Never being the first to react to trends, I was quite concerned when digital photography started to get a strangle hold on the masses: what was going to happen to all those pictures they had taken during once-in-a-lifetime holidays and special events? I had visions of future generations crying because they had no record of who their ancestors were.
Okay, I may have over-reacted (though I still think there will be a fair number of ‘lost memories’). So, how now, are we going to guarantee that our digital files can be safely stored in the archives?
The truth is, unless you have your images stored at two separate locations you will never be fully guaranteed of their longevity, but there are many things you can do to help them stay safe:
Once downloaded to your computer you could burn a copy of your images to CD/DVD depending on the size and number of images. If you are shooting RAW files, be sure to make a separate disc of jpeg files once the images are converted.
External hard drive
This is like the hard drive inside your computer, but a portable version that is connected via a cable. They can be disconnected and moved to a secure location when full.
These are small portable units that plug directly into the USB hub. Although they can be very handy I would not recommend these as a long-term solution as they are not particularly robust and could easily be lost.
Photo hosting websites
These have been popular for some years now with sites such as Flickr and Photobucket. Although these sites are fantastic for sharing and showing off your imagery, they are not a great solution for safe storage, so keep a copy of your original files elsewhere.
You may have heard of Cloud Computing and it is an arena set to expand massively, but right now it can be a slow and arduous task to upload hundreds of images and I do not believe it is a good solution for the individual.
Print your pictures
I know it’s a bit of a crazy idea, but if we make hard copies of our photos we at least have something to cherish. We are past the initial hurdles of low quality imaging and fading inks, so even if you print from home you can produce archival quality photographs.
A new gadget that’s come over form America, Picture Keeper plugs into your USB hub and traces all the images on your computer & archives them. Next time you plug in it will only detect newly added images for upload. It sounds like a good solution for some people.
To make your life easier with all storage methods I highly recommend renaming your files on import. Be as clear as you can and preferably stick to a system like surname or date for easy location and recognition.
My last piece of advice is “Do not delete any photos from your memory cards until you are sure you have a copy somewhere else”.