Preserving Important Summer Memories
the best family media available are the ones you can make yourself. When I first
began writing on this topic two decades ago, a video camera was still a
relatively exotic device. It also provided the user with a great upper arm
workout! Now virtually every home in the nation has one of these, and if you are
nodding your head ďNoĒ to this statement, did you remember your cell phone?
ever before in recorded history, history is being recorded... and for the most
part itís ordinary people like you and I who are pushing the button on a
multitude of devices and capturing both still and video images.
have no factual evidence, Iím sure for those of us living in the Northern
hemisphere, summertime is probably one of the most prolific photography seasons.
Chances are you filled up a few memory cards worth of your kids frolicking at
the beach, in the pool, or a variety of other locations. But now that things
have settled down, what have you done with those priceless images?
Unfortunately many people think once a picture is tucked inside a memory card,
it is safe forever. While itís true that these little magic devices are far more
durable than film (just ask my parents what happened after a curious little
Rodney wanted to see what was inside the family camera), they still have
their limits and itís best to get your photos off of the cards and on to other
primary problem with digital photos and videos is there is only one copy in
existence once they are recorded. This was also true with old-fashioned negative
film, but once the complete roll was developed, you had your negatives and
the prints that were made from them, essentially giving you two copies of your
images. Today many people are content previewing their images on their digital
create issues if something happens as it did to one friend of mine whose camera
ďhiccuppedĒ and rendered her memory card useless. When I asked her when was the
last time she dumped her photos to her computer hard drive, she looked at me
blankly and admitted it had never been done. She owned the camera for close to
two years! Fortunately, using some software, I was able to recover many of her
photos, but some were lost and the process isnít fail proof.
unlike the days of film, a memory card can hold hundreds or even thousands of
photos. Acquiring a habit of frequently transferring them to your computer is a
great first step. But this isnít the end of the process, as most people
immediately erase their memory card and stick it back in the camera to take more
pictures. Of course thatís a good thing to do and why we enjoy digital
photography so much -- itís cheap compared to film. However, now you still only
have one copy of your pictures and that copy is even more precarious than when
they were on your memory card!
your hard drive are prone to being lost to viruses, accidental deletion or the
mechanical hard drive deciding it simply isnít going to spin any longer. Thus
the next step is to create at least one backup copy. If you are already backing
up your entire computer hard drive with an external hard drive and backup
software, you are already taking this second important step. But you may want to
go up one more level on the ladder of data security and create what the experts
call, an off-site backup.
really easy and inexpensive if you use blank DVD disks. Virtually every computer
built in the last while can burn DVDs -- and Iím not talking about making copies
of Hollywood movies. These disks are also great for storing data, and thatís
just what your photos are -- lots of data. One disk stores a little more than 4
gigabytes, a popular memory card size. While that was a ton of memory a few
years back, itís getting to be less today. However, you can buy these disks in
bulk, and they will only cost you a few cents each. After you burn them, put
them in an inexpensive book made to hold CD or DVD disks and label them
according to the date or event the photos cover.
step (that is often the most inconvenient) is to hand this collection of disks
to someone else to keep in their home. That way if anything were to happen to
your own copy, you have an off-site backup of your important memories.
to accomplish this is to use an online backup service. Various companies that do
this abound on the Internet -- some of which specialize in photo storage. The
plus side to this is you donít have to buy disks and worry about giving them to
someone else, and then having to add to the collection later. The downsides are
that you will likely have to pay to store much more than a few gigabytes of
photos, most Internet connections are much slower going ďupĒ than ďdownĒ
(meaning it takes longer to send data than to receive it), and there is a chance
the company storing your photos may go out of business. At the very least, I
would still recommend keeping backups at your home. The chances of a fire at
your home and your storage company going bankrupt the same week are slim.
A couple of
additional thoughts to make your life easier: Instead of purchasing blank DVD
disks, purchase a portable hard drive that plugs into your computer. One
terabyte drives are now easily found for under $100 and they hold more than 200
DVD disks. Transferring photos to these units is also much faster and you donít
have to change disks.
you are going on a big vacation, I recommend taking a larger quantity of smaller
memory cards (like 4 gigabytes) as opposed to larger cards. Itís the ďall your
eggs in one basketĒ idea, in that if something were to happen to your camera, a
far greater number of photos would be lost as well. With smaller cards, you can
keep them locked away in your hotel room or hotel safe while you travel. Even
better, if you have a computer with you, back them up regularly or send them to
your online storage service while you sleep. Another benefit is smaller cards
are often discounted at prices that make them cheaper than buying one large card
with equivalent capacity.
you are ready to breathe a big sigh of relief, Iím going to bring up one last
problematic issue. Every type of media degrades over time -- even those old film
photographs, slides and negatives are slowly fading away. Researchers are still
predicting how long some of our current modern media storage will last, but we
really wonít know for a few years yet. Hard drives are prone to damage from
magnetic fields. Optical disks (burned CDs and DVDs) donít like heat or
abrasion. There is little written about how long data will store on an
undisturbed memory card. Of course, the other mitigating factor is whether you
will have something to ďplugĒ your storage media into 40 years from now. Ever
try to force an LP record into a CD player? Itís not a pretty sight.
around these storage limitations and continued technological advancement, you
should be prepared to do more copying of your media in the years to come. Yes,
it all started with a few photos at the beach, but if you want to keep your
images for posterity, your summer job will become an ongoing career.
Besides writing this column for the Parents Television Council, Rod Gustafson authors Parent Previewsģ - a newspaper and Internet column (published in association with movies.com) that reviews movies from a parent's perspective. He's also the film critic for a major Canadian TV station, various radio stations and serves on the executive of the Alberta Association for Media Awareness. Finally, his most important role is being the father to four wonderful children and husband to his beautiful wife (and co-worker) Donna.
and the Media by Rod Gustafson
Television Council -
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