Friday, August 7, 2009

Digital Options

Rather than keep a lot of photographic prints that need to be put into albums and protected from temperature changes and moisture, you can consider storing your photos digitally. The main issue with this method is the capacity of the media type you choose. Photographs are usually very large files that take a lot of memory in your system, so many people choose to make copies of their photos to store in other places on other media than your hard drive. As with all information stored electronically, you run the risk that the media you have chosen becomes obsolete. I have heard recently a recommendation to update your archived files and their media type every ten years, but that may be too long. You need to keep abreast of the latest trends in electronic storage and weigh all of the factors that come into play – size of the device or media, the cost to store and maintain the data and the safety and stability of the media to be protected from damage or erasure. I’m sure we have all heard the horror stories of someone’s wedding video that got taped over by a football game or something along those lines.

The current favorite would be using a CD to store your digital images. CDs are very inexpensive to purchase and very easy to create. They allow another layer of classification for retrieval in that you can create CDs that are arranged by date, subject, location or photographer, just as we discussed yesterday for hardcopy photos, and you can make copies for your friends and relatives. DVDs are another alternative, but some older computers don’t have DVD burners and the media is a little more expensive and possibly a little more sensitive to damage. There are now a lot of inexpensive external hard drives that are great for storage of data. The smallest would be the flash or thumb drive and the cost/size ratio keeps getting better and better. When they first came out, a 512k flash drive could set you back $50+ and that device would not hold many photo files. Now you can get a good quality 8 gigabyte flash drive or larger for as little as $10.00! The fear with using flash drives might be that USB ports, where a flesh drive connects to your computer, could just as easily be replaced by some other connection in the near future that is faster or better…you never know. Consider that people who started saving their photos at the beginning of the digital photography era might have had to changed their media four or five times by now: 5 ¼ floopy disks, to 3.5 disks, to Zip or Jaz disk to CDs and now HD CDs and DVDs (and I’m sure I’m not up-to-date on the latest and the greatest). The factors that have made these different types of media come and go are more than just the capacity of this media. Other characteristics are the data transfer rate, seek time, power consumption, audible noise and shock resistance.

There are many sites on the Internet that now offer digital storage online that make sharing photos with friends quite easy, but this will have ongoing costs to continue to have them stored at these sites and your photos are at risk if the site you choose should shut down without notice.

Keeping your photographs digitally is a great space saving option, but it may not be a time saving option and it requires you to always have access to a computer or other electronic device to save them and to display them.

You can consider digital storage even if you did not take the photos digitally. You can scan your old pictures into your computer, which is incredibly time consuming or you can have them done professionally by a photo lab, which is very costly. In the Princeton area, you can bring all of your old photos to a photo lab like Taylor Photo on Alexander Road in West Windsor, (, 609-452-9444) and they will digitize them all and return them to you on a disk(s). If the photos were taken digitally, it will be more economical to deal with them electronically and never print them. If you want to share them with someone who does not have a computer, you can purchase a digital picture frame, load your pictures and give it as a gift. Make sure that you send detailed directions if you are sending this to someone who is not computer literate or you may find that they put the frame away never realizing that there are photographs stored on it for their viewing pleasure!

Like physical photos, virtual photos need to be organized and it is essential that you set up a system and continue to follow the guidelines you establish in order to ever expect to locate a single image after time has gone by. These guidelines will include a naming convention for each picture, a data storage tree of files, folders and subfolders and a sorting hierarchy similar to the physical photo storage system by date, place, event or subject. As with photo prints, the bad digital photos (over exposed, blurry, eyes shut, pose mis-aligned, etc.) should be deleted as soon as you take them or at the very latest when you download them from the camera. There is even less sense keeping bad digital photos since at the time you retrieve them from the camera, you have not spent any money on them to feel guilty about throwing away. And if you have been using digital photography for some time, you have probably gotten into the habit of taking many shots since “they don’t cost anything” but the theory of that practice is that you probably only get one out of 20 (or less) that are worth keeping. The best way to handle digital photos is to download the images from your camera right away (on the day they were taken if possible) so that you won’t be faced with a full disk of 300+ photos taken over a six month period to deal with. Once they are downloaded you need to edit them, name them, sort them and “file” them while your memory is still fresh.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a comment? Share your ideas with the group.