Three Ways To Protect Your Photographs

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Do you put all your eggs into one basket? Let's clarify—are all your memories on one memory card? They really shouldn't be. Nothing can be more painful than losing a lot of those great moments from parties and the kids' soccer game, or the evidence from your car accident. Here are some ideas on how to protect those memories.

Photo from Musee Mccord Museum


Back Up into Organized Folders

While uploading photos to your computer may be a given for some people, many opt to shoot, store and save images from multiple events on a single memory card (like processing a roll of film that was kept in the camera for a year's worth of events.)

Photos should be organized into folders for easier access to these memories later on. This means going into the pictures folder on your computer and creating sub-folders with names like, "Tyson's First Soccer Game" or "Mia Giving Birth to the Kittens." The last thing you want is your spouse freaking out that you lost the photos of your child's graduation.

This way, the images will be easier to find later on and you won't have photos scattered all over your computer's desktop—which slows down performance of the machine.

I know, sometimes we're too lazy to do it, but it's important to organize your photos on a regular basis to avoid the hassle and headache of trying to find the photos later on. To make it easier, your camera may come with software to help you organize and place these photos into specific folders.

Still not convinced? When your computer gets hit with a big virus, it will be much easier to retrieve all those photos from one place vs all over the computer's hard drive.

External Hard Drives with Multiple Ports

A couple of years ago, I was a college student with one USB 2.0 Hard Drive. I used it to backup all my photos, videos, and some other work I had done for classes.

Then, as I went to plug it into a computer to show my final project in class, the hard drive was no longer being recognized. It worked many times before, so I tried it on other computers and it still didn't work.

After taking it to a tech, I was told that USB hard drives eventually fail because of faulty ports when they're used heavily. Admittedly, I used it every day. The shock that hit me was immobilizing—years and years of my work just suddenly became inaccessible: all those photos; the begininng of my thesis; some other final projects—they were all gone.

The advice given to me was to invest in a hard drive with more than one type of port, since USB can be faulty. My recommendation as well as that of many positive reviews on our site, is the Western Digital My Book Studio in terms of affordability, protection and versatility at a "bang for your buck" price. Besides USB, the drive has Firewire, eSATA and other ports, just in case that USB port fails again. Additionally, many of those other ports are much faster than USB 2.0.

You don't have to be a professional to purchase one of these drives. Enthusiasts, and families with many cameras would benefit greatly from having one of these portable archivers. Be sure to keep them stored in some sort of case when they are not in use for extra protection.

Photo Sharing Sites

Everyone and their mother and their mother's mother seem to be on some sort of social-networking site. Besides storage on a computer, photo sharing sites are very popular for preserving and sharing memories. Facebook, Flickr, Picasa and other sites tend to be very popular amongst users. When you purchase a premium account, Flickr will even allow you to download the original file. As with storing photos on your computer, it probably isn't a good idea to put your photos into an album called "Random photos," as it can later become very annoying to find them—we all know someone guilty of this.

For professionals, Smugmug seems to be one of the popular options for many reasons—including protection of your photos from those that may try to steal them.

Now, you may not want to go about sharing every single photo. That's fine—you can always make them private.

Bonus Round Eye-Fi Cards

You've got a memory card, but have you heard of Eye-Fi? Eye-Fi cards allow you to transfer your photos wirelessly  to your computer, email, or favorite photo-sharing site. Because of this, you'll have almost unlimited storage for every photo you shoot while the card is in your camera. If you're the type of person that typically tends to upload every single shot from your camera onto your computer, then these are for you.

When the cards are put into the camera, they give the user the option of uploading every photo or picking and choosing their favorites from the bunch.

At the moment, cards only come in the SD and SDHC variation.

Did we miss something? How do you protect your memories? Do you put all your eggs in one basket? Let us know in the comments below.

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I think you did miss something. David Wells wrote a piece on this topic the other day. Don't you guys read what you publish?

John Q. Public wrote:

I think you did miss something. David Wells wrote a piece on this topic the other day. Don't you guys read what you publish?

This is targeted towards a more consumer and enthusiast audience. We don't like having people feel left out.

