Gerber Life Family Times --- News and tips for familes of all ages and stages of life

Memories to Last Forever?  
Organize your digital memories and make them last.


ImageIf you're of a particular age, you may remember the days when capturing life's special moments (first steps, birthdays, parties, anniversaries, etc.) involved multiple rolls of film, a camera, expensive film processing and photo finishing, and often, days or weeks of waiting for the final result. The first evolution in film processing made pictures in one hour a common option but you still often left the photo finisher with four good pictures and an assortment of headless bodies, blurry action shots, and dark experiments that would ultimately take up space in a shoebox somewhere in your closet. Then came digital photography and a revolution to capturing family memories. Not only does the digital option allow almost instantaneous review of images to make sure you got that "once in a lifetime" shot, but it also turned out to be a great money saving device. Instead of going to the expense and trouble of developing an entire roll of film to get those four or five shots that are useable, you can now pick and choose exactly what pictures are "keepers" and what pictures will never see the light of day.

A digital image is basically a long string of 1s and 0s that represent the variety of colors that make up each pixel of an image. When those pixels are translated and strung together, the bits of color come together and form the picture. With a photograph that was traditionally printed from film, storage and preservation were straight forward—keep the photos dry, protect them from heat, humidity, light, and acidic storage materials, and they would preserve your memories for decades to come.

But now those thousands and thousands of digital files sitting on your home computer present an entirely new set of challenges when it comes to preservation for use in the years, decades, and centuries to come. All of those ones and zeroes that make up each picture you take are now stored electronically. Instead of film, your pictures become electronic files on removable memory storage devices such as memory cards and flash cards. After each photo session, the images are typically transferred, via download, to a home computer where they are stored on the computer's hard drive or writeable storage media such as a CD or DVD. Unfortunately, according to the Library of Congress, storage media such as CDs and DVDs that were once thought to last forever—don't. Many often fail within a few years. No doubt many of you may have already tried to access that classic picture of your little one naked in the bathtub only to get a message from your computer that the file is inaccessible due to a corrupted file or some other cryptic, hi-tech message.

ImageThere are things you can do to avoid losing your digital image files. Some of the practices for safely storing your digital files recommended by the Library of Congress include:

  • Back-up image files on your home computer on a regular basis and keep an extra copy in an alternate location (grandma's house, the office, etc.) Many computer operating system maintenance programs include automated back-up programs that will automate the process so you aren't dependant upon your own memory.
  • Never use re-writeable discs for long-term storage.
  • Don't use stickers to label discs.
  • Cover discs with a protective sleeve and store them in a dry, dark place, safe from damage.
  • Covert old disks to new formats as soon as they become available. With today's ever-changing technology, old methods become obsolete in a relatively short period of time. Adopt new technologies and convert all of your important image files to the new technology so they will always be accessible. You don't want your precious memories trapped on an antiquated disc with the device required to read them out-of-production for a decade.
  • Adopt an organized and logical digital filing system for your important digital family photos. Use descriptive filenames (known as "tagging") and store all images in a specific directory on your home computer. Each image filename should consist of descriptive information (i.e., event [birthday, vacation, graduation], family member [all, mom, dad, Tom, Jane, Fluffy, Fido, etc.) and date in mmddyyyy (m=month, d=day, y=year) format. By doing so, searching for keywords such as "birthday" or "Fido" will give you a list of all pictures that include a birthday or your family dog and will make finding a specific images much easier.
  • Develop a system that works for you and be consistent in your file naming. In no time, you'll be able to find that special picture in a few simple keystrokes.
  • Delete duplicate images or unwanted images that will litter your electronic files and make locating desirable images more difficult.
  • Once you have a good filing system, the file copying process is relatively quick and easy. Make multiple copies of your image files and save them in different locations. You may also save digital copies of important images on websites or print them with archive-quality inks and high-quality photographic paper for additional preservation options.

Digital imaging has made it easier than ever to capture the precious moments that happen in our lives. But just because images are now easier to take doesn't mean that preserving them for the future takes any less effort. Making an effort to name, file, and backup your family images regularly will keep the task from becoming a monumental job as family events and photo files begin to accumulate. Knowing the important events of your life are preserved for your children and grandchildren will make it all worthwhile!

Library of Congress—

Articles are provided for the general interest of our readers. Gerber Life Insurance is not responsible for any content and recommends that you consult the appropriate professional with any questions or concerns you may have concerning any financial or health related issues.

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