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Saturday, 09 March 2019


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While we're on the subject of saving, backing up and not losing photos …

Amazon Photos: Amazon Photos offers unlimited full-resolution online photo storage, and 5 GB free video storage, to Prime members, who can save and share their photos on desktop, mobile, and tablet.


Free is good. Unlimited is good. Unlimited and free is gooder.

As an amateur genealogist and the keeper of family records, I concur with the advice to 'print' and would go one further. "Label". Write (legibly) on the back or in the margin, who and when. FWIW pencil is the most reliably archival. A lot of inks fade.

This strikes a chord with me.
I have lots of lab printed family snapshots of my son and and daughter
as children taken on film, now organised into albums - nothing fancy, not consistent, just what was available in local shops. My daughter often looks through them when visits.
As my children developed into early adulthood, we all transitioned into digital, most of those files are still intact.
When my son died suddenly and unexpectedly, the favourite photo that my daughter wanted of her brother was only available as a print that someone had given him on his travels.
Make prints and give them to loved ones.

The article was VERY well written, so I clicked some more. Jeez; WHO IS THIS WOMAN? and WHY DID I NOT KNOW OF HER? and WHY DOES SHE LIVE IN ANOTHER CONTINENT FROM ME?

Read MissyMWAC's article "Dear Adobe Photoshop" from July 2017.

And check out her Instagram feed. I'm in love.

How very true.

Give a hard drive full of images to the next generation and - even if they can still find the software to read the HD - would be hard pressed to find the time to view them.

A friend shot 1600 digital images over seven days on vacation 10 years ago, and now cannot find a single one anymore. He didn't make a single hard copy to record the event.

Mike, A great story and one I have been preaching to my kids for many years. I am the family photographer, and the only one in the family who believes in printing images. This is a topic that needs to be addressed, but sadly most folks under 60 will ignore it. I too will miss the photo department at my local Costco since that is where I send all the family pics for printing, and they do a decent job. BTW I liked that women. She nailed it. All the best. Eric

I am steeling myself for the gargantuan task of scanning the "important" photos from my vast collection of photo albums and boxes of slides, and sorting through my even more vast collection of digital snaps (including over 2000 on my phone and thousands on my wife's iPad Mini) in preparation for the formation of a large and comprehensive photo book of our lives and the generations of lives before ours. I will do this to ensure that each of my sons will have, dare I say it, a permanent record of our family. They may not think it important now, but they will appreciate it as they get older.

After reading this post, I'm going to get on to that today. As soon as I've finished my morning coffee. After lunch, at the very latest. No, really.

That is good advice about printing. Paper is an archival medium as long as it does not undergo fire, inundation, or some other overwhelming physical affront. Black and white negatives are also very stable. The "experts" on sites like Dpreview like to claim how their digital files on the cloud or on their various backup drives will be accessible by their descendants for decades - centuries. Hah! I worked at a DoD lab with professional IT support, and we sometimes could not read digital files on media that was only a decade old. Remember backup solutions like Bernoulli drives? Or 3.5" diskettes? Or 4mm DAT tapes that were written with VAX/VMS?

This really resonated Mike. My eldest was 18 a couple of weeks ago. He's lived through the transition from print to digital in our family photos, except that he hasn't! My professional work has moved to digital but the family pics are still on film. I had the pleasure that any parent would recognise of going through a drawer with 18 years of minilab pics to pull out 100 prints for his party. The Nikon F4 has become my weapon of choice over the years and I now have drawer full of them and the family album grows....

I diligently upload all my (edited) photos to Flickr Pro. However,I also diligently edit and create a high quality photobook with my favorite photos for each year and the more meaningful vacations. Those I hope will be around for many years.

Bacon is great! I kind of lost my focus on what you were saying after that. Oh yeah, photos, yes, it's a very good thing to make prints.

It all sounds tragic; but in my experience the digital stuff survives better than the physical materials.

