Quick Tip: How to Keep Your Image Files Readable Far into the Future

Posted by on Wednesday September 12, 2018 | Photo Gear

Computer and data specialists warn that digital information we are creating right now may not be readable by machines and software programs of the future. As we explained in our story called “Four Steps You Can Take to Avoid the ‘Digital Dark Age,’” digital data that’s so easy to access now—including the digital image files of photographers—is at risk of disappearing forever. Hard drives will hardly last a decade, let alone a lifetime. Flash memory may eek out a few more years but may not endure a generation (if that).

What’s a photographer to do?

The opinions of experts vary, but here are four basic steps you can follow to increase the likelihood that your images survive:

Print them. Properly produced and cared-for, inkjet prints can last for 200 years of more.

Store files as JPEGs. The format is so ubiquitous it’s likely to be machine readable well into the future. The open-source DNG format is also a good choice.

Preserve your metadata. Ensuring a photo has accurate and thorough metadata is critical to digital photo preservation because it enables future programs to find and organize a photographic collection. It also ensures critical copyright data travels with the images as they migrate from old storage solutions (like hard drives) to new ones that haven’t even been conceived of yet. The XMP format, which like DNG is open source, is a good option for writing metadata.

Follow the “3-2-1 Rule.” That’s three copies of a file, stored in two different places with one of those locations off-site.

Related:
Photo Archiving: In the Digital Age, Longevity Is No Sure Thing

Store More: Portable and Desktop Storage Solutions

Can Photo Prints Really Last a Lifetime?


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