The Digital Dilemma-Creating a digital archive - ColdSnap Photography

The Digital Dilemma–Creating a digital archive

The Digital Dilemma

Good Camera Techniques:
Shoot, download, save, back-up, reformat.
Your camera’s disc is not a long term storage device!
They can and will fail at any time. Badlands Landscape
Always reformat the camera disc after you have removed it from the camera and downloaded images.
Good Storage Techniques:
Your computer’s hard-drive is the best and most stable storage device.
All digital media can and will fail with time, even your computer’s hard-drive, therefore it is imperative that you have a back-up plan.
Back-up your digital files frequently on a separate hard-drive. I recommend external hard-drives like the “Free Agent Desk” drive by Seagate-1Terrabyte drive is about $170. Store off-site if possible.
The Industry buzz word for “archiving” digital media is “Migration” what that means is that no digital device or storage media can be trusted for long-term storage. You must continuously up-grade your storage media and devices to keep abreast of technological change, in short KEEP UP WITH THE TIMES.

Digital Media
CD discs-Short term storage, approximately 3-7 years.
DVD discs– Short term storage, approximately 3-7 years.
Sata II Hard-drives (Standard hard-drive found in most computers today.) A great for medium term storage-approximately 7 year average lifespan.  Storage on hard-drives requires redundancy and back-up of file storage. RAID systems or Drobo type device for large volume users.

Printing your digital image files:
The only current way to insure that your images will be around for generations after you have made them is to convert the images into prints. You must be careful about this process as different print processes differ widely in their longevity.
Photographic Prints and Ink Jet Prints
Photographic prints: average lifespan of photographic prints ranges from 22 years to approximately 45 years. They can be quick and easy to obtain because your local photo service provider does the work. 4×6 sized prints are relatively inexpensive.
Ink-Jet Prints: average lifespan can range from 6 months to over 250 years depending upon the printer, ink, and paper used. It is important to know what the life expectancy is for the particular combination of printer, ink, and paper is that you use (see Wilhelm Institute resource listing below.)  DO NOT skimp on cost of materials, most after-market inks and papers designed for the home user fade in a very short period of time.
Pigment inks last longest, dye based inks fade quickly.

Online Resources:
Library of Congress:  Website on Digital Preservation:
Wilhelm Institute: Website with comprehensive list on longevity of print materials:
Drobo data storage systems:                    Seagate External Hard-drives: