Our methods of delivering digital images from our sessions has evolved over the years. When we first started, the DVD was the way to go. It was cheap, easy, and efficient. However as technology has changed, we’ve gradually moved away from this method of image archival. Here’s why.
1. DVD’s get scratched. We’ve all experienced this before. You go to put in your favorite DVD or CD only to find that it skips or freezes right before our favorite part. DVD’s aren’t very durable. They get scratched very easily and unless you handle your discs with the white glove treatment each time, it’s inevitable that the disc will eventually get damaged.
2. The lifespan of a DVD varies. Whenever we do burn DVD’s, we try to use discs with the longest lifespan. But the lifespan of a disc will vary greatly on different factors such as humidity, temperature, and use. If you plan on storing the disc in a fire-safe box and never exposing it to the elements, that disc could potentially last 100 years. However, if you’re like most of us that actually use our discs, it will begin to degrade after 10 years or so. We all have that special CD or DVD that just lives in the player and plays on a constant loop…and sooner or later that disc starts to skip or not play anymore. It’s possible to wear out your disc even if you rarely touch it! This is extremely important to keep in mind, especially when talking about long lasting memories.
3. DVD’s are cheap. The price of DVD’s have dropped down to cents. Not only because the manufacturing has become so easy, but because the industry views these discs as disposable. They are not meant for long lasting storage. You’ve just spent thousands of dollars on your wedding or just captured a once-in-a-lifetime moment of your baby’s first steps. Would you rely on a 20 cent piece of plastic to keep your memories safe?
OK! You’ve convinced me! What do I do now? Here’s how we archive all of our images and we strongly suggest adopting these practices to keep your images safe:
1. Download the images off of your camera after EVERY shoot or outing! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked up a friends camera and they have images from 6 months ago still on there! Memory cards do fail so treat them like they’re self-destructable after 24 hours. I’m extremely paranoid about this, and it’s the partial reason why we bring a laptop to every wedding so that we can download the cards as we shoot.
2. Vary your method of archiving. After each shoot, we copy all the files to 2 separate hard drives that are not permanently attached to a computer. We keep these drives in a static free case, in a dark dry place and only take them out when we’re archiving. Hard drives inevitably will fail. To decrease this we don’t have these permanently on our computers so that they don’t heat up to the point of failure.
3. Cloud storage. After we copy your files onto these 2 external drives, we upload them into a cloud. Our favorite cloud for videos and images is Smugmug. They have varying levels of subscription with the basic one allowing for unlimitted images at about $5/month. The idea behind this, is if your house burns down, your images are still safe with off-site storage. There are many other cloud storage services out there such as DropBox and Amazon, so do some research and figure out which is best for you.
4. Redundancy is key. Always keep multiple copies of your images in different locations. There’s not one perfect way to keep your images completely safe so use as many archival methods as possible. DVD’s are fine…as long as you also have them backed up on an external hard drive, or off-site location.
With all of our shoots, we automatically provide cloud hosting of your images and videos for you so we can offer at least, some piece of mind. However, as stated before, there’s not one single answer to archiving. Smugmug is not guaranteed to be there in 10 years and we are no longer liable for your images after 2 years, so copy those images to multiple places! The good thing about digital, is copies of copies of copies are just as good as the original. So copy away!