Never Lose Your Digital Pictures AgainKim Boatman
Your baby’s first steps. High school graduation. Your cat chasing its tail. Digital cameras let you snap life’s moments, big and small, with ease. Technology has leapfrogged to the point where you can take a thousand pictures on a device the size of a deck of cards. But just how do you hang onto these treasures?
“I have seen numerous instances where folks have lost digital photos,’’ says Jarrod Skeggs, a founder and co-owner of Digital Design Solutions, an Atlanta-based company that helps businesses and consumers manage digital media such as videos, photos and music. “The fact is even the best hard drives and flash memory cards experience failures. That’s the nature of mass-produced products. The other reason is that people lose their cameras.”
A camera that’s conveniently small enough to slip in a shirt pocket is also quite easy to misplace. And it’s also too easy, says Skeggs, to shoot away without much thought to how you secure those precious images. Experts such as Skeggs offer these tips for preserving and organizing your photos:
- Don’t leave photos in your camera. No matter where he is, professional photographer Richard Koci Hernandez, tries to import photos from his camera to his laptop. Don’t be tempted to leave photos in your camera until it’s convenient to download the images or until the memory card is full, cautions Koci Hernandez, Ford Foundation Multimedia Fellow at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
- Edit your images. It’s easy to be quickly overwhelmed by thousands of images as you shoot away. The first step in organizing your photos is to be a good photo editor, says Koci Hernandez. We tend to take more photos now that our cameras hold so many, he says. But do you really want that photo where you accidentally captured your own thumb? “Any little bit of trimming of the fat you can do is better than nothing,’’ Koci Hernandez says.
- Label and organize. Your images will likely bear some unwieldy combination of numbers and letters assigned by your camera. Keeping track of your images on your computer will be far simpler if you take the time to name each photo. Skeggs suggests organizing photos by events. “The reason most people take pictures is because there is an event happening,’’ he says. Utilize a naming scheme such as Smith Family Reunion 2008, Summer Vacation-Destin 2008, he suggests. Labeling has long-term value as the years pass, reminds Koci Hernandez. "Think how important it was that our mothers wrote on the back of our photos.";
- Think backup. Many of us store and organize our photos using services such as Flickr. Keeping your photos online means your images are safe if your computer crashes, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a backup plan, say the experts. It is possible for online photo storage companies to fail, points out Skeggs. “The thing to remember is that services like Flickr are really intended for sharing your photos with others,’’ he says. “The best practice is to keep a copy of your most valued photos on your computer or hard drive at home and to also keep a copy somewhere else.” Consider regularly burning copies of your photos to a DVD and storing the DVD at your office or sending a copy to a friend or family member.
Alternatively, make backups on USB flash drives, the small thumb-sized drives that offer considerable memory. An inexpensive online backup service such as Mozy, which costs a low monthly fee, provides another layer of security. Skeggs recommends “on-site’’ and “off-site” backup for his clients. For instance, you might choose to use an online photo site but retain copies on your computer hard drive or on DVDs.
- Get prints. It might seem downright old-fashioned, but Koci Hernandez suggests keeping a physical copy of every photo you care about. He uploads images to a consumer site such as Shutterfly and immediately orders a set of prints. Even if you simply leave the prints in the envelope, label the envelope and stick it in a shoebox, it’s worth doing, he insists. “Even if you’re strapped for money, upload 20 or do just your five or 10 best,’’ Koci Hernandez says. 'Images and discs get corrupted. It'ss important to have a hard copy. That's the thing that lets me sleep at night, knowing I have a hard copy."
Koci Hernandez also suggests investing in a media storage device. Most will take up little valuable luggage space, and these devices let you insert your memory card and download the images. For instance, the Digital Foci Photo Safe II weighs little more than a pound and retails from around $100 to $220, depending on how much capacity you want. If you do nothing else, at least travel with several memory cards, advises Skeggs. That way, you can store a full memory card in a secure location rather than risk losing it with your camera. And you’ll also have spares if a card quits working or is lost.
Knowing you have more than one copy of your cherished photos now that they are kept in digital format might just be the key to your carefree snoozing, as well. Developing a regular system to make sure you have multiple copies of your organized digital images is the key. “You can never, ever, ever have enough backup,’’ says Koci Hernandez.
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