In the November 29th issue of the New York Times, John Herrman wrote an article, “It’s Almost 2019. Do You Know Where Your Photos Are?” Of course, this story struck a note with us! We’ve been advocating digital asset management, printing and bookmaking to our clients for years in an effort to keep the ever-growing flood of digital files from falling through the proverbial cracks and lost forever.
In Mr. Herrman’s story, he outlines the history of failed digital photo and file sharing sites from Yahoo to Flickr, SmugMug, PhotoBucket, Picasa and others. This illustrates the frustration of keeping track of our photos and, sometimes, the catastrophe of losing some of our most precious assets as cloud storage sites shutter their doors.
So, do you know where your photos are?
Most casual digital photographers don’t. Searching and/or locating photos lost, missing or simply hidden in a virtual haystack is, more often than not, a Sisyphean task. Most of us are not up to it.
Even if you use Apple Photos (formerly iPhoto), which does a pretty good job, it’s important to keep a copy of your photos somewhere other than on Apple’s servers.
Apple has a very sordid history in suddenly abandoning their customers and and shutting down various services they have hooked us on. Case in point: On September 30th, 2018, after nearly 16 years of being able to print books, novelties, calendars and prints, Apple, closed down this service.
Some of our clients have dozens of incomplete projects they planned on printing someday. Now they have to completely start over. It’s not the first time Apple has done something like this, nor will it be the last.
Be prepared, events like this will continue.
Add in the fact that hard drives fail, technology changes and file formats come and go. Remember Zip drives? Exabyte? 9 How about floppy disks? All history. Finding a working device to read any of that data is challenging and it’s pretty likely the data is damaged from years of storage. Consider most of those photos lost.
Your best bet is to start assembling all your photos onto one hard drive and creating a local backup and a cloud backup of your computer and your photos. So, that’s one hard drive and an account with Backblaze, or similar service; a modified 3-2-1 strategy. And, when we talk cloud backups, we don’t mean services like Dropbox, which are a file synchronization* — not backup! We recommend Backblaze because it’s a backup site. Dedicated to nothing but security of your files using multiple strategies and many layers of security.
File Synchronization: keeping files up-to-date and stored across several different physical locations, e.g. having the same file accessible on several different computers and mobile devices.
So, here’s our simple checklist for getting all your digital photos into one place. (Get in touch with us if you need help or want more info.)
1. Purchase a dedicated, external hard drive with sufficient disk space for what may become a large library. You may have more photos than you realize! We recommend the following drives:
- Western Digital 4T, a traditional hard drive USB 3.0
- U32 Shadow Solid State Drive (SSD) USB C (also referred to as USB 3.1 or Thunderbolt 3)
Check your computer’s specs to see which drive is right for you.
2. The big Kahuna:
- Find your photos locally on your computer
- Export your originals from Apple photos or whatever program you have them stored in
- Export your photos from your iOS or Android devices (iPhone, Samsung, iPad, etc.)
- Download your photos from all existing cloud storage (Dropbox, etc.). Look everywhere, in all possible (and impossible) locations on your computer and online.
- Organize the original files into labeled folders identifying as much as possible in the folder name. Add dates (YYYY-MM-DD), locations when you can and avoid downloading duplicates whenever possible. But we understand that’s not always easy or time efficient. Do the best you can! Some things will sort out later.
In Time Machine, open the System Preferences panel and remove the new hard drive from the “exclusion list.” This will include your new hard drive in all future Time Machine backups, when the drive is connected.
4. Now, this is optional, but we highly recommend installing Backblaze. We don’t recommend anything we haven’t tried or use ourselves and this is the case as well. You’ll have a local backup on your hard drive and a secure cloud backup of everything in case something happens here on earth.
As our libraries of photos grow, so do our responsibilities to our children, families and future generations. The casual sport of keeping track of digital captures, phone photos, photo file sharing sites and whatever else the virtual future holds, dooms us if we expect them to be there in 5, 10, 20 or more years. It’s more likely that prints and books will survive us. But it’s our digital files where the content from those books will come from. You could put those in an old shoebox.
So, do you know where your photos are?
Need help? Contact us!