That's only true because I work at it and spend money; but, if my house burns to the ground, I'll lose all my film negatives and prints, and my paper books, but my digital photos (including scans of film) and my ebooks will be fine.

Furthermore, there are a number of film photos I remember taking but haven't been able to find in a decade or so (across a few moves); my digital photos are much better organized, and it's not really possible to lose chunks of them.

It's time for people to recognize the importance of their digital legacy, and take steps to preserve it!

When my father died (not passed) it took my children several weeks to schred thousands of his photos (98 percent). So much for treasured photos.

Actually, Missy is kinda cute. (Just noticin’)

I hope you have more than one copy of that digital file, Mike.

My big network-attached drive failed recently. Most of the stuff on there is duplicated elsewhere, but not all of it, including a bunch of photos. I have one last Hail Mary play involving disassembling the unit, attaching it to a USB-SATA interface, and booting Linux, I'm sure accompanied by a full day of stress.

Large capacity network drives are the bee's knees. But please, folks, make sure anything precious is backed up somewhere else.

Oh, yeah, and print your photos!

Print to save. That's a good succinct way to put it, and true.

Very true - with the birth of my son, I have started printing a handful of 5x7s every month for posterity.

I mean, isn't that sort of the point of photography? Who's going to really care what camera or lens you used to take that photo when they discover that box of prints 10, 20 or 50 years later?

It's also spurred to to back up (and cull) the last 10 years of images on my HDD, with the intention of making prints (and further backing up) the most important shots.

Hint: the most important photos are probably of people.

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got till it's gone

I am looking at some Kodachrome slides my mother took in 1949, around Belfast Maine, seems the physical item you can pickup and view is going to out last the digital file, Someone will be looking at these Kodachromes 70 years from now, long after me

Jeez, Mike, thanks a bunch. I went over to read that Missy Mwac article around 3:00PM and now it's 1:30 in the morning and I seem to have spent the whole day reading her blog and her Instagram and she has a FaceBook too that I haven't gotten to.

Like Rod S., I think I'm in love.

In any case, she, and you, are entirely correct about prints. I started laboriously printing my entire backlog of digital stuff about 6 months ago. It went with painful hopeless slowness until I realized I was doing it wrong. Trying to do it like a photographer, making each file a work of art. Not the way Grampa did it. Those priceless snapshots just went to the drugstore and then into a shoebox.

So I changed my strategy; just gathered up all those graduation pictures, and trip-to-Europe pictures, and wedding pictures and baby pictures, off of a basket full of disk drives and thumb drives and what-all, and sent them to AdoramaPix for 3x5 prints.
Several thousand. It wasn't even that expensive, given what it's worth. Got 3 prints each, sent a set each to my kids, kept one.
So now they're safe. When I go to my reward they won't be on a hard drive that no one cares about, or can find, or can read.
If I want to make 11x14s of some of them, I can, but that's less important than the snapshot of my Dad, now gone, and my baby son, now grown with his own baby.
(For what it's worth, there were a couple of those removable hard drives from the oughts whose contents are now lost forever.)
I been sitting her for a while, trying to think of a closing sentence that wraps this up and makes it seem like I know what I'm talking about. I can't. Writing is hard.
But yeah. Make prints.

Related: Flickr has announced "in memoriam" account state... https://www.dpreview.com/news/5747689677/flickr-says-it-will-spare-all-creative-commons-photos-announces-in-memoriam-accounts

"Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got till it's gone"

Magical decade for songs!

But printing is a bore. At least, it is when it presents no more challenges to you. Yes, the most treasured things at home are a small photograph torn from my late wife's International Driving Permit as well as an end-of-roll shot of our two kids snatched just before I unloaded the last roll from a commercial shoot prior to vanishing into the darkroom for hours on end.

But doing any of that for fun seems surreal. As for sending your pix to a D&P house - it's unthinkable if you are a pro.

The pleasure of photography resides, usually, in making the exposure. What follows is, at best, your skill expressing itself, but skill and ability are not the same things as pleasure.

