Gone are the days of the family film camera that you shoot and then drop into the local Kodak joint or chemist, get your negatives back and some 6×4″ prints – come home, show the family, then put them in the photo album to look back on throughout the years.
I remember in 2003 I was living in Canberra, where I grew up – we had horrific bush fires and my suburb Waramanga was in the middle of it. The midday sky became night as we watched the suburbs around us burn. We had packed the car with our most precious items in case we had to leave, this included our photo albums – our visual history, we saw these albums as the most treasured items we owned. Thankfully we didn’t have to evacuate.
Unfortunately for most people the days of printing your memories and immortalising them into albums are gone. Technology has advanced so quickly that most families now capture their daily moments on their smart phone… and that’s where they stay.
Digital storage is vulnerable, very vulnerable – storing precious images and videos of your phone, ipad, computer or external hard drive is not as safe as you think. Devices fail all the time, they crash, they can get stolen or broken and if you haven’t moved or copied your data to another outlet you are at risk of losing your data and your memories forever.
A lack of knowledge on how to save and protect your images is leading to a generational loss of visual history.
This post is about different ways to back up your photos!
The key to safe data storage is having a 2 or 3 tiered system not just a 1 tiered! This means backing up and storing data in more than one place!
Different storage tier’s:
1. Printing your photos:
Printing your photos is a solid way of ‘backing up’ your images. Store them in the one spot in your house that is off the ground (in case of flooding). If they are all in the one spot and you have to evacuate then you just grab and go (if safe to do so.)
I print my favourite photos from my phone or camera and put them into albums and store them all together in the one spot (see below.)
Another great way to print photos is to make books! I use Blurb (http://www.blurb.com/) to make books of photos from my travels. They end up being cheaper than buying an album and paying for individual prints – you can also usually fit more photos in depending on the size. The software is very straight forward!
It’s also obvious that there are other benefits to printing your photos, you get to look at them beautifully printed, keep them for years and years and pass them onto your children or other family members. Also the photos I print will look the same (if taken care of) in 100 years – but will my digital storage work in 100 years? Think about that…
2. Store your images and videos from your devices on the cloud!
Don’t quite understand what ‘The Cloud’ is? To put it simply it’s a bunch of servers that store your data online which you can access at any time – here is a Mashable article for more details: http://mashable.com/2013/08/26/what-is-the-cloud/
If you are using an Apple smart phone you SHOULD be using iCloud or something like it.
The iCloud photo library stores every photo and video you take onto the Apple server (aka iCloud), this means if something happens to your phone, ipad or Mac, your photos and videos are safe in the cloud. New photos that you take on your apple devices will automatically upload to your photo stream when you leave the Camera app and will upload to the cloud when you connect to Wi-Fi. Your photo stream doesn’t upload photos to the cloud over cellular connections. You can chose to keep the original files stored on your phone or device as well as the cloud or just on the cloud – I recommend you keep the original files on your device as well as the cloud, then do regular back ups from your device onto an external hard drive – this means you have a multi tiered system of back up!
More info on the cloud can be found here: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204264
With iCloud you get 5GB free storage, after that you have to pay a monthly fee –
20 GB: $1.29/Month
200 GB: $4.99/Month
500 GB: $12.99/Month
1 TB: $24.99/Month
It is your responsibility to keep up the monthly payments if you need over 5GB – you have to see it as in investment in your future and visual history.
You might be thinking ‘I put my photos on Facebook and Instagram, isn’t that the same thing and it’s free?’
Well yes and no. Facebook and Instagram can act as cloud storage for the images you upload to the service – but and its a big BUT, when you upload images or video to Facebook or Instagram they are heavily compressing those images as to save space and money storing them on their servers.
‘What do you mean compressing?’ Compressing AKA making the images smaller for screen resolution and not PRINT. To print images you need a high resolution file size, most images uploaded to the internet are low resolution and not for printing. If you are wanting to print images from Facebook – forget it, they are too low in resolution and they will look pixelated and horrible. You want to be saving and storing your images at their original size.
Some other cloud storage options:
3. Physical data storage.
Any professional photographer will never store images on their computer – never. Like with your phone or device if something goes wrong and your computer crashes – you’ve lost your files. Also storing images and video on your computer hard drive slows down its performance.
I work off external hard drives. All of my photography along with my phone photos etc are stored on an external hard drive which then has its own back up – yes, two identical external hard drives. One for working off and the other for safe storage – preferably offsite to where you live and or work. If one external hard drive fails – you have its back up twin. This is a 2 tiered system but you must be vigilant about backing up your hard drive.
The best method:
The truth is no individual method is full proof prints can be damaged, hard drives can fail, and if you skip your online payments for cloud storage you could loose your data.
The best system is a multi tiered system – external hard drive & it’s back up, physical prints AND cloud storage.
I’ve had some hard drives for over 6 years – even with my care and safe storage they are starting to slow down, stick and in some cases corrupt files. So I am in the process of putting my entire image library on the cloud.
I use a service called Streamnation: https://www.streamnation.com/
Unlimited data storage for $19/month. They offer 20GB free storage! Like iCloud, you can access your files from anywhere online. They have a great iphone app as well that can upload your phone photos straight to Streamnation and allows you to see and download your images stored on the service from anywhere.
We need to protect our visual histories, we have to be clever and informed about data storage – we have to get back to old traditions to ensure we have a visual history to pass onto the next generation.
Print – Upload – Back up.
(Meredith is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this post.)