This article is a pre-release chapter in Jeff Carlson’s upcoming “Take Control of Your Digital Photos,” scheduled for public release in August 2013. Apart from the introduction, these chapters are available only to TidBITS members; see “Streamed Advice for Managing Your Digital Photos” for details.
Back Up and Archive Your Photos
An old printed photo is precious because often it’s the only copy that exists. You may be able to make a new print from a negative, but in many cases the negative no longer exists. If the prints and negatives are accidentally thrown away or damaged, that particular image is gone.
In the digital age, that type of scarcity isn’t as much of a problem. You can easily make hundreds of digital copies of a photo, transmit it around the world with a click, or send the image file to a drugstore and have inexpensive prints made.
And yet, digital photos suffer from a different type of scarcity: no matter how easily they can be reproduced, bits are fragile in a way that paper or film isn’t. One hard drive failure can wipe out your photos—all of your photos—in an instant. It doesn’t matter how much time and effort you’ve put into rating and tagging your library, if the read/write head of a drive starts chopping into the physical surface of the disk (or worse), those photos are toast.
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