When Northern California residents reported on their evacuations during the recent wild fires, they said that they grabbed their pets, some clothes and their pictures. Those who were not able to get anything from their houses were very upset about losing heirlooms often mentioning their family pictures. How safe are your photos? The sheer number of photos we are taking, the vulnerability of digital files, and the constant development of technology are putting your family photos in jeopardy.
Digital files are vulnerable because they are not physical picture but a set of instructions for your screen. When these instructions become corrupt, your pictures are lost. If your hard drive fails because of a virus or power surge. If your phone is lost, dropped, or simply quits working, your photos will be gone.
Keeping track of our treasured images is overwhelming because there are so many taken daily. InfoTrends estimates that 1,200 billion photos will be taken this year. These are a mix of important moments like the first day of school and utilitarian records (name and model number of a vacuum cleaner so you can buy the right bags). Other every-day photos are just for sharing on social media, the Huffington Post says that 69% of millennials photograph their food. How do you find the keepers out of all the others? When you run out of room in your phone (where 85% of photos will be taken and stored) do you find yourself quickly deleting photos? How many really special photos have you deleted in a rush to catch another moment?
Digital storage platforms are always changing. You must commit to keeping their storage format up-to-date. CD drives are becoming scarce making photo cd’s useless. Facebook and Instagram photos probably won’t be around in 100 years for future generations. Take some time to develop a system to ensure that at least some of your photos survive. We have several VHS tapes (including one of our wedding) that we have failed to convert to a readable format including. I’m better about putting my photos from CDs onto my computer.
What’s a person to do?
- When you take a photo of an important event like the first day of school, mark that as a favorite.
- Once a month, copy your favorites to a computer’s hard drive. I label my files by yearmonthdate_subject_event. The file with my photos of the State Cross Country Meet is labeled 20171104_AHS_XC_StateMeet. This will automatically organize the files by year, moth and date. Some of my downloads include many days of the same month. When this happens, I put 00 in the day.
- Make a second copy of your favorites to store on the cloud or on an external drive that is stored in a second location-in (parents, office, friend’s house) case of a fire or a flood.
- Select some of your favorite photos and have them printed. Store these in archival boxes. Print the best of the best in a larger format, to be framed and hung in a gallery in your hallway, in a stairwell or above your couch for daily enjoyment.
Printing photos has many benefits. Holding a photograph in your hand or seeing a framed print on your wall day after day is a completely different experience than opening your pictures folder on your iPad. Researchers have found that we have a more emotional reaction to print ads than digital ads. Many photographers argue that their job isn’t complete until a permanent representation of their vision is printed on paper. Probably the most important reason is that printed photos are physical objects that will not get corrupted or deleted by mistake. Their format will not become obsolete and they will last for generations.