power/charge it from a battery pack so in your case were you pop a card in then drive to the next location if battery power is falling you can also plug it into the battery pack and charge it while backing up as you travel.
    4: I actually have found the streaming to be moderatly useful as I load it up with films which I can watch on my tablet/phone while on the sunlounger on summer holidays
    5: I wish they did a version with an SSD inside.

    Love the presets and the articles on the site.
    Regards Chris.

    • Chris, good points.
      when WD aquired SanDisk I assumed that the new version of WD Wirless would have SSD. Instead they introduced new version which is bigger and almost double in weight with the spinning drive. I am not sure I will upgrade. I want SSD as well.

  • Juan Walker says:

    Hey My Name Is Juan Walker And i would love to download your free presets for lightroom! i signed up and follow your page on here! can you please send me the link to download them! email is [email protected]

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