Sunday, May 10, 2015

Digital Archiving

Once upon a time, the idea of permanence to our photos was never an issue (you kept the negatives). Nowadays, with phones becoming the de-facto camera for most people, few realize the importance of making backups. Your phone is one flick of the wrist away from becoming an expensive brick - they also stop working for no apparent reason and get stolen every now and again.

Here's how I cope with my digital photos, and my life's digital archives.

Step 1: Delete Almost Everything
This involves discipline. But as a rule, not many photos are worth keeping. Spending a few minutes every time you upload photos to your computer will save you alot of time in the long run and make your archives much more relevant and viewable. I shoot with a DSLR and Cellphone. Either way, I tend to take more photos, then weed out the not so good ones later. It's a simple way to take good photos. Pros do it, and there's no reason why you shouldnt too.

Step 2: Batch Resize All the Things
Full HD 1020p is only 2 megapixels. 4k is only 8 megapixels. That's how insane keeping 20+ megapixel images is.

Step 3: Keep Three Copies (in different locations)
I have no photos from the days of Friendster (the site went down). I have no photos prior to Form 4 (year 10). Yes, Facebook will likely be around for awhile. The same was said about Friendster...and Myspace... My point is, your photos are only safe if you have multiple backups.

Doing all three steps above may sound daunting, but it really isnt. You just need to be systematic in your approach. It's not rocket science, and is completely free. Here's how I do it (with no paid software).

Deleting Photos: I transfer all the photos on to my computer's HDD (for speedy access). Then I double click on the photo to open in Windows Photo Viewer (Win Vista/7/8/8.1). Using the L and R keys to navigate, I go through all the photos one by one. I typically take 4 to 5 photos in any situation (eg, posing at a restaurant). The DEL key instantly deletes the photo. So hit L and R until you find the nicest one, and hit DEL for all the rest. Simple. Takes seconds.

Since upgrading to a 4K monitor, the process is even speedier. View >> "Extra Large Images". Then hold CTRL and click on the pictures  you want to delete, and hit DEL. Then go through all the images one by one in photo viewer and delete further.

Batch Resizing: This has a slight learning curve, but works on all operating systems, and is completely free.
1) Download GIMP.
2) Download BIMP.
The instructions are relatively straightforward.
Tweak the settings of the batch resizer until you can no longer notice the difference.

A few clicks later i will have resized and recompressed all my DSLR 24mp photos to about 12mp. File sizes drop from 8MB (24mp) to 1.7MB (12mp). Photography buffs will cry murder, but trust me, for a great majority of your images, you will never notice the difference between the 8MB and 1.7MB compressed, resized image. Remember 12mp is still a greater resolution than 4K. At full screen on a 4K monitor, I cannot tell the difference between the 8MB and 1.7MB images. That is the bottom line. Of course, feel free to tweak the settings as much as you like if you can reliably spot the difference. Some people archive raw. I think it's a waste of space. Why shoot in 24MP? Because it captures more detail. If you take a mindblowing picture, save the original version (CTRL-C, CTRL-P somewhere else temporarily while you batch process)

The Digital Archive: There are a few ways to go about this. Here's my method. I considered a RAID-0 NAS, but in the end it wasnt practical. Like most people, I have more than one computer. It's alot easier to just move a portable HDD from one computer to the next.
1) Have a USB powered working/current disk. As in, all your activity happens on said disk. I have a 1TB WD Passport Ultra that I use for this purpose. It contains my current collection of everything - from music to work.
2) Have a backup disk. This disk sits in a safe location, and is synchronized with the working disk every now and again.
3) Have a second backup disk somewhere else. Mine is on a different continent. Literally.

The program I use to backup? FreeFileSync. It's freeware and works on windows/mac/linux. Mirroring each drive has never been easier.

Once you consider that you are maintaining an archive over three locations, you realize the importance of step 2. You will also realize that things are much more well organized and  easily viewable. There are many ways you could archive your photos, but after much trial and error, I have settled for folders in the following sequence: MyDrive/Pictures/Year/MonthMM.Event

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