The main function of photography, for some of us, has resided in being able to spend our lives doing something we love, freedom for life from the grind of the factory, the rule of office politics and toxic little managers bustling and busting with self-importance, and, crucially, escape from the horror of routine that quickly becomes sentence.

Making family snaps has little place within the firmament, but having said that, it's a pity that we can't automatically generate snaps from our most important family milestones.

As for permanence, isn't the family snap but one more attempt at immortality? Regarding all the other genres of snap, it hardly matters a damn. I trawl the Internet seeking out memorable fashion pix from the 50s onwards as something to do that's better and more mentally stimulating (for me, having done such work, memorable or otherwise) than shooting my surroundings that, by now, bore me senseless. I have no interest in looking at a million - or even just five - pictures of deserts, mountains, rivers or trees. I have seen at least one of each and have got the message...

Perhaps a long life is not the best format for mankind: we might be better served having a short but overly busy one that doesn't permit us the luxury of self-analysis and thoughts of eventual disappearance into black holes, whether in studios or in Calcutta.

Seems to me keeping detailed digital and physical record balance eachother.

I have followed my old photographer friend Alistair Scott Smith in doing at least an annual A3 sized book fir every year and a one for major adventures ... But will now make sure I write names and where consistently for future reference.

I am also going year by year backwards to make Annual Books like this to fill the void of the digital era.

However on the death of my mother I have not only family photos going back as far as the Crimea War but also many letters amongst which are those of my Great Great Uncle Robert ...approacing the war front and then later writing like a child in pencil. He had lost his right arm and is trying to write to his mother with his left. A fortnight later he died of his wounds.

That got my thinking and now in retirement I sit down at my desk and write in fountain pen to my friends and family. It is great for me as it makes my slow down and reflect on the week that has passed. I hope they are fun to receive ....

Seems to me we need digital but can feel real joy in something solid that we can hold! As it happens I read last night of a man in the US being told that he was dying by a robot in a hospital!!! It is surely time for a rethink .... to combine the best of both.

Sometimes the pen , or indeed pencil, is greater than the file!

Counterpoint: I've lost many more artifacts on physical media in my lifetime than files on my various devices that store pictures, music, books, etc. This is especially true of books and CDs which are tedious to organize systematically compared to digital files (for me and my brain, probably not for you and your brain). Backups are key. And not just one. At least two, preferably four.

It's true that physical things have a higher chance of surviving in an ad-hoc way once whoever cares about them enough to keep backing them up is gone. On the other hand, in another 10 years your entire photo archive will fit on an SD card, so you can pass 3 or 4 complete copies down to future generations.

Oh I see Mr. Dyer-Bennet already said this. Well, I agree with him.

@Speed: Amazon's photo storage is not free. It's available only to those who have Amazon Prime, which costs $99.00 per year. In fact, Amazon Prime online photo storage is exactly the kind of thing Missy Mwac is trying to warn us about.

A quandary that started years ago, actually. My dad took pictures of me as a kid using negatives, but preferred slides at the time my younger brother was born, Hence, there are tons of prints around the parental home of me but most slides were never printed and thus my brother’s early years are harder to browse.

In this day and age if you're not practicing Digital Asset Management you're playing Russian roulette with all of your data, including photos, music, important documents, etc. Prints alone are not the answer to long term viability of one's images. Having our data survive from generation to generation is a process requiring intelligence, forethought, and frankly a good bit of work.

Mike, I’ve been testing a “analog scans” archival method for a while where I record an original digital image on film an save the negative along with a good print for posterity. A reverse of “save to digital”. I started this effort when I found that I had no original negatives to some of my older prints that I wanted to save as well as the difficultly keeping up with digital retrieval from various collections over the years. Yes, one could just print out the digital photos. But I wanted the extra backup up a negative or positive in some cases. I still have the original negatives to my grandfathers prints from the early 1900’s, so that impressed me. I only scan special photos, and that helps to condensed the huge mass of digital photos shot easily these days. The simplest method with the prints is just shoot an analog print with a good lens and camera setup. But for digital originals, one can get a representative image off a good monitor, too. And, obviously, there are other more expensive repro options of outputting the actual digital file to film.

