In our parents and grandparents era, if someone wanted to save their photographic prints, they had few options.
Either frame them, put them in an album, or stack them in shoeboxes. Or a combination of these.
Once you’d made your decision on storage, there was little ongoing maintenance for those existing photos.
With digital images the choices are somewhat wider.
You can still make physical prints, then use one of the options above to store those.
But digitally, the task is more complex, and many would say more disaster prone.
Whether you use film or digital, if at some point those images end up on a computer, the options are the same.
Some have a physical hard drive or two as a back up. Others use online or cloud storage. Some rely on a combination of these. Others still use smaller physical media like SD cards or USB drives.
Again these options are often mixed and matched, depending on the photographer’s preferences.
The trouble with digital though is it doesn’t end there – it’s not liking putting photos in an album, filing it in your bookcase and that’s it.
It’s quite possible that one of the sites your store your images with online evolve or disappear completely, so you can’t rely on them anymore.
And whilst unlikely, it could be that your files are hacked or corrupted or deleted accidentally.
Hardware fails eventually, even if it lasts a decade. More often it becomes obsolete, so the memory cards and cables and ports compatible with your computer and hard drives from 10 years ago are different to ones being sold today.
In my explorations of old digital cameras recently, I’ve found that whilst SD cards are pretty much the dominant format for memory cards today, 15 years ago we also had xD (eXtreme Digital), CF (Compact Flash) and Smart Media, not to mention four or five variations by Sony of their own Memory Stick. This is not the complete list either.
To continue to use any of these cards as storage (or to use them in older cameras and be able to transfer and save the images) we need to ensure we have compatible readers and cables – or transfer everything to something current.
Then there are digital file formats.
I used to shoot in RAW with a DSLR and export to JPEG in LightRoom. These days I just shoot in JPEG, it’s perfectly fine for my needs, and it means everything I save is in a uniform format.
But who knows how the JPEG file format will evolve?
At some point as technology advances, the file formats will too. How many people who had a vast collection of music on cassette tape and movies on VHS in the 80s still use those formats now?
As is often the case, the modern digital world can be daunting.
Personally I think I’ve got a fairly simple and robust system, but it’s certainly not immune to many of the pitfalls I’ve mentioned, and it needs ongoing attention and maintenance to preserve my images.
So how about you? How do you store your digital photos? How do you see this changing five, 10, 20 years from now?
Please let us know in the comments below, we’d love to hear your take (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).
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