 Not to be hypercritical, but a real tech would have cracked that case open, pulled the USB to PATA (or SATA) interface board out, and hooked the raw drive to another interface board.  Chances are that if the USB port was bad, replacing it with any of a number of cheap imported ones would have saved the day.  

Having said that, I use 2 USB drives so that I have a one backup at home and a second one in the safety deposit box in the bank.  I sync and rotate them monthly (well, most of the time).

I'd love to have a pair of Drobos, with one offsite.  

unregistered wrote:

 Not to be hypercritical, but a real tech would have cracked that case open, pulled the USB to PATA (or SATA) interface board out, and hooked the raw drive to another interface board.  Chances are that if the USB port was bad, replacing it with any of a number of cheap imported ones would have saved the day.  

Having said that, I use 2 USB drives so that I have a one backup at home and a second one in the safety deposit box in the bank.  I sync and rotate them monthly (well, most of the time).

I'd love to have a pair of Drobos, with one offsite.  

That's the type of stuff meant for specially cleaned rooms and also why Hard Drive data recovery is so expensive. Admittedly, I'm too scared to crack it open myself for fear of dust getting in.

I still have the hard drive; and if you are indeed this confident and in NYC I'd be forever grateful if you did it for me and were able to recover what I call the, "Lost Years" of my work.

While it hasn't been updated in 18 months, the series of articles on Digital Outback Photo still contain a lot of good information about this topic.  Just remember that software and hardware for backup and archiving have changed since the series was written.

A distinction should be made between backups and archival storage. 

Conventionally backups are made to enable restoring to a previous point in time after something happens, e.g., a disk drive dies or a software glitch corrupts a directory.  We (should) make or update backups pretty frequently, often writing over the oldest of several copies, as Chris mentions.

Archives, on the other hand, typically get added to, not overwritten, and we intend our archive to survive for a long time.  The lifetime of the media on which we write our archive becomes very important, as does how and where we store the archive. Another important property of an archive is how readily the archived data can be located and read, something Chris talked about when he discusses organizing and naming photo files.

Just to get an archive started most folks should use two or more external drives, routinely adding new files to them and storing at least one copy somewhere away from the other copies.

Personally I keep one copy of pretty much everything on my main computer, a second copy on a second computer in the house, and a third copy on an online backup service. I rename files using Breeze Broswer (other tools will automate this, too) with the date and image number.  I name the directory containing the files with the date and the subject and/or location.  I format the date YYYYMMDD so sorting by name sorts in oldest to newest order.  This approach means I don't have duplicate names, which simplifies sharing the files, as well as making finding a particular photo pretty easy.

You are mistaken on the hard drive.

Clean rooms are for disassembling the hard drive mechanism itself, but inside external hard drives like your USB enclosure is an interface card and the same kind of internal hard drive found inside desktop and laptop computers.

A first debugging step in a case like yours is to remove the drive from the external case and either insert it into a different one or plug it directly into a desktop computer if it contains the drive's native interface (this was usually IDE in past years but some newer enclosures use SATA drives within.) 

If you're willing to expend a bit of energy, work, caution and $30, it's very likely that unless the hard drive mechanism itself failed, a kit like this one from Granite Digital would allow you to recover your drive's contents:

www.granitedigital.com/emergencycopyusbtosataidebridgeadapter-standardkit.aspx

BillK wrote:

You are mistaken on the hard drive.

Clean rooms are for disassembling the hard drive mechanism itself, but inside external hard drives like your USB enclosure is an interface card and the same kind of internal hard drive found inside desktop and laptop computers.

A first debugging step in a case like yours is to remove the drive from the external case and either insert it into a different one or plug it directly into a desktop computer if it contains the drive's native interface (this was usually IDE in past years but some newer enclosures use SATA drives within.) 

If you're willing to expend a bit of energy, work, caution and $30, it's very likely that unless the hard drive mechanism itself failed, a kit like this one from Granite Digital would allow you to recover your drive's contents:

www.granitedigital.com/emergencycopyusbtosataidebridgeadapter-standardkit.aspx

I was misinformed, and apologize then.