Hard Copies … Sometimes it can be overwhelming.

In 1976, I flew to Austin, Texas, to begin research for a biography of President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Walking into the Johnson Library and Museum for the first time, I saw Johnson’s long black Presidential limousine. I asked the receptionist at the front desk where the Lyndon Johnson Papers were, and she said I would see them if I walked down to the end of the first row of exhibits and turned the corner.

So I did.

In front of me was a broad, tall marble staircase. At its top was a glass wall four stories high. Behind the glass, on each of the four stories, were rows of tall, red boxes—a hundred and seventy-five rows across, each row six boxes high—with, on the front of each box, a gold circle that was a replica, I was to learn, of the Presidential seal. As I climbed the stairs, there came into view more boxes, long lines of them stretching back into the gloom as far as I could see.

I took an elevator up to the library’s tenth floor, to be interviewed by an archivist and given a card admitting me to the library’s Reading Room, where researchers had their desks; the card was good for a year, and would have to be renewed at the end of that time. The archivist asked me if I thought I would need a renewal. I said probably.

I asked if I could be given a look at one of the floors of boxes, and, unfortunately for my peace of mind, my request was granted. It was like asking a doctor to be honest and give you all the bad news, and having him do just that. I started walking down an aisle between walls of boxes taller than me. It seemed like a long way to the end of the aisle.


I ditto Missy’s and Mike’s opinion, one which I’ve expressed many times here before. While printing photographs will not ensure their survival, leaving them as only digital files most certainly guarantees their early demise.

Print to save, sure. But print to share? Not so easy. I have 3 generations of extended family photos (10s of thousands of images) here in LA and not one other family member lives here.

So the answer is to do both. Print forever but scan and upload to share.

The idea of electronic/magnetic media archives sounds good but is a real problem. Another Carrington Event and we lose much of it. "Carrington event"? Massive solar flares which make enough electromagnetic energy that telegraph stations caught fire due from the energy coming in through the lines.
If it happened now we would end up back in the dark ages. Most electrical grids would fail and most electronic storage media would disappear.
DVD's and BluRay disks would still hold information - but what would you read it on with hard drives across the land destroyed?
Electronics in cameras, cars and infrastructure would be worthless and replacing it almost impossible for some years after a major solar event.
Physical photographs? Still in that shoe box in the attic or drawer. Still viewable. The negatives still printable.
Advances in technology and advances in archiving are not the same thing.

Printing small prints (mostly 4x6, but sometimes larger) is why I love having a quality inkjet printer at home. Many people don't realize that even at the 4 x 6 size the home inkjet prints look better than digital lab prints, better even than respected labs like National (I've tested and compared).

Currently my Epson 2880 seems to be on its last legs and I'm pining for a replacement.

As for writing on back, I went to an art store and found some cheap, solid graphite drawing pencils that work well. Regular #2 pencils don't work well, but these do.

When I get time I'm going to start making a "shoebox" for my daughter (21 now, and not yet into old photos). I'll sort through our family photos and write down anything helpful I can remember on the back.

My life is defined by the mountains of photographs left behind by my parents and both sets of grandparents. My basement contains numerous large plastic utility containers filled with nameless individuals who I don't know even if I could read Yiddish or Hebrew. I pray that one day I will have enough courage to rid myself of such images, but I need to figure out what to do with the thousands of chromes and prints of my own first. I was very diligent in placing prints and negs in sleeves and putting them in binders once the kids came along, but still have many floating around loose. I think the solution will be to go through all the images and like a pro select those which are best, then scan, then make a book and distribute to the kids and family. I dread that day (or year).

