Protect Photos

Protect Those Digital Memories. The goal of this article is to offer some photo and video preservation tips. With new photographic memories almost exclusively being created in digital formats these days, it’s important to properly manage these important files so that you, and future generations, are able to enjoy your cherished digital memories instead of lamenting their loss.

Step 1

The first step is to pull together your digital photo and video files. If you are like most people, these files are probably not very well organized. This can make building the knowledge base of what you have and where it is located a daunting task. However, it will be time well spent as this represents the first step in the process toward claiming your title as “ruler” of your digital media.

Along with digital photos, you probably have hard copy photos. These may be stored in closets, loose in a box, or organized in photo albums. I would suggest that you scan these photos to convert them to a digital format. The benefits of digital are many, with easy sharing among friends and family and the ability to effortlessly make backup copies among two of the most significant. Scanning can be accomplished with inexpensive home scanners or you can send your photos to a third-party service provider.

It is not uncommon for your digital media to be spread across different types of physical media including VHS, 8mm, and CD to name a few. It is a good idea to buy a storage device and start pooling copies of the originals in one place. There are services that will convert older media types to current media. If you are technically savvy, you can take advantage of one of the many utilities available that will perform the job for you. The goal is to gather your new digital media pool onto one computer or storage device. If your computer does not have enough capacity, another option is to employ USB disk drives with 1 to 2 terabyte (TB) capacity (equal to 1,000 to 2,000 gigabytes). These are readily available for approximately $100 from online retailers.

Step 2

Once your digital photos and videos are all identified, scanned and assembled in one location, it’s time to select one digital format for photos and another for video. There are really two decisions to be made regarding the format of choice – the logical format and the physical format. The logical format chosen could, for example, be JPEG for digital photos and AVI for digital video. By standardizing the logical format you can also standardize the tools required for managing that media. The choice of logical format should be reviewed every five years or so to ensure that the format is still current and valid.

The physical format really comes down to two choices – hard drives or optical media. Magnetic media (such as digital cartridges or cassettes) for the consumer market has virtually disappeared as an option, which presents a classic example of the need to periodically migrate data from older physical media formats to newer formats. Optical media has a longer lifespan, but has much smaller storage capacities. Hard drives have large capacity, but because they contain moving parts, they are subject to mechanical failure over time. My recommendation is to use hard drives and back them up regularly to another local drive and to an offsite location.

Step 3

Once your media is determined, the next step is to apply some organization to the photos and video files. It’s not imperative that your photos be organized, although it makes finding specific photos for special events like a birthday, important anniversary, or even for a funeral presentation infinitely easier and less time-consuming.

My recommendation is to use a tool that applies face recognition technology to index photos (and video) by the people included in the photos/videos. It’s also helpful if the software enables you to organize by event, place and keywords, although the most useful index that you will use time and time again, is by person. Possible utilities you can use for this step include: Fotobounce, Picasa and iPhoto.

Step 4

It is important that you have reliable backups of your media. At a minimum, you want to ensure your photo/video library is able to survive the following possible events:

  • Power failure – Power disruptions can cause corruption of data on hard disk storage devices. Battery backup devices are extremely affordable and help maintain clean and continuous power to your computer and storage units.
  • Human error – Nobody’s perfect. This is particularly applicable when it comes to using computers. Human error accounts for a significant percentage of data loss. Because of this, it’s smart to have a second copy of your data at all times. Make copies of your data before and after major changes. If you can store everything on a 1 TB storage device, buy a second one and keep a backup copy on that device.
  • Theft, Fire, or Flood – Natural disasters can also impact the integrity of your media files. To protect against these calamities, send a copy of your data to an offsite location. This can be at a friend’s home, a backup facility, or an Internet-based backup service. Many inexpensive services exist, especially affordable when you consider the value of your data. If you choose an Internet service, keep in mind that the initial backup may take awhile. But, subsequent backups are usually completed in significantly less time.

Step 5

As you add new photos and video, be sure to store them in your storage pool. Index the photos on a regular basis and make sure everything is backed up regularly as part of your digital photo/video preservation process.

By following these steps you can enjoy your digital family memories throughout your lifetime and for generations to come.

Author: Ray Ganong, President, Applied Recognition Inc.

Posted in History, Photos

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