Before digital photography, people kept prints in an album. They usually kept the negatives as well. Now photos download from a digital camera onto a computer. The pictures are there to enjoy. They don’t fade or crumple. But they do risk being lost for ever – in an instant.
Computer accidents happen. They wipe out everything, including photos. Typical scenarios are:
- the hard disc fails
- some one accidentally deletes the picture files
- a burglar takes the computer
- the computer is destroyed by fire or flood
- a lightning strike travels through household wiring and burns out the computer
Make a BackupThe answer is to back up your data, in other words, to make an extra copy (or two extra copies) of photos as soon as they are downloaded onto the computer. There are several ways to do it:
- Burn a CD or a DVD with the photo files. Label it with date and subject and store it safely. CDs are cheap and don’t take up much space. The downside is that they may deteriorate in time and become unreadable.
- Copy the photos onto a USB pen drive or stick. It’s quicker than burning a CD and great for carrying around to show friends and family. Beware, a USB pen drive is small and easy to break or lose so it’s not the best thing for long-term back up.
- Copy the photos onto an external hard drive that plugs into the USB or FireWire socket. It is quick to use and safer than a pen drive. Some drives have several years guarantee. Check when you buy. This is currently the best way to back up digital photos. A one terabyte drive holds 100,000 to 200,000 photos. The exact number depends on the camera used.
Consider Off-Site Storage
Keep copies of photos right away from home. A burglar could take the computer and the back-up external drive. A flood would wreck both.
One way to do it:
Buy two external hard drives.
- Copy your photos onto both drives.
- Put one back in its box and take it to a friend who can store it in their home.
- As you add new photos to your computer, back them up on the external hard drive you have kept.
- Each time you visit your friend, take the hard drive and swap it with the one they have.
- Take that one home and add the new photos.
Get Some Prints
Chose the best photos and order prints. Printing out favorite photos saves them from computer disasters. Photo-quality computer printers give great results, but inks and paper can be expensive. For larger numbers it can be cheaper to get prints at a high street photographic shop or from an online printing service.
There is another reason to get prints. Digital formats change. Twenty years ago, five-inch floppy discs were a common storage system for data. Now, very few people have the equipment to read them. Photographic prints from a hundred years ago are still clear. Many families enjoy researching their history. Old black and white prints of great-grandparents are treasured possessions. Prints will help future family historians more than digital data in an obsolete format.
Do It Now!
Images on a computer seem very real. It’s hard to believe how temporary they can be. Don’t wait until they disappear for ever due to a technical fault or an accident. Make a back-up, order some prints and save treasured memories.