A few months ago I was attending a dinner and the conversation came to a sad story about one of the guest’s relatives whose house had recently burnt. We all agreed about the fact that even if the most important thing was that nobody was hurt, it would be pretty traumatic to lose some of our most precious belongings. Suddenly, one of the guests asked us: “If you had two minutes to save something in your house before it got totally burnt, what would that be?”. There were 10 people around the table, and 8 of them, including myself, replied, “my pictures”.
It was not a photographers meet-up. Around that table, everybody else but me had no particular passion for photography. But those pictures they so badly wanted to save were their most treasured possessions because they represented their loving memories.
If you are reading this article, there is a high chance that photography is a passion to you. So I have to ask you one very important question: When was the last time you saved your pictures?
Fortunately, most of us won’t ever have to face the disaster of a burnt house. But there is another threat waiting for us around the corner, that is much more likely to strike, losing digital files. It can happen for so many reasons: hard drive failure, virus infection, stolen computer, lost USB drive, scratched CD or DVD. Digital files are amazing in so many ways, but are desperately fragile.
Here are a few options to secure your beloved memories:
1. Back-up your hard drive.
Make sure that your images are not saved only in one place (your desktop/laptop computer, for example). Duplicating the content of your hard drive periodically on an external hard drive is something to consider if you don’t have another back-up solution yet.
Since I’m slightly paranoid about losing my images, I actually save them on a RAID (basically, it’s an external hard drive that can back itself up internally through mirroring. With this system, you’re covered should one of the drives fail!). I use a LaCie Raid hard drive and I’m very happy about their products. If you are even more paranoid than I am, you can consider storing this external hard drive somewhere else (to avoid any risk of theft or fire) like at your parents’, or at work!
2. Burn your images on CDs/DVDs.
It’s a cheap and easy option to have a back-up of your favorite images. However, CDs/DVDs can be easily scratched or lost, so be sure to consider one additional back-up solution.
3. Use online storage.
If you’re not a heavy shooter, there are plenty of free online solutions that can be enough for you, like uploading your images to Flickr or Dropbox, or pay a small fee to secure your images on a web photo gallery like SmugMug.
On the other hand, if you have thousands of images to save, or if you want to save your whole hard drive (not just your image files), you might consider using a cloud storage. I personally use CrashPlan to automatically back-up my hard drive so that I have a mirror of my hard drive secured somewhere if something would happen to my computer. I don’t even have to think about it, it’s running silently when my computer is switched on!
4. Print your images and place them in a photo album.
It’s the best way to prevent them from digital loss, and the added bonus is that they will not be sleeping on your hard drive anymore (let’s be honest, do you often browse your digital archives on your computer?) and will be easily accessible for the whole family on a daily basis! In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a great article from Lacey Meyers on printing and organizing your photos.
5. Last but not least: save your prints, too!
You probably have family albums filled with prints taken during the before-digital age, when film was our only option. These images are precious too, and should be secured. Digitalizing them with a scanner can be time consuming, but it is the best way to make sure that these priceless memories will still be there in the future, even if anything were to happen to your photo albums.