As much as I’m still a child of an analogue time, when the photos were on paper and the most advanced technology in the house was a VHS player which could also record the TV shows, and everyone had one landline phone in their household, I have to realize that today this is not the case anymore. Everyone has smartphones, tablets, several computers in their home, and of course digital cameras are also really easy to get. Just a few hundred euros and you can buy a great camera with many possible uses, and you are good to go to snap all the important moments of your family’s life.
When I was growing up, we’ve had piles and piles of developed photos, that my mother tried to organize – and still does till this day. The most important ones went to the albums displayed on the shelves, and the rest went into boxes, hiding behind the sofa, or in the lower drawers of the cupboards.
When I started photography, I’ve worked with digital right away, and I didn’t really give much thought what will happen with all those photos I took just for fun, or when I first took about a thousand photos to have 3 that I deemed good enough to publish. Since then a lot has changed, and I went through a number of computers, cameras, memory cards and external hard drives.
I’ve also lost some data, due to failing systems, broken computers, faulty drives and not thinking ahead. I think it is important to save your photos, even if you are not a professional – since they represent precious memories! So here are some of the things to keep in mind when saving your files.
1. Curate the photos
Do you really need all those 368 photos of your dog playing in the kiddie pool? I’m sure it was hilarious, but photos in high resolution can take up space quickly, so delete all the ones that you will never use or look at ever again. If it’s blurry, blown out, too dark, doesn’t have a specific topic – hit delete. Keep the few good ones that you could print and put in an album.
2. Name the folders in a way that you know what’s in there
And now some photo handling software, like iPhoto on Mac, lets you use date, location, and even keywords to organize everything. So if you are looking for holiday photos from 2008, you can look at all these 3 to find them quickly and spare you time.
3. Save the important photos in 3 different locations
Meaning: you have your photos on your computer, that’s one. You have an external hard drive, that’s 2. And you can, for example, use an online storage, like DropBox, or a cloud-based service – that makes 3. Or, you could burn the photos to a DVD, if you don’t want to upload everything online. The professionals also recommend to have one copy in a different physical location too – for example, keep 2 copies at home, but keep 1 at your office, or at another family member’s house, in case the worst happens and you lose everything in your home. They reference this as the 3-2-1 back up system: 3 copies, at least 2 different carriers and 1 off-site.
Of course, you don’t need to keep your photos as secured as NASA would, but it’s good to have a few copies because let’s face it, computers break and hard drives are delicate, and you don’t want to lose all your data. These backup tricks can also be applied to your important emails, files, work materials.
And here are my extra tips to make the saving even faster and hassle-free.
– If you use Mac: get an external hard drive that is about twice the size your Mac’s hard drive and set up TimeMachine. That is a super-easy way to save all the data and keep it regularly updated, without needing to check manually what has changed since the last update. The software will do all the heavy lifting for you. It is also great if you want to move to a different Mac, and need to move all your files and settings!
– If you want to copy from Mac to a Windows- or Linux-based system or want to copy several years’ worth of photos, use a software, like Carbon Copy Cloner – it will make the copying much more efficient and you won’t end up losing data in the process (like I did once).
I know it takes time and energy to sort this all out, but once you do and have your system nailed down, it will be much easier to just keep everything updated!
Featured photo by Willow visuals