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Tips for Better Pictures

Today's e-tip:

Say Goodbye
to ALL of your pictures?
Say Goodbye
to ALL of your Pictures?

If your house was on fire, what would be the first things you would grab before heading out the door??

Today, for most people, it’s their family pictures.

Photography has been around for over 150 years, and during most of that time, we’ve printed most of our images. It’s likely, that your family has albums where you can see images of your relatives going back many years.

This is about to change.

In 1990, almost all images were printed.

Fast-forward to today, and estimates of how many images are printed vary wildly, but it's been estimated that only 1 in 100,000 images are printed (what percent of your smartphone images do you print?).

And, if you don’t already realize it, ALL digital images will eventually disappear.
Old family pictures
Picture of my father at Logan Airport in Boston around 1930
I have this image because it exists in "paper" format

There are countless accounts of people who have lost ALL of their digitial images because of one careless keystroke or mistake. I have personally lost some valuable digital images - and I'm probably one of the most careful people, with multiple backups!

ALL digital devices eventually die, and along with them the images stored on them. Memory cards have a limited life; hard-drives fail; cell/smart phones disappear or get sold. Pictures on these phones sometimes get transferred; sometimes not. Storage media standards will change and the devices that read today's media will disappear (remember cassette, 8-track, floppy disk, tape backup). And if you have the forethought to back up your images to CD or DVD, they probably won’t be readable after 5 years or less.

On-line/cloud storage will also eventually disappear. These are business ventures, and once they become unprofitable, they’ll close down – and they ALL will eventually close down – along with your images.

The Internet, it turns out, is a poor place for storing images.

According to a Huffington Post article, “We might be accidentally creating a "black hole" in history unless we rethink how to archive the web, one internet pioneer has warned. Vint Cert, who is recognized for "co-founding" the Internet with Robert Khan, said "we stand to lose an awful lot of our history” if big changes are not implemented."

Physical Photographs 
Physical photographs were very popular until the “digital revolution”. Up until about the early 2000's, the only images most people had, were physical prints (or physical slides). What a change 15 years has made. Physical prints and albums are pretty-much extinct at this point.

In 20 or 30 years, the millennial generation will likely look back and wonder where the photos of their family have gone.

Another thing the digital revolution has caused us to do is take too many pictures. Back in the day when you bought a roll of film and had 12, 20 or 36 pictures to take, you were more selective about what you took. In addition, paying for the processing and printing was expensive.

Today the limitations of roll-film are gone and we tend to take many more pictures - most we know are throw-aways, even as we're taking them. We would never want to print them all, thus, we would need to take the time to decide which ones to print – something nobody seems to want to do. Thus, none are printed.

The same thought process holds for professional images. 60% of all people hiring a professional photographer to take pictures at an event (e.g., wedding) wanted prints in 2010. But in 2015, that number was down to 38% (statistics from PPA surveys). Prints are becoming a "dinosaur" of the 21st century.

Old family pictures
Picture of my grandparents and family around 1905
I have this image because it exists in "paper" format
Even if we do make prints, many of these are printed by inkjet, and many inkjet inks and papers have short life spans – some less than 10 years. I've seen some inkjet prints fade in less than 3 years.

It’s ironic that the generation that is taking the most pictures in history, will have no pictures to look at in as little as 10 years!

Family histories thru pictures are disappearing at an alarming rate.

A Tip!
If you want to pass down your pictures to future generations, consider the following:

Print them!
  • Take the time to print some of your more important images. Digital printing can be very inexpensive and easy to order on-line – just make sure that whoever prints your images uses an archival process - you'd be surprised at how quickly some prints can fade. A few services that use archival products include (there are probably more, but many don't indicate what process they use, and/or they didn't respond to our email questioning their process):

    • Adoramapix (my personal favorite) - they use the Kodak RA-4 (chemical/laser) process that creates Type-C prints - the same kind of archival prints used with film http://www.adoramapix.com

    • Shutterfly (they use Fuji Crystal Archive paper) https://www.shutterfly.com

    • MPix - not sure what process they use, but they indicated "all of our products are archival and acid free" http://www.Mpix.com

    • Bay Photo Lab - according to their response: "All of our Photographic Prints are archival. All of our Fine Art Papers and Inks are also archival." https://www.bayphoto.com
  • Consider putting your pictures not on your Facebook wall, but on the walls of your home. Metal prints are great and don't require frames.

  • Put aside one day per year (Memorial Day?) to create an annual photo album of the year's best pictures. You will hopefully be preserving your pictures before they disappear.

Backup (and backup again!)
  • Consolidate all of your images to a single desktop or laptop computer - and periodically move new images to this location.

  • Make sure you have at least two backups of your consolodated digital images

  • One backup should be on a removable device such as a portable hard drive. Get an external drive that is far larger than you think you need, because at some point you will need far more space than you can predict now (I now have over 2 terabytes of image files spanning 20+ years and image sizes keep getting bigger!). Only connect the external drive to your desktop or laptop when you plan to backup. Keeping it detached will help protect it from failure from power surges or mechanical/memory failure.

  • Use an "offsite" source, such as an online backup service. Some on-line services provide you with unlimited storage (usually for a fee, although Google is now providing an unlimited free service). You may have to pay a few dollars a month, but, believe me, it’s worth it. Keeping your images on somebody-else’s computer (as well as your own) provides an important step in backing-up (off-site storage). But don't just relay on the off-site storage. You have to assume that the offsite storage is "disposable".

In Summary...

Don't risk losing all of your photos. Future generations will regret it!

Happy shooting!

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