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How to Safely Store Your Photography

by Lola (Akinmade) Åkerström Nov 15, 2009
With the advent of digital cameras and online media storage portals, hardcover albums are rapidly becoming things of the past.

NOWADAYS, sharing photos from your recent hike to Machu Picchu is as easy as emailing grandma a link to an online album. Since you probably spent hours researching and comparing different digital cameras to find your perfect fit, adequate time should be spent addressing how those photographs will be properly stored.

Storing Digital Photographs

Digital photographs are the easiest to maintain over long periods of time. Since images are instantly written to the memory card of your camera in a digital format, transferring them to your computer is a breeze.

Photo Sharing Sites

The most popular way of storing and sharing digital photographs utilizes online photo sharing sites such as Flick’r, Kodak Gallery, Shutterfly, Snapfish, and iPhoto. Even big box pharmacies like CVS, Walgreens, and RiteAid provide online photo centers where you can access your photos after their 1-hr photo processing is complete. These sites provide everything from mass storage space to actual hard copy album printing services. Some charge minimal fees for additional storage space and guaranteed periodic backups.

Rarely do server crashes or complete loss of data occur for these photo sharing sites, however, you should not rely on their infrastructure solely for protecting your memories. Have a backup solution in mind.

External Storage Systems

Owning an external hard drive is a must for budding photographers. With storage upwards of 300 gigabytes (G) and higher and coming in ultra portable sizes as small as your palm, external hard drives are rapidly becoming the storage system of choice, and can be taken with you on your travels. Top brands such as Western Digital’s Passport series, Iomega’s EGO series, and Seagate’s FreeAgent are just a few options out there.


Burning your photographs is a quick way of backing up your images, but the downsides to this approach include not being able to readily edit files that have been burned to disk, and limited storage space – usually 4.2 G per DVD. CDs and DVDs almost always come with protective casings, but for long term storage, make sure you keep them away from light and humidity.

Storing Hardcopy Prints

Chances are you still have a couple boxes of prints stashed away in your basement or attic. Unfortunately, both locations are some of the worst for housing photographs. Photos, especially color prints which are most prone to rapid deterioration, should be stored in the driest, coolest, and darkest spots of your house. Even though basements tend to be very cool, they are also associated with dampness which expedites the molding process and makes your pictures stick together.

Converting your prints to digital form is the recommended first step towards longer storage lives. Once they are converted into digital formats, you can readily store them on external drives or back them up to CD/DVDs. Before you spend hours slaving over a scanner with hundreds of prints, companies such as ScanCafe and ScanDigitalprovide scanning services for a couple cents per print at resolutions as high as 4000 dots per inch (dpi). John Owen’s article, The 24-Cent Scan, delves deeper into the world of photo scanning.

Storing Slides, Negatives and Transparencies

While visiting a friend’s family recently, we unearth boxes and boxes of slides dating back as far as 1940s. Reminiscing over memories on an old fashioned projector, I was impressed by the quality and durability of the slides. The great thing about slides is that they already come in protective covering and can be stored in safe metal, plastic, or cardboard slide boxes.

Scanning isn’t limited to prints only. Companies can also scan your negatives and transparencies, converting them into more manageable digital formats. Similar to hardcopy prints, slides, negatives, and transparencies need to be stored in cool and dry locations to stagnant the inevitable wear and tear process.

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