According to a nationwide survey conducted by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), 67% of survey respondents store their photos solely on a computer or phone.
Why is that a problem?
- 4.5 MILLION mobile phones were lost or stolen in the U.S. alone in 2014
- Only 33% of people say they actively back up photos and data on their phones which leads 67% of the population vulnerable to…
- Technological mishaps
- Computer crashes
- Coffee spills or water damage
- Accidental pushes of a button
- Power surges
Let’s say that you are part of that 33% that do back up. Great! But then….
The images we entrust to CDs and thumb drives won’t last more than a couple of decades, and that is under ideal conditions.
Rick West, who manages data at Google says this:
“We may [one day] know less about the early 21st century than we do about the early 20th century. The early 20th century is still largely based on things like paper and film formats that are still accessible to a large extent; whereas, much of what we’re doing now – the things we’re putting into the cloud, our digital content – is born digital. It’s not something that we translated from an analog container into a digital container, but in fact, it is born, and now increasingly dies, as digital content, without any kind of analog counterpart”.
What does this mean to you?
That all of those precious images you have stored on disk, whether it be on your computer, or a CD or on a thumb drive could very easily become corrupt or obsolete, never to be seen again by you or your children or grandchildren. Does anyone even remember the 5 1/4 inch floppy? That was the way everyone stored their data. A lot of new computers don’t even have a built in CD player anymore, they only have USB ports which will most likely also become obsolete, as can any data file format.
Plus, the older your CD or flash drive gets, the less reliable it becomes. This gradual degradation doesn’t require any extreme environmental situation or physical damage to occur. This is true for the memory card in your camera as well.
What can you do?
Back up, back up, back up. Everyone knows this yet few of us do it. Put yourself on a schedule and back up your data to an external hard drive once a month or anytime you download a large amount of photos.
Make sure you eject your flash drive or memory card properly. Never remove the drive while it is reading or writing.
Minimize the chance of corruption and increase the life of the memory card in your camera…
- Use the “Erase Images” command in your camera.
- Delete photos individually by using the “trash can”.
- Allow your computer to delete the images after you have finished
- Delete photos off your memory card using your camera’s “format”
All of these methods will delete the photos off your memory card. However, formatting your card with your camera causes less wear and tear on the media. Plus, recovering your images (if needed) is much easier than if you delete them any other way (assuming you did not overwrite them by taking more photos).
What is the best way to guard yourself against digital failure?
- Seek professional photographers for once-in-a-lifetime moments like wedding, high school graduations, births and special occasions.
- Order high-quality prints that will stand the test of time thanks to professional grade photo papers and ink, top of the line printers and color technicians.
- Buy albums or frames when you see them on sale and fill them up with photos
- Devote specific walls, tables and bookcases in your home to display photos.
In short, don’t make the mistake of assuming that just because your photos are in digital format on your phone or computer that they are safe. The pictures we take to preserve our memories are precious and irreplaceable. Make sure they are safe.