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10 ways NOT to get burried in your digital photos

Via shershnev.net I came across the “10 Ways to Make Your Digital Photos Last Forever“. This is again, one of those lists, that tells you everything you already now, but in slightly different words. I’ve a read a lot of lists like this in my time (a year or two ago). And I still occasionally check them out.

I’ve also gained some experience of my own. Because of that I don’t always agree to what is said in those lists. Also, times change and some things that were true five years ago, are not true any more.

So, below is the list of original items with my comments, for what it’s worth. Click on the link to read the full post – I’m trying not to annoy the hell out of people who scroll through the main page…

  1. Use a quality memory card. Well, if you have the money and nothing else to spend it on – sure, go for it. Prices for memory cards can vary a lot. But you won’t find great difference with a naked eye. Plus this point has really a lot to do with the next point – memory cards are a temporary storage.

    Basically, memory card only matters during the time between you press the shutter button and the moment you download that image from the card to the computer. And that should be the shortest tijme possible. So, why spend all that extra money? Also, many cards give you signs before they die. You can notice that reading and writing became slower. Sometimes you can even hear the cracking sound. When you do – run to the nearest computer shop and get yourself a replacement. Try that replacement and if it works, get rid of the dying card. Better safe than sorry.

  2. Get those photos off that memory card. This is a good piece of advice. I have a tiny addition though. In point 1 a tip was offered to go for more smaller cards rather than fewer, but bigger ones. That is very true. And one of the reasons to do so is backup. When you copy images from the memory card to the computer, don’t delete them from the memory card. Just use a different card for your next photo session. If you are out of new cards, use the one with the oldest images. Delete those – you already postprocessed, shared, and backed up those.
  3. Don’t delete photos in the camera. Agreed. It is indeed better to make your judgements after reviewing images on a larger screen with proper colors and image size.

    In order not to get into the situation where you have to delete images using your camera, monitor the free space of your memory card. Many, if not most, of the modern digital cameras tell you how many images you’ve taken and an estimation of how many more will fit in. If you see that you are running low on space, change your camera’s settings to take images of smaller size (less pixels in resolution with more data compression).

  4. Don’t delete photos at all. Now, this one didn’t work for me. Initially I was keeping all images. I was shooting using the largest resolution and minimum compression. Each photograph was at lest 3 MBytes. Most were mistakes that I’ll never use. For the rest I needed an edited copy. That was just too much. Very quickly I accumulated gigabytes upon gigabytes of data that was totally useless.

    At first, I started to get rid of the broken pictures – mistakes, dublicates, and those that I was more than 90% sure that I won’t ever be interested in. That felt good. But I also knew that I can do more. So I tried it and liked it even more – I am not even keeping the originals now. I edit the image and store only the edited version. If I’ll ever need it in different form or color, I’ll either have to snap it again, or use Mad Photoshop Skills ™ . I keep this in mind when editing images, trying to leave a little reserve.

  5. Keep a Backup. Or two. “Real man don’t do backups. They just upload their stuff to FTP and let the world distribute it.” © Linus Torvalds. This is applicable to photography to some degree too. Don’t just store your backup on some DVD disk in the darkest corner of your closet. Instead, upload your images to sharing services like Flickr. Post the best ones to forums. Send them to friends and family. Print them and give away or hang them on walls. Publish them in books and sell them.

    The idea here is to backup your images, but not to keep and maintain those backups yourself. Just push them out there. If your images are there in the open world, you’ll be able to get them back. Even if you’ll have to use a scanner.

  6. Use generic photo formats. True. And not only generic, but try to use open formats. If the format is not propriatery, and is not patent to noavail, you’ll always be able to open it. Avoid device- and company-specific formats like a plague. They’ll hurt you in the end. And it will happen much faster than you think.
  7. Don’t edit original photos. If you don’t have any balls. Just kidding. This is up to you. I chose to edit originals. I considered my options carefully and decided that it’s better for me to do so (see above). Your milage may vary.
  8. Don’t trust someone else with your photos. Disagree. Quite the opposite. Trust your photos to as many people as you can. With every copy your chances for a carrying the image through generations are better. Remember, some people will outlive you. And it’ll be them passing your pictures to further generations.

    Trust you images even to those that you don’t know. Like all sorts of web caching services. Every image search engine has one, for example.

  9. Test and maintain your backup files. Well, if you give away and share your images, that’s easy to do. You just pass by your grandparents house and see if your family portrait is still on the wall. Or you ask your friend if he still has that picture of you two from his birthday party five years ago. Or better even, do a search for your images on the web. Chances are they are still there.
  10. Label, organize, and sort your photos. Indeed. And start doing it right now. Don’t put it until later, until you have more images. Finding the organization that suits your needs will take time and practice. The more images you’ll have, the more attempts you’ll have to organize that mess. And every time you’ll be almost happy. Until later. So, don’t put it away – start now and eliminate those schemes that don’t work for you. It’s easier to do with less images.
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