Digital Photo Preservation

Sunday, April 3rd 2005

Because I’m a native son of Rochester, NY, I still read the local paper online now and then.

As the home of Kodak, the city has always had an interest in photography. Today there’s an article on the pitfalls and perils of digital image preservation in the home/consumer environment.

The issue of image loss is a big one. My brother ran into some Windows issues a couple years back and ended up losing almost every digital picture he’d taken. They weren’t backed up anywhere.

I’ve been paranoid ever since. I back up photos regularly on an external hard drive, distribute CDs of photo sets to friends, and now have uploaded the majority of my snapshots to Flickr. I think I’m safe, but you never know.

Think of it like a digital shoebox. I’ve got piles of ‘traditional’ pictures as well, and really should see about getting them scanned in.

One of the more cogent points in the D&C article is that digital photos have no inherent backup. Film at least provided negatives to derive reprints from should the worst happen.

The article also mentions the advantages of keeping your digital photos organized. Maybe I’m weird, but I actually quite enjoy organizing my pictures. But even so, I wish I’d started sooner. I did a major overhaul of my organizational scheme, which was haphazard at best, about a year go. In the process I discovered that my old camera had very often not recorded the correct date. So I wasn’t able to classify some of the pictures accurately. The best I can do is narrow it down to the year. But now that my scheme is in place, dropping new files into it is a breeze.

Digital preservation and standards creep like this always interests me. Will the JPEG format still be readable 50 years from now? If so, will the storage device they’re located on be readable?

03. April 2005 by Chad Haefele
Categories: General, Libraries/Info Sci, Tech | 6 comments

Comments (6)

  1. Regarding picture organization, I leave all my photos in their original numbered state on my hard drive, divided up into folders of 100 each. I use Picasa to tag, sort, filter, and search them. Much more fluid than trying to classify a photo into some particular folder. I suppose Flickr is somewhat like that, but I haven’t used it…

  2. yup, it sounds very similar to Flickr.

    I’ve looked into Picasa a tad as well, and like what I see so far. My main question: if I end up reformatting my computer (which I will probably do soon), is there a way to back up all the organizational info I’ve put into Picasa?

    I leave my pictures in the original file name as well, and dump them in folders named by date and event name.

    I started doing this before I knew of Flickr or Picasa, or I probably would have ended up with your method as well.

    My main problem with Picasa so far: My pictures that have incorrect dates on them get sorted to all kinds of weird places. With my custom folder system, they’re in the right place even with the wrong EXIF data hidden inside them.

  3. There is a program called Exifer that lets you perform batch edits on EXIF data. So if you can recall a month or date that a group of photos was taken, that will let you fix them. And yes, Picasa does have the ability to backup and restore your meta-database.

  4. Thanks, problem is I have no idea what day they were taken on 5 years ago :)

  5. Here are my questions: If digital storage space weren’t so cheap, would you store as many photos as you currently are? Would you store that many physical photographs? And by storing all of them, are you maybe bypassing a weeding process that might have a good purpose? (I don’t mean that snottily, but in a musing sort of way.)

    I never understood the joy of weeding until I had to do it, but now I can see how it makes the remaining collection look better, easier to search successfully, and overall get more use. I’m wondering if any of the same concepts apply to a digital collection.

  6. You make valid points, I’ve wondered the same thing a little bit. I do definitely take more pictures now than I would if I had to pay to get it developed. I’m a pack rat at heart though, perhaps someday I can convince myself to weed.

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