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Safely Store Your Images !

Updated: May 13, 2019


Going home day !

The only thing worse than not getting the good shots you hope to capture during your photographic experiences, is to get some very nice shots and then lose/misplace them.


I have a few photos of my much younger self in Viet Nam, just a few of many that I took over there. But most of them have deteriorated because 1. They were on slide film, not very durable. 2. I just threw them in small cardboard boxes when I got home, for storage. 3 Over the years, I misplaced some of the boxes during my many moves over the course of my life. Almost 50 years later, I wish I had more of those photos to look at and share.


The two main elements to saving your treasured photos are 1. Organization and 2. Storage.


Let's talk about organization first. There are a number of ways or systems as to how you organize your photos in your computer. Some photographers file them by the date they were taken; others, like myself, file them by where they were taken. You can also file them by subject matter. Whichever system you choose to use, pick one ( or a combination of 2 as I do ) and be consistent with it.


The combination I use is to put my photos in a folder with the name of where it was taken. But I also have a folder called " SD Card Dump " . Before I erase any photos from my SD card, I copy all the photos on it into this folder. I have folders labeled " Unsplash pending " and " Unsplash done " These are photos I have chosen to upload to my account on Unsplash, a photo sharing website. Once I have uploaded a photo to Unsplash , I cut the photo from the "pending" file, and paste it into the "done" file. But the majority of my files are named for the place where the photos were taken. On a lot of my file folders, I have a file for originals, such as "Bandon Or. Originals" and when I have processed the photos in LR, I save them in a file called " Bandon Or. Processed " for example.


You could choose to file your photos by subject, also. I shoot mostly landscape pictures, but I also have quite a few of flowers, both wild and domestic, and a variety of photos of animals. It really doesn't matter how you choose to file your photos, but it has to be logical to you, and you have to be consistent in the way you do it. It may not seem important today, but in 30-40+ years when you want to go back and look at pictures of your family, your travels, etc. that is when it will matter.

With the digital media we use today, the storage methods available are manyfold. Unlike the celluloid slide film stock that did not fare well over time, your pixels taken today should last for a very long time, provided you do not lose them !! I purchased an e-book by my favorite blogger, Anne Mckinnell and she made the point that your photo files are not really stored until you have them in three different locales. For example, you may save your photos in the Creative Cloud, esp. if you have Lightroom. They are pretty safe there, but I did a google search and there have been a few incidents of hacking of the Cloud.


You could store them on your computer as a second locale; but your computer could be stolen, could crash and burn, etc. A third option, one that I use extensively is to use an external hard drive and copy everything you put into your " Pictures " folder onto this free-standing hard drive. It is highly unlikely that all three locales will be damaged or lost, so you should always have a copy of your photos safe.


I have a 1 TB Toshiba external HD, available on Amazon for $ 46; ( I am not an Amazon associate site, I do not get paid for this referral ) I take this with me on all my photographic field trips. The first thing I do at night when I sit down to process the day's pictures, is to copy them onto the external hard drive. Then if I screw up a photo in processing, I have a copy of the original I can get to. I am considering getting a second external HD as my third locale, along with my laptop hard drive for when I travel. I also have an account on Unsplash photo sharing site, where I keep my portfolio of my best photos.


I read of a professional photographer with many large clients who copied everything onto an external HD that he then kept in a bank safety deposit bank. This was a backup to a number of storage devices that he kept in his studio. About every month or two, he would retrieve the HD from the bank, copy all his recent work onto it, then return it to the safety deposit box. Overkill for most of us amateurs but something to consider if you are making a living taking pictures, I guess.


As long as you are going to all the trouble to get good camera equipment, learning how to use it, gaining the experience of what goes into making a good photo, etc., I highly recommend you finish the process by going thru the steps outlined above.



On a boat trip between Tan Chou and Chou Duc near the Cambodian border. We were on a mission to replace some radio equipment used by USN riverboats.


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