The Truth About Digital Photos

A customer called recently and said "I think I lost most of my digital photos." This is never a good way to start a conversation! I rushed over to his home and after about 15 minutes I determined that he was using the Kodak EasyShare software to organize his photos. After importing his photos into the software he had deleted the originals from his hard drive. Unfortunately, he did not understand that the software does not actually import a copy of the photo but rather just creates a thumbnail and reference back to the original file. Once he deleted the originals the link was broken, making him think that he had lost his photos.

While this was a easy fix (I just restored the photos from the Recycle Bin) I had an opportunity to discuss digital photos and their management with the guy. I asked him a simple question; " who are you taking these photos for?" "My children and grand-children," was his reply. I pointed out to him that what he was really trying to do was save these photos for the next 50-100 years. That comment got his attention!

While taking digital photos is very convenient, much more so then traditional photos, this convenience comes at a cost. Now we have more photos that we have to manage, and managing digital photos is very time consuming! With digital photos we just can't throw them in a shoe box or a drawer. We are forced to try and manage them in their digital form.

Let me ask you a few questions. Do you think that your grandchildren will have access to a CDRom in 50 years? If you store the photos on DVD's do you think that there will be DVD players in 50 years? The reality is that a typical home computer that would be used to store digital photos is expected to last 3-5 years and then is replaced. Are you going to remember to transfer all your photos? What if the hard drive crashes? How much money are you going to spend trying to recover these photos? If you upload your photos to the web do you think that site will still be online in 50 years?

As you can tell, the convenience of taking digital photos means that you now have to spend a lot more time managing and preserving these photos for your children and grandchildren. So what do you do? These are my recommendations:

1. Have an online backup plan for the digital form of your photos. This is the best way to protect your photos from hard drive crashes and will allow you to easily restore the photos when you upgrade your computer.

2. Do not think that you have to preserve every photo that you take. Identify the really good ones and delete the others.

3. Read the manuel or the help files for the software that you wish to use to manage your photos. You are going to invest lots of time with this software, so take the time to understand its capabilities and much more importantly, its shortcomings!

4.Identify the photos that you want to preserve for posterity and have them professionally printed and store them in an album or drawer. The reality is that paper still lasts a lot longer than digital media.

5. Talk with a professional photographer and find out what software he uses to mange his media.

If you take the time to follow these simple recommendations you will have achieved the best incorporation of new and old technologies for dealing with and managing your photos for today and tomorrow. You children and grandchildren will thank you.

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