Monday, October 29, 2007

O.K. You Now Have Thousands of Digital Photos, Now What?

There are two major problems when it comes to the use of Digital Cameras.

1. You end up having thousands of pictures that you need to organize
2. If your hard drive dies, you lose all of those photographs (memories).

Let’s address number one first. At last count I currently have over 17 thousand digital photographs. Granted, I may not be your typical digital photographer (then again, I very well may be). I have two important pieces of advice when it comes to the enormous amounts of photos.

First, don’t be afraid to delete. Chances are you will never have the time to “make that picture look better”, so chose the photos you like and trash the rest.

Secondly, download Picasa from Google. It’s a free photo management software and it is amazing. Of course it allows you to organize by folder, date, etc. But here is the huge advantage; it allows you to keyword the photos in the META DATA of the photograph. When you add keywords in Picasa, it adds those keywords to a database (OK, that’s no big deal, most programs do that) but Picasa also writes (and reads) the keywords into the photograph file itself. There is a hidden area of the photograph called the META DATA, it contains information about when the photo was taken, what camera took it, what the F-Stop settings were, etc. You can also see this information by going to the properties of each photo (right clicking on the photo and choosing properties). There is also an area for keywords in there and Picasa embeds those keywords.

Picasa is available at:

What does this mean to you?
It means that you can search for photos by people’s names, events, dates, relatives, etc. (assuming you do a good job of key wording the photos). It also means that if you give a copy of that photo to someone else, the keywords will travel with the photo. So your Mom, Dad, your brother, whoever… will be able to search that photo as well if they have a program such as Picasa which can read this data. One other 'icing on the cake' is that you can upload any photos you like to a web based version of Picasa that will let other family members see and download them from the web. Yes, there is also an option on the website to allow your family members to download your web based photos into their own Picasa as well.
So this solves our organizational problem.

Data Lost!
Next big problem, hard drive lose. If you should lose your hard drive (hard drive dies) you WILL lose your photos as well. Granted there are data recovery services out there, but chances are you won't get much better than a 50% recovery rate at best. So I will keep this simple in four words. BACK UP YOUR DATA!

Do NOT wait for your hard drive to die and wish that you had backed it up. It costs next to nothing to backup your data on CD or DVD and store it in a safe location. You can easily back up your photo library using Picasa by going to Tools; Backup Pictures option off the top menu. But you can also just as easily back it up by burning them to CD or DVD (definitely DVD if you are talking thousands of photos) using the native burning utility in Windows or a software utility such as Nero. The most important thing to remember is make regular backups. If you are a home user then once a month should be more than adequate. If you are a power user (always on your computer making changes, saving photos, etc.) then once every week or two is probably a better idea.
There really is no excuse for ignorance in forgetting to backup your data and you will be the one who loses if you should have some sort of a catastrophic failure. So... BACK UP YOUR DATA!


Brian said...

Doesn’t Picasa just organize the photos on your hard drive? So if your hard drive failed, would you still lose the photos? For secure online storage, try somewhere like Pixamo that offers really powerful tagging/metadata features along with free online backup.

Tempus said...


No, although Picassa's primary function is to organize photos and video, it also has a backup function (see under tools).

Online backup is fine, but I have always told people that although you can do online backup, what happens if that online backup service goes under or you encounter problems when your data is intransit. ALWAYS do a physical backup of your own that you can store in a firesafe in your house or at a realitives home. Use online backups as a secondary preventative measure (at least until technology improves and online backup companies develop a good standing).

Brian said...

Good advice Tempus, thanks!