« The Demise of Reciprocity Failure | Main | Tiered Archiving »

Tuesday, 12 May 2015


One thing I do that others might find helpful is to create "best of" collections. At the very least, every photographer should have a "best of" collection for every year. For some, this may be only one or two dozen photos. Other photographers may end up with several dozen, at which point it might be useful to sub-divide them into categories, such as best portraits, best travel shots, best family photos, etc.

Once you have a collection, I strongly suggest you print it. I prefer photo books that I send to family and friends; others may prefer framed inkjet prints in portfolio boxes. It's all good, as long as you're willing to do the work of separating your best from the rest rather than leave it to luck and fate.

Corollary: By far the most unmet photographic need today is in tools for selecting pictures, not in tools for making or editing them. The problem of making technically blameless pictures at nearly no monetary cost is solved, and has been for a while. The problem of selecting meaningful photography for viewing from the rising tide of pictures (one's own and others') keeps rising in cost. The cost is of course measured in time.

You have pretty well hit the problems of turning over large numbers of prints or files or ... slides(?) to heirs. I still have boxes of snapshots and other "stuff" left by my parents. The key is to try to narrow it down to what is truly meaningful to you (and hopefully to them.)

I have thought for a while that a way to pass on my "gems" in an easy to handle form would be to assemble them into a book. There are a number of ways to do this. I have produced a couple of small print on demand books that have been very satisfying and not terribly expensive to print. I'm not creating best sellers but they are great keepsakes for a couple of projects. Once done, you can print as many as you need to cover your heirs and it is available to others if there's anyone else out there who wants to buy a copy. So why not treat your "Book of Greatest Hits" as a book project?

Two questions:
- Should most of us really be looking for the best 100 or at most 200 pix? I expect that for many of us, the best 1000 is much too inclusive.
- Are these the best according to us, or according to our families or other 'neutral' observer?

Mike thanks for clarifying the archiving strategy. Perhaps one should also include in the box a current technology based media copy of the original file and of the file that was printed. This would be archived and continually rolled over as new technology arrives. And write the file names on the back of the print.

Good clarification.

I began a project around the first of the year, really a two-part thing. First, to pull out and organize the photos that are really important to me so I can easily archive and back them up (and in the process to permanently delete/destroy a few pictures that should never go public). The second part is to change the way I handle files to make it easier to pull out the favorites in the future.

My goal by the end of the year is to have a manageable, organized archive of the photos most important to me - including finished versions and camera originals. This will include family photos, personal souvenirs, and of course what I consider my best photos.

I'm guessing this will come down to around 300 digital photos on one hard drive (with backup drives of course) plus a small trunk of prints from my film days. The film archive is pretty well culled after a fire in a storage locker several years back - something that seemed a disaster at the time but I now consider a blessing.

Wish me luck on actually following through and finishing the project.

A little story sort of on this topic. The other day I picked up a small piece of paper on my bedroom floor. Glancing at it on the way to the trash I realized it was a photograph so I stopped to examine it more closely. It turned out to be a black and white picture postcard of the Gay Head Cliffs on Martha's Vineyard. Turning it over it was a note written by my father to his father in Tampa postmarked 1944. In a couple of sentences it told of a trip to the Vineyard by my mother and father while he was on leave from his naval duties. An event none of their children had ever heard of. The card apparently came out of the bedroom closet, now I have to search that closet to see what other treasurers are hidden there.

I have a question. Has anyone suggested self publishing a book of one's favorites/best pictures? My brother-in-law, a successful pro for years, who was an assistant to Irving Penn, has come out with three books on Blurb. I bought one and it is very nicely printed. From what I can see on the Blurb site, you can get a nice printing job done for a non-ruinous price. Then you get three or more made and keep them with the usual suspects. Also, Blurb, or any of the other self-publish sites has the template to make more copies if needed.

Just another alternative.

Interesting idea, but I thought editing was an integral part of photography. I do print images, and I only print what I think are worth printing. By default, these are my "best". Even social sharing only highlights the "best" of a photographer
Does anyone really upload an entire shoot to flickr? and if so, these are the people who need to be educated (or beat on the head with a stick)

"The fact is, your best work could get lost right there at home...nestled in amongst the thousands of other shots you're carefully archiving and backing up every four years."

Yes ! That's exactly my fear; that if something should happen to me (something will, sooner or later, but if it's later, I'm sure I'll thoroughly enjoy pruning my photo collection in retirement) a potentially nice collection of my photos will never be gathered from my entire Lightroom catalog.

On the flipside, one of the fears that comes out of the idea of actually doing that exercise, though, is that it will beg the question: why keep any of the remining 64,000 photos ?