My father's dad was a hobbyist photographer, my mother's mom too ! They were born circa 1880. Of course my parents dwelled in photography, each having his own camera !

I transmitted the knowledge and the passion to my three children. We have a sort of treasure chest of old negatives, from glass plated ones to several weird formats, up to the more modern 120 and 135.
Still, we also have the prints that survived two world wars, extreme weather in far fetched places (heat, moisture and fungus).
With each print (in albums) we have the names of the people and the location as the date..

Nowadays we all use digital, with the usual hard disk storage redundancy. But all of us do produce yearly photobooks (the hard cover type), one for each member of the family, diluting the risks of loosing one while moving, or other mishaps ! Topics goes from travels, to personal explorations of photography, and, of course, the family events as the evolution in time of our grandchildren...

While we aren't loosing track of our negatives or dias (we are even in the process of having them all scanned), the "paper" print is a "must", an obligation, wether in a shoebox or an album for future generations to play with and have fun of how we were and how we lived !

A photobook in a book shelf is hard to burn and resist even earthquakes or flooding. It's quite cheap to make, even if you go for the best printing, paper and cover. As it's real value is priceless...

I don't believe the poor permanence of photographs developed in most quick mini-labs from the mid 90's on (at least in my country) and of the first dye-based digital prints helps to reinforce the idea of printing as a way to keep your memories. Even most of my old slides -except Kodachromes- are now fading and with colours badly distorted.

Nevertheless, for the average people to start printing they first must start selecting. Most of the people I know shoot hundreds of snapshots in a single day and never delete anything! They wouldn't know what to print...

Over the years, I have talked about the fragility of digital images on several forums. Remote backup drives while a nice idea, are not guaranteed to spin when plugged in. With the evolution, or planned obsolescence of USB interfaces, USB drives are getting to the point where they are disposable. Hard drive interfaces are getting narrowed down too, just try and buy a ATA based interface for your favorite off the shelf mother board or get a modern mother board with a parallel printer port (Zip drive anyone?).

I know the pain of interface obsolescence, I worked in a data center where we had drives fail on five year old servers that were beyond their EOL and the vendor did not support them even with their four hour hardware turnaround contract. We spent 3K for two 18GB drives off of e-Bay.

How do you plug in your USB-2 "backup" drive on a laptop/desktop that does not have a USB-A port. How do you recover your images off of your NAS when the disk controller of the NAS dies? How do you recover data from your USB drive when after it sits on the shelf for a while (think a year or so) the head crashes on powerup.

As for "cloud" stuff, what happens when you stop the monthly payments. What happens when the terms of service change (i.e. flicker). What happens when the company goes belly up, gets sold etc.

DVD's and Blu-Ray could be another way to archive images. Who buys optical readers these days? Standard advice on backups is put the data on three devices that are physically separated. Archives are never really mentioned. Archive storage is even more tenuous. I have seen old "archive" tapes have the oxide come off when run through a tape reader. Film is far better for archiving than digital, paper is better but shoeboxes are the worst form of "saving" your images.

I am very much someone who keeps prints, so I sympathise with this advice. However, if you lost digital copies of photographs that mattered to you with a single action, then your backup & archiving processes were inadequate. I'm sorry to be so blunt but, well, they were.

It is unfortunately the case that a very large fraction of people have backup & archiving processes for digital data which vary between terrible and nonexistent. There's no longer any real underlying reason for this to be true, as storage is now pretty cheap (although this may not hold for people who take tens or hundreds of very large images a day, which is probably more people than I want to think about). However it remains fiddly to get right and requires more time spent thinking about scenarios and their relative probabilities: are you worried about your images surviving a nuclear war, a meteorite impact taking out some tens or hundreds of thousand square miles around you, a house fire, a computer failure or typing the wrong command -- all of these can be handled (well, perhaps the nuclear war is hard) but the costs and complexity varies.

