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Who doesn’t like to look at an old family photo album or to see images of grandma and grandpa when they were younger? Photography helps us remember events and people in our lives. They become part of our legacy that we hand down to future generations. Digital cameras have changed how we use and think about some images so what will be the legacy we hand down to the next generation? If we are not careful we may not hand down much.

Digital cameras have given a whole new life to photography. Many people feel liberated that they can take any image they want and if they don’t like it they can just delete it. You can take an image and not have to pay for a print if you don’t want to. With all the new technology what are all the ways you can store images and which way will last the longest?

There are several ways you can digitally store images. Remember a digital image is nothing more than a set of computer instructions that tell the computer how to assemble an image. This set of instructions for most cameras are stored as a file type called jpeg or .jpg. Here are a few ways digital images can be stored.

Magnetic Media

Usually this means a hard drive of some sort. Floppy drives also were magnetic media but they are not used very much any more. The problem with magnetic media is that they have moving parts that will eventually wear out. It is never a question of if your hard drive will crash it is a question of when. If you have a hard drive long enough it will crash and without a backup your images could be gone forever. There is also a question of compatibility. Many of the hard drives that were built even ten years ago will not work in new computers built today. So, magnetic media is a great short term storage if you have a back up of your images.

Solid State Media

Solid State media are the cards you use in the camera. Thumb drives are another example of solid state media. Solid State media has an advantage of no moving parts to wear out. The down side is that the media relies on a small electrical charge to keep the data in tact. Eventually that charge can be lost and your images will go with it. So, like the magnetic media this is a great short term storage solution as long as you have a back up but it is not the best solution for long term archives.

Optical Media

DVD and CDs are examples of optical media. Burned optical media relies on heat sensitive dyes embedded in the plastic to hold the data. The problem with optical media is those dyes can be changed or you wouldn’t have been able to burn the disc to begin with. Your best bet with optical media is to use the burn once discs not the rewritable discs. The archivability of these discs is greatly debated. I have heard estimates that the data will last anywhere from 5 years to 300 years. So, optical discs have the potential for better archives assuming there are CD or DVD drives you can put them in. I would classify optical media as a mid level archive solution.

Internet Storage

Internet storage is constantly being backed up so the chance of completely losing your images is going to be minimal. You are, however, relying on someone else to keep those images for you. Internet storage also requires an Internet connection to access them which can be a convenience but also can prohibit your access to them. I think Internet storage is a great back up method but I would not use it for my primary storage.

With all the great technology we have now the most secure method of storing your images is still to have chemical based prints made. I have another article I wrote on April 10th 2009 that addresses printing images you can refer to for more information. Chemical based prints should be able to last for decades and if stored properly will be the most secure method for archiving your images.

So, digital photography is a lot of fun. It has some great benefits. With a little big of care you should be able to enjoy your images for a long time.

If you have any questions or would like to submit a topic you would like to hear about please email me at mpimages@mpistudios.net.

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