John Waine Photography | How Long Will Your Digital Images Survive?

How Long Will Your Digital Images Survive?

January 23, 2015  •  2 Comments

If you had 1 minute to evacuate your home in a fire, what would you save from the raging flames? Your family photographs, right? Most people say they would.

But where are all your precious photos? In a shoe box and some albums, right again? That’s what everyone says. Er, but what about the digital photographs you (and friends and relatives) have taken over the last 10+ years? Is that a puzzled “hmm?!?” I hear?

It’s probably the case that we could quite easily gather up our photos up to say 2002 in the panic of an escape from the inferno. But could we find and rescue the digital images on memory cards, old laptops, phones, USB sticks, external hard drives, CDs and the current PC and tablet? What if, as happened to two friends of mine, your external hard-drives and PC were stolen in a burglary? Your precious memories could be erased for ever.

This lovely picture of my Grandmother as a young lady was taken over 100 years ago and is as viewable today as the day it was taken. Weird to think it’s more accessible than millions of digital images taken only a few years ago! As part of a huge labour of love, I now have all my digital images catalogued, backed-up and archived online. But I wonder how many family heirloom images of the future will survive  to be as accessible to our Grandchildren and their children?

Here are a few tips to keep digital files safe:

  1. Download all digital photographs in Adobe DNG format to a PC or laptop, making a second copy to an external hard drive. Storage has never been cheaper.
  2. Organise, edit, print and publish images using Adobe Lightroom
  3. Backup hi-resolution edited/processed JPEG versions of your best photographs to a second external hard drive as well as keeping copies on your PC/laptop.
  4. Backup your most precious files in hi-resolution JPEG format to an online service such as Carbonite (automatic, but time limited should you ever need to restore lost files) or Dropbox (not automatic but easier to manage files)

This way, you should always have readable, high quality copies of your best files safe in the event of fire, burglary, power surges and online server failure. (but of course not if everything failed all at the same time!)

Of course the best way to have our images survive as long as our family albums and the picture of my Granny is to use a technology known as ‘printing’ ! Whether it is photobooks or high quality wall art, today’s images will only become heirlooms if we make a hard copy.

Reputable professional photographers will only provide prints, albums and wall art rather than just handing over your images on a USB stick leaving you with the responsibility. Family heirlooms are precious even if they start life as digital files.

What are your plans to preserve the heirloom pictures for future generations? Do let me know.

Have a great weekend!


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