The difference is between "backing up" (or "archival prints for 500 years") as a sign of purely technical expertise and mastery, and making live for your heirs easier.

It's the same difference between a perfectly exposed 99 Megapixel photo of s brick wall and that one beloved photo of grandpa when he was a boy.

The Kernel of my suggestion related first to personal Family pictures, some of which may not even be on our main backup /archive solution, whatever that may be.
I suggested some kind of limit to force a choice, because as Mike J. has pointed out a limited and segregated group stands a far better chance of actually being saved.
Especially if we label it 'Save These"
I was talking about a limited number of PICTURES.
I think my mistake was to mention the "Extra Durable Flash storage" as an easy way to do it, But it was the concept I was talking about.

Several people mentioned Books, which are great if printed on durable paper with color fast inks. Others mentioned Boxes of Prints---equally valid & probably nicer

All the talk about backup and archiving is probably a great indicator of how big a concern it is- for all of us.
I took pains to say I understood that NO digital solution is permanent, or even long term at the moment so I probably should have left out any reference to any method for safe guarding them.

The Gist of the suggestion was simple, no one will ever understand our archive the way we do. No one will take the time go go through Tens of thousands of files,-- even if they liked us and the files are well organized.
So the Idea was Do the hard personal edit now, and put it in as many strong hands as possible. You will have given them a great gift .....twice.
The Work, AND the EDIT.
For me it was about the Pictures and giving selected ones an EXTRA layer of protection.
It certainly is not a New Idea, --just one that doesn't always get done.
If you already do it, my hat is off to you.
All the best,
Michael (P)

Just make a Blurb book.

My view on this is that most -not all- photos depend in part on the viewer understanding the context in which the picture was taken. If you just grab your top 100 or 1000 and set them aside, future generations will value them much less than today’s because they will not have the background needed to appreciate them.

A project I am working on is called “100 Stories”. I have somewhat over 3TB of stills/video. I do not expect most people to dig through all this. 100 Stories is designed to take the best of the 3TB put it into 100 stories and bring the people and places in the images to life and provide the context needed to appreciate the value of the material.

Each of the 100 stories ends up as a less than 3 minute presentation. Each presentation can include a combination of stills, video, voice overs, and text.

I absolutely plan to store the 100 stories on the same disk as the raw data. The idea is that the individual stories introduce you to the material and give you the context you need to understand it. If you have any interest then you can dig deeper into each subject and appreciate it far more than you would have without the introduction.

I thank the day I decided I would never let a photo into my catalog that wasn't key-worded and star-rated. All the way back to my first digital in 2004. That said, I still have a major task ahead of me.

I am intimidated by a large volume of photos and just where to start (in my case) printing the "keepers". I then get caught up I how to physically archive the box, proper materials, et cetera. But I think I've found a way that might work for me. If I pick topics, I can easily get them printed into a book. It's easy to store, even easier to access, even easy to store in pdf if I want a digital archive (and reproduction). It's not a supercheap solution but I think it'll give my pride the longevity it desires and maybe cut through procrastination's roadblocks.

Of course, I just have to decide on which service to use. And format. And size. And cover. And...

Why wait until you are dead? Start giving gifts of prints to loved ones. It won't take that long until you have all of your best in good hands.

If you really want family prints to last, some kind of written narrative along with the prints would be very helpful. I've sat around a table looking at 70 year old family photos, and nobody in the room was able to identify some of the people in the photos - and that was before the last relative of my parents' generation died.

As far as editing goes, having an extended, categorized portfolio is easy with digital. I have a "best this year" virtual folder, and I have other virtual folders by categories: Landscape, Figurative, etc. It's easy to put "likes" into the "best this year" folder as I go along. Every few months when I'm in the mood, I review a category or two and see if any "best this year" photos measure up to my past work.

There is another possibility no one has mentioned.

Create an online gallery with your best portfolio work. Preferably a free site which supports a reasonable size upload.

Do it in the name of a shared owner. Several of you, should you want, can share the archive, plus any relatives you want to leave it to. A Google+ group for instance.

Should Google fold, it is still possible to download the content and upload it somewhere else.

I don't think anything will be stored locally within a few years. It's not persistent, whereas the cloud is. It is too distributed to damage in its entirety and it is maintenance free.

Personally, I don't care what happens when I'm gone. I can't think that any of my relatives would have any use for my work.

To me what you are talking about is a strong final edit, with some kind of good quality output. When it comes to digital most of us have many thousands of "keepers" resulting from a couple edits not long after shooting. It's not easy to pare down after that, especially with family shots. In fact, when I dislocated my knee I had time to make a complete run through all my family photos and all I did was improve some favorites and discover a few hidden gems, adding to the pile.

