Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thurs 5: How to deal with your digital photos

I read this article recently saying not to store your photos on Facebook.

I clicked on it thinking it would be about some Facebook trickery where they're using your photos to let your ex boyfriends know what you're up to, but it was just saying that people tend to share photos on Facebook and don't realize that the photos are stored at low resolution. And I thought DUH! Of COURSE they are! Facebook isn't a photo repository!

Then I thought, oh, I wonder how many people really know that? Worse, how many people really know about digital photo storage? I'm not sure, and so I thought I would share with you a few tips.

First, the article mentioned these stats:
  • 40% of households with digital cameras no longer make prints
  • 65% of people sharing photos online do it through Facebook
  • Less then 33% of people realize that Facebook stores photos at a decreased resolution
That last bullet is stupid, so let's just disregard it. It assumes that the 33% doesn't also store the originals on their hard drive.

Tip #1: Nothing lasts forever.
Photographs printed on photo paper fade, even if done by a professional lab. These days, acid-free paper and better inks go a long way towards saving them, but in 34 years they still risk having a yellowish tinge or fading. Digital media fades too. Technology changes and maybe in 30 years you won't be able to access a USB storage device or read a DVD, much in the same way that it's really hard to find a way to read 5 1/4 floppy disks now. (I'll give you suggestions for photo longevity below.)

Tip #2: Photo resolution is affected every time you do something to the photo.
That means if you put it in Picasso or Facebook or save it to a TIFF format in Photoshop, the resolution is affected. Keep this in mind if you want to print photos. Don't process them in a program and expect them to retain the same resolution and size over time. This is important if you want to print, resize, or alter them later.

Tip #3: Printing and storing is the best combination, but always back your photos up.
Numerous stores make it super duper easy to print digital photos cheaply. Target and Costco are two good examples and they have self-serve kiosks. I recently printed over 80 photos at Target on their self-serve machine and did it in 15 minutes. Print the ones you want and put them in an album; store the ones you don't want on display on your coffee table (like your seedy Vegas pictures). But never let your photos sit on a card somewhere. Back that stuff up on an external harddrive (you can get oodles of gigs for cheap these days, there's no excuse, just go get one), and DVDs.

Tip #4: For God's sake, don't upload photos to Facebook and then delete the originals.
This goes for any program including Flickr and Photobucket. Just don't! These are free services and won't be around forever. And they're not in the business of storing your photos permanently. They're only interested in making it easy to share your photos with others, and to do that, they store them at lower resolution.

Tip #5: Consider your long term goals for photos.
This requires some forward thinking, and given that 40% of us no longer print our photos, I'm also thinking 40% of us aren't thinking about what to do with them, either. But take a moment -- if you want your great-grandchildren to come across a dusty box in the attic and discover your halcyon Vegas trip (or not, whatevs) snaps, then how will you facilitate that? Print them, or store them on somewhat permanent media. If you're just out there taking pictures of whatever strikes your fancy, then you may want to just upload them to share and not worry about long term storage. But no matter what, take a moment to consider what would happen if you lost all your pictures. Those of us with kids will shiver with horror at this thought. Every single picture of my whippersnapper is digital. How will he look back at his baby pictures when he's 25? Will I want a complete album so I can trot it out to his girlfriends and embarrass him when he's 18? The answer is yes, so I'd better think how best to do that.

Bonus Tip:
Most people don't have Photoshop. Adobe makes Photoshop Elements (I think, or is it called Essentials?) and that is very affordable and does the things you want to do to photos, for the most part, which is: resize. Yes! If you set your photos at like a million pixels on your digital camera, you're going to have to resize them later if you want to email or upload them. But here's the thing. If you DON'T take pictures at a high setting, then your prints will be lower resolution. You're almost forced to reduce their size using software. Just keep that in mind.

Thoughts? Additional tips? Most importantly: Did you already know this stuff?


Travener said...

Can Photoshop Essentials make me look younger, thinner and handsomer? Might be worth getting in that case.

Sierra Godfrey said...

I don't know about Essentials (actually think it's Elements), but full fledged Photoshop can.

DL Hammons said...

I'm totally forwarding this post to my wife! She's the photographer/picture organizer in the family. This is all good stuff!!

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I use photobucket strictly for embedding photos on the web. I store everything in my own hard-drive. Photos take up very little space, to be honest.

I only upload to facebook for porfile pics and galleries, which I don't have many of. Beyond that, facebooks uploading application is crap.

There are ways to preserve more resoultion, like using the "unrestricted" settings on many image editors, like gimp, photoshop or NHC's imagepad. But when you convert formats, even the best converters aren't perfect. There's going to be loss in both resolution and quality. I prefer saving files as png, since jpeg is a lossy compression format. (That means jpeg photos are smaller in filesize, but lower-quality.)

The loss in conversion results from different ways of representing and compressing image data, which means that most programs cannot produce an exact replica in a new format. Try to limit the number of times you edit and convert a photo, and retain the original copy. You'll have to do more work, but it allows you to prevent unecessary file degradation from incessant editing and conversion.

Your originals should be in the highest possible resolution if you really want high-quality photos. Do not convert to a different format, and then expect to regain the lost qulity by converting back. The less you manipulate the photo, the better the quality will be.

Amber Tidd Murphy said...

I lost photos when my computer crashed. I was devistated. Recently, we had to re-boot our laptop after getting a virus. Thankfully, we were able to save pics on a zip drive first.

I vow to never again fail to back up anything important! I know you posted solely abou pictures today, but that reminds me -- I've been using google docs to work on my ms, and I'm so afraid that it may just disappear one day. I printed recently, but need to back it up STAT.

Mike Chen said...

Here's a cool tip if you have a Playstation 3. If you download all your photos onto your computer, you can install a media server called TVersity. Make sure it draws from your photos (and music and video) folders for its library. Then, have your PS3 search for media servers and boom, you get them all displayed on your snazzy TV.

Sierra Godfrey said...

I WISH I had a Playstation 3, Mike, cause then I could play Modern Warfare, although I fear it's not quite as violently satisfying as the Grand Theft Auto series. :(

Great suggestions everyone and please...please back up.

Mike Chen said...

The PS3 is the single greatest invention in the history of humanity. Seriously. Netflix online, media sharing/viewing, Blu-ray, and fantasti-awesome games. Seriously, if you met Nathan Drake, you'd have a huge crush on him and his rascally wit (and his crazy upper-body strength). I have a total man-crush on him.

Sierra Godfrey said...

Yes yes yes but Wii will have Netflix too very soon!

But I heard the PS3 crashes and burns all the time, no?

I think I already love Nathan Drake based on your description. I'll fight you for him. :)

Meghan Ward said...

We use SmugMug, which you have to pay for, but which allows you to store all photos at high resolution and to allow anyone to download them at high resolution. I need to make more prints, though. It's on my list. It's been on my list for a LONG time because - yeah - if a computer crashes, the memories of all those vacations you took are gone. Right now all the trips we did pre-SmuMug are on some hard drive in my house and I need to find them and transfer them and upload them, etc. Before they're lost forever!

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.