Strategies to Protect Your Photos

Photos from your digital camera may not fade, crumble, or turn yellow like your grandfather's old prints, but they're vulnerable in a different kind of way. Digital photo files are nothing more than a series of 0s and 1s stored in a particular order. They only last as long as whatever media they're stored on, and CDs, DVDs, and hard drives are just chunks of plastic and metal that are vulnerable to water, fire, accidental erasure, and breakage. Scared yet? Good.

Here's rule number one for digital photo backups: More is better. For safety's sake, back up all of your photos in more than one place. That way, when a CD breaks, a hard drive crashes, or your laptop is stolen, you've got another copy of your photo library stashed somewhere safe. See the box in Section 7.2.5 for advice on multiple backup options.

No matter which backup methods you use, consider these general guidelines:

• Establish a backup routine. Backing up your photos should be a habit, something you do reflexively. Following the same procedure every time you back up photos prevents mistakes like writing over existing photos or forgetting where you stored something. If you use an electronic datebook like Outlook, consider adding an automatically repeating reminder so that you remember to backup your photos, say, once a month.

• The best routine is one that you'll stick with. You can design a bullet-proof backup system, but it won't do you any good if it's so complicated and time-consuming that you dread doing it. For most mere mortals, the best backup routine is quick, easy, and relatively painless.

• Protect your original digital images. Make backups of your images before you make any changes. Before cropping. Before color correction. Before sharpening. That means it's best to back up your photos when you first move them from your camera or memory card to your computer.

Tip: The above advice about backing up before you make changes includes rotating your photos in Windows XP Don't do it. Windows XP's rotation tool tampers with the information your camera stores in the photo fileits EXIF data (Section 8.7). Also, Windows slightly degrades a photo's quality every time it rotates the picture. Most eyes never notice the difference, but it makes professional photographers cringe. Use a proper image-editing program like Photoshop Elements, EasyShare, or Picasa when it's time to rotate.

• Multiple storage locations give added protection. One of the great things about digital photos is that they're easy to copy. If you're really determined to safeguard your photos, make multiple backups and store them in different places. For example, keep backups at home and at your office. Or give a backup set to your brother-in-law. That way, a disaster in one location won't destroy your only copies.

• No media lasts forever. CDs and DVDs wear out. Hard drives die. Paper fades. What's a photographer to do? Understand the limitations of your media and plan accordingly. Make multiple backups using different media and make sure your strategy takes into account the expected lifespan of your media (see Section 7.2). Refresh your digital backups about every five years and make quality prints of your most important photos.

Tip: If you use CDs or DVDs for backups, always check your backup discs once you've burned them. Take a moment to put the disc in your computer and make sure that all your photos are there. If there was an error, you want to know about it now, not six months from now when you may not have those photos still available someplace else.

UP TO SPEED The More the Merrier

Pro photographers put a lot of effort into making sure they save backups of every photo they take. For the safety-obsessed, the more backups the better. Back up all of your photos in at least two of the following ways, and make sure at least one of them is somewhere other than your homein case of flood, fire, or theft. For your favorite and special photos, add a third backup on a completely different medium, such as prints or a remote Web site (see Chapter 6 for advice on storing your photos online).

• Another drive on your PC. The easiest and fastest backup (read: the one you'll do most often) is to a second internal hard drive in your PC or an external hard drive that's always hooked up to it. If a photo file gets damaged or deleted, or if one hard drive dies, you can hop right over to the other drive and grab a new copy from the backup folder. External hard drives have the additional benefit of being portable, so in case of emergency you can rescue your photo library without attempting to carry your entire PC.

• CDs or DVDs. If your PC can burn discs, they're the next easiest backup option, and the best way to create a backup that you can store in a second locationlike your office or someone else's house. (They also don't take up a whole lot of room, which "someone else" will thank you for.)

• Another computer. If you have more than one PC in the house, then shooting backups across a home network is another option. (See Home Networking: The Missing Manual if you're interested in taking on that weekend project.) You can also purchase space on a server (a really, really big computer) somewhere on the Internet and upload your photo backups there. This method isn't as user-friendly as the online service option mentioned below, but it's often faster (and you don't have to stare at ads while you're backing up). Type online file storage into your favorite search engine to see some of the leading companies in this field.

• An online service. As discussed in Chapter 6, Kodak, Shutterfly, Snapfish, and other companies let you store high-resolution copies of your photos on their Web sites. Online services are another quick way to create a remote backup, especially when you're on vacation, away from your own PC and backup drives. But definitely don't rely on an online archive as your only backup system; see "Be Cautious Relying on Online Storage" in Section 6.3.2.

Photoshop CS Mastery

Photoshop CS Mastery

Artists, photographers, graphic artists and designers. In fact anyone needing a top-notch solution for picture management and editing. Set Your Photographic Creativity Free. Master Adobe Photoshop Once and For All - Create Flawless, Dramatic Images Using The Tools The Professionals Choose. Get My Video Tutorials and Retain More Information About Adobe Photoshop.

Get My Free Videos

Post a comment