I wanted to end the year with a post about storing and archiving your photos. Over the last year I've had so many reminders of how important this is and many clients asking me to help them make sure that their own personal photographs don't get lost or destroyed. I've read that 10% of all of the photos ever taken were taken in 2012. Ten percent!! Those photos are an amazing pictorial history of our time, we need to cherish them.
The most important thing to know is that digital media is not archival. Remember when it became the done thing to scan a photo and then destroy the print? Why not? Less clutter! You get to view your photos on your computer! Email them to everyone! Until...your computer dies and they're gone forever. Don't laugh, a lot of people I know did this and regret it to this day. The method has changed, we don't need to scan anymore as the photos are digital already, but the end result is the same. I have clients who have lost every single photo of their children in the inevitable computer or hard drive crash. Digital media is extraordinarily fragile.
What I want to do is walk you through how I recommend to upload, store and ultimately archive your photos so that your grandchildren and their grandchildren will get to see them. As a photographer, this is my number one concern when it comes to selling you a photograph. Your photographs aren't just for you to enjoy, they're for posterity. One day a descendant of yours will be going through old paraphernalia and find an album of photos underneath the defunct and obsolete iPad. Imagine their joy at finding them (and amusement at the iPad!).
Let's get organised!
Step 1 | Collect all of your photos
This might sound obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many sources you have for photographs! It's not just your camera these days. Your computer's webcam, your iPad, your phone, Facebook and Instagram. We store our photos in a myriad of places and we just have to hope that we can find them all should the day come that we want to see them again! It's not good enough to have them part of a newsfeed that slides off the page within minutes. Collate them into one area. I suggest purchasing an external hard drive with built in back up software for this job and then systematically import or download every photo. Even the ones you wish had never been posted to Facebook...
Step 2 | Organise your filing system
My workflow is simple. I plug my card into a reader and upload every file onto an external hard drive and into a folder of its own. My client files are arranged by date and name, but my personal files are arranged by date and event. For instance 'HD/2012/xmas2012'. You can put the date of every upload into the folder name, but these days it's very easy to organise your photos by date using the computer's sorting options. I find it easier to find photos based on the event and the year it took place, so that's my system. We all have different ways to remember so set up the flow that works the best for you.
Step 3 | Choosing your favourites
This is the step where most people give up! It's daunting looking through all of the photos with an eye to picking the best. My best advice is to do this when you're uploading them. If you go back later you'll have forgotten why you took a photo of someone else's dog and the significance won't be as fresh in your mind. Be ruthless, these are the photos that will end up in print!
One thing I recommend is never to delete photos. Hard drives are cheap and you never know when the photo of that friend's dog will become more important! Store the photos you weren't keen on in the first place anyway (it's easy to do) and only back up and print the ones that you love.
Step 4 | Copy your favourites to a new folder
This is the best part of this system. If you create a folder on your desktop for 'printing' and copy your favourite photos over to that folder as you upload them, before you know it you'll have a fantastic collection of images to print. Make it a habit, even if it's the photos from your phone or Facebook. This folder can not only be used for printing, but can double as the folder you set your screensaver to run from!
Step 5 | Back up!
The temptation is to believe that you've now got your files all safe and sorted now, but unfortunately many of us know that sick feeling of searching for a digital file or folder that has just evaporated.There are a number of ways to back these photographs up digitally, such as
another external hard drive
USBs or CDs
cloud systems like iCloud or Flickr
However none of these are foolproof. Hard drives fail (yes, all of them), USBs and CDs are incredibly unreliable and the cloud is dependent on someone else's computer system and business surviving the generations you'd like these photos to last. It's scary to think how easily our personal photographic history can be lost so have a good think about what will work best for you. My own system is to have another hard drive back up and CDs of the files, with an increasing use of the cloud. However, I've still lost files and it's my job to pay particular attention. Hence the need for the next step!
Step 6 | Printing your photographs
I get emotional about this topic, so you'll have to bear with me. A few years before my grandmother died, my sister and I travelled interstate to visit her. She suffered from dementia and barely knew who we were, so the opportunity to reminisce with her was gone but we had the presence of mind to find all of her old photographs and gather them up. Those photographs would have gone 'somewhere' when she died, but as someone for whom photos mean an enormous amount, it was a blessing that I got to take them home and store them safely.
My suggestions for printing are to take your folder of favourite images to a reputable lab (there are a lot online now too!) to have printed, even if they're just as 4x6 inch prints. Or make a beautiful photo book to tell the story of your event, holiday or even the whole year. If you'd like recommendations on where to have your photographs printed, post in the comments section below! I can help you with labs and companies both here in Australia and in the US.
A late addition...as prompted by Susie (thank you!). Make a habit of putting notes with each photo. A name, date or description will help your family decipher who was who in a hundred years time!
I'm begging you... don't rely on your photos being around, or even cared for, forever. Print them, put them into albums, make photo books from them, frame them so that your children and your future descendants know that these photographs were of the things that were important to you. This is your voice telling them what your lives were like and how you saw some moments as so important that you recorded them for posterity.
Then, when you get those photographs, in whatever format they may be, make time to show them to your children and remind them of the stories behind each one. Do it often. Make it a bedtime ritual, they really love it and they end up with different viewpoints on every photo depending on who tells the story. Your photos won't just end up snapshots in a folder on a long defunct computer, they'll be priceless family treasures.
Have a fantastic New Year and a healthy and happy 2013!! Stay tuned for the New Year newsletter, complete with a slideshow of my favourites of 2012 and a special print offer! If you haven't subscribed to the newsletter yet, look for the little newsletter form on the right hand side of the blog.