Printing, though, forces a strong edit. No way I could print all that. So an effort to make a solid print collection will be worthwhile.

I'm half way there...
I use lightroom for cataloguing, and the give the photos a 'star' rating:
- Delete the technically 'bad photos'
- Keep the rest (storage is cheap)
- The ones 'worth looking at' get 3 stars
- The ones I'd put in a portfolio get 4 stars
- The ones you'd call 'the quintessence*' - that I like regardless of merit to others, the cream of my crop, get 5 stars.

I can now filter out the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. And as a result I've noticed:
- The 3 star ' average' photos are sometimes '5 stars', if its an average photo of something or someone now gone.
- The 4 star photos, sometimes on review after a time, move to 5 stars
- The 5 star photos, sometimes on review, move to 4 stars.

Now, I can find the ones worth preserving - although I really should do a print run and archive properly, given that nobody in my circle of friends would have a clue about Lightroom... As I said, I'm half way there...


* That's a reference to Walter Mitty, that I knew I'd get to use one day...

For Dennis, re: "... why keep any of the remining 64,000 photos ?"

I thought the same of the *64,000 photos of my dog. And then he died. Photos that didn't quite seem worth keeping are now more valuable. Not the whole collection, just a couple that were not important when taken, but with hindsight, the meaning of a meaningless photo can become apparent.


* not quite 64k...

This is right. This is the right thing to do.

My spouse and I are starting a project where we are going through the last year's photographs, and putting together a photo album for our kids for that year. A simple photo album - maybe just 5x7s and a few 8x10s in an inexpensive (but still archival) scrapbook.

Someday I'll do the perfect solution, but for now, there's no question that my kids will understand what their parents thought was important about 2014. And there's no question in my mind which files get backed up separately!

The larger plan is to go back in time, year by year, until we complete the year the oldest was born. We haven't thought about what comes before that, though there's not nearly as much urgency to it. In a perfect world we'd make as many books as there are years, and we'd make as many copies as there are kids, but this is a not a perfect world. I would be okay with dying an old, old, man, with shelves creaking under the weight of sixty-odd albums, though for the sake of their sanity, perhaps a smaller, "greatest hits" album would be appropriate once I reach my seventies.

Six years ago I started making a photo calendar for gifts for friends, generally using my favorite photos from the farm during the past year. It's gotten quite a following, so much that people start asking me late in the year if we are doing another calendar. So each year in October I go through the year's photos and pick my best, use the calendar option in iPhoto (now Photos) and order a bunch of calendars. I've found that the quality is acceptable and people have been saving them, so by default I have done some archiving. And I don't have to do any Xmas shopping!

So what will our descendsnts want to see in old photographs ? Relatives will want to see great grand parents, old uncles and aunts etc.So one should not just print/save copies but also identify the subjects and date the picture.
Non relatives may be interested in places to see how things have changes since the day. "Gee see how main street looked in such and such a year" so again identify and date the subject if possible.

Digital backups can save dates and locations but I know no simple way of appending comments to individual prints.

As to preserving and high lighting our "best" prints. I suspect a little Ozymandias symptom in there, or possible Vivian Maier if we wish to dream.

I have solved this problem a long time ago: ever since I started taking pics, I printed the "best" ones, and put them in albums. I am very selective of what goes into an album, so that my kids do not have trouble doing any selection when I die.

I also have folders with my slides stored in proper archival sheets.

For the digital age, I continue to print and albumize the best ones, and store the rest in hard drives for backup. The important part is even what ends up in the external drives is a careful selection, not all the crap photos I take.

Makes life easy for the next generation...

I quit taking pictures for myself when I turned 58, and a little after the time my mother died (just lost interest, especially on the cusp of the digital era of "constant clicking" photo bombarders). I learned in my 40's, it was far better to experience life, than to turn every experience into an opportunity to take a picture.

Over the years, I've weened my commercial files out, because at best, they were examples of regional advertising of no special import, and at worst, they were boring and simplistic catalog photos, so in the trash they went. I might have kept maybe 20 samples of my commercial years.

My personal work, has been weened over the years, but could still use another go. The eventuality is to buy a fresh scanner and desk-top Mac, while I can still afford it, and hole-up in a cheap apartment in a medium sized town that I can easily afford for at least a year, and build a direct-to-press book from Blurb of my weirdest or most "off-kilter", or meaningful (to me) work from when I started to shoot at ten years old, until I was about 58.

Once that's done, and I bought myself ten copies...I don't care what happens. Never met my true love, so never got married, never had kids, have no one to will it to, and anyone I do will it to, won't care and will look at is as an albatross around their neck.

If I don't get run over, or killed in any particular quick way, I may just start a fire of it all when I start to feel bad...

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007