I'm lucky in that thinking about this stuff was my job for a while, so I have backups I'm pretty confident in (don't think they can survive the nuclear war, but the rest I'm pretty confident about). If there was interest I could describe what I do (which is idiosyncratic but the principles are general I think).

However there is an important caveat: backup and archiving strategies for digital files require care and feeding: what you can't do is make some sacred copy of your data and expect to be able to read it in twenty years, still less expect anyone else to be able to read it. This means that your backups and archives will be good for as long as someone looks after them. For most of us that means 'until we die': at some point after that point, your data will go. So if you want your photographs to outlive you, make good archival prints (or shoot B/W film.)

Okay Mike, Now you've stepped over the line! What the heck is wrong with bacon???

Photo printing has unfortunately become analogous to an abused stepchild confined to the attic in the age of the smartphone.

That said, photographic prints are but one facet of a much larger effort in the curation of family archives. Whether important family history resides in printed media, oral tradition, or digital assets, families have to act in concert to preserve precious family records and traditions in forms and formats that will be both accessible and comprehensible by future generations. It's not a "one and done" effort. It takes an ongoing process with all sorts of twists and turns along the way.

Most families span two or three living generations, and collectively, they often have personal memories and records of four or more generations. My advice is to identify those members in your family with common interests in shared family history plus the requisite tech savvy skills. Designate them to actively serve as caretakers to your family's digital and traditional family archive. If you are the sole caretaker today, make sure you identify your heir(s) to this responsibility of stewardship. It makes a world of difference.

Also I would advise, don't just make one print. I asked someone at the Library of Congress how to preserve a film I made, his advice was "makes lots and lots of copies and get them into as many hands as possible".

So when you photograph Dad's birthday, don't forget to give prints to all your siblings, your own photo album may get damaged.

A VERY good article. And the rest of the site is a good, fun read as well. Thanks for pointing her out.

As far as the digital vs. print argument goes, as long as I'm around the better solution will be digital. I haven't lost any digital photos in nearly 20 years yet (that I know of) and can find a specific one way faster than a specific film photo pretty much every time. The digital ones (over 10 TB) are now on a number of sets of hard drives (4 copies of each, in two different physical locations) and are reasonably tagged and organized. No way that my film/print library can compete. But I also know that my kids and grandkids will not be as obsessive about this, and don't have a lot of the background information that is neede to make sense of all those files. Nor will they be interested in 99.99% of the pictures. So for their sake, and possibly their descendants sake, I need to make more prints. And I will. Soon.

My most treasured photos are the ones taken by my grandfather of family members long gone. And with names, dates and some small details written on the back. I have long ago decided that although I like digital photos a lot, the ones I really want to keep get printed and put in albums, with comments written on the back. It maybe old hat, but my kids will one day thank me for it!

I think what many people are missing is that unless your children are also digital photography nerds it really doesn’t matter if you have your digital files backed up in duplicate or triplicate when you die. And there is no commercial service you can count on to keep your files in a super accessible arrangement after you are gone. Maybe Facebook comes the closest, but who knows in thirty years. Finally, while I love printing photo books, I find small prints last longer and are more useful overall. Books are a supplement but not a replacement to the individual print.

We could easily put our collections of family photos on thumb drives and send copies to everyone. But will they look at them? Years from now, will they even be able to view them? Prints are far more likely to be looked at, especially if they are placed in some kind of order with bits of relevant information.

1.) What is the longevity of digitally printed books such as those from Blurb.com, etc.?
2.) How does the longevity of a print from a lab compare with that of a print from my home inkjet printer?
3.) How do you make a negative from a digital file?

In another vein: I've been reading more of Missy's posts. That girl is a treasure!

Ditto James Bullard but don't just record whom or what, add the date, the location and the photographer's name. It will be all that more interesting when you are long gone, and your great great great grandkids find your shoebox in the attic.

Hear! Hear!

Nice counterpoint to your "Just Wondering" post. We need gear of course, but this is the real reason for doing photography.

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