Computer Advice: Editing, Saving, And Organizing Digital Photos

Air Date:
Heard On The Larry Meiller Show
raven, image by Judith Siers-Poisson
Raven, image by Judith Siers-Poisson

It’s both a blessing and a curse that it’s so easy to take a lot of digital photos. Larry Meiller learns how to edit, save and organize those images so they are safe, and we can enjoy them. Plus, general advice for keeping your computer running well. [Originally broadcast on April 7, 2014]

Featured in this Show

  • Preserving Digital Photos Over Long Term Requires Care, Maintenance

    Preserving a digital photo for long-term enjoyment isn’t as simple as saving it and forgetting about it. Rather, it requires active maintenance and care.

    While it might be tempting to burn a CD or DVD with photos and tuck it away in a drawer, data degrades on disks over time. Moreover, thumb drives can fail, and both paid and free online storage services might change their terms, claim access to images — or worse, go out of business.

    Paul Hedges, the emerging technologies archivist in the Wisconsin Historical Society‘s Library & Archives division, said that digital photography collections need to be managed actively over the years to ensure that pictures are preserved.

    “The question of where to store those files is really more of a question of finding the most stable media that you have available today and to assume that you’re going to migrate or move those files to something new within a period of time before that (current) media is going to die,” said Hedges.

    For example, Hedges said photos that are being saved on a CD should be transferred to another storage medium within three to five years.

    The key, he said, is to think about it not as finding a permanent storage spot, but rather as “going back to those digital files and moving them forward, so that they can be accessed in the future.”

    The best media for storing photos, said Hedges, include gold CDs and DVDs, which are “a little more stable and they don’t rot as quickly.”

    He also recommended using external hard drives and cloud services for additional storage, and stressed the importance of having multiple backups across different media.

    “That way, in case one of them fails, you have it someplace else,” he said.

    Another consideration to make when preserving digital photos is what file format to use. While digital images mught be immune to discoloration and fading, not all formats are meant for long-term use. Hedges said that for the society’s digital image archives, they use TIFF image formats for storage as the “master copy”and the jpeg format for “delivery” and website use.

    But even before thinking about technology and formatting, Hedges said that there’s a more fundamental consideration to make when it comes to digital photo preservation: Choosing which images to keep.

    One of the risks of digital photography is that a person can become what Hedges calls a “digital packrat”: They take far more pictures than they would have otherwise with an analog camera, and then have a hard time getting rid of them.

    To counter that, Hedges said that whenever he takes a photo, he asks himself what he is going to do with it, where he will keep it and for how long he may want to store it. The answers help him decide whether the images are of passing interest, like a photo that might be just for use on social media, or a memory that he’ll want to keep indefinitely in a safe place.

Episode Credits

  • Larry Meiller Host
  • Judith Siers-Poisson Producer
  • Paul Hedges Guest