We all enjoy special family photos. Whether they include deceased loved ones or our new arrivals, they represent an irreplaceable part of our family legacies. They can preserve and trigger memories for everyone in the family for decades to come.
Photos used to be carefully stored in albums or framed in the home. Water, sunlight, and rough handling could damage the pictures, so their owners were typically very attentive to protecting the paper prints.
With the advent of digital photography, we all accumulate an incredible number of pictures. This allows us to capture moments for which we previously lacked a camera, but it also opens the door to a whole new set of vulnerabilities for the images we select.
What are the most likely sources of lost photos in the age of digital images, and how can we protect them? Here are some of the typical problems:
With most people having at least a decade’s worth of digital photos on hand now, many of us have them stored on older computers. These machines have become obsolete, lacking many of the defense systems that newer units have. And the simple process of wear and tear can lead to hard drive failures.
There are two steps you should take to avoid this means of losing photos. First, you should backup files that are stored on your hard drive. Get an external hard drive, copy them to the Cloud, whatever. Just get another copy somewhere else.
The second step is to know where to go for data recovery. A competent company can do a surprisingly good job of retrieving files that your own methods at home will never be able to rescue. Have their contact information available. And make sure you have phone numbers, not just websites. After all, the reason you need them might be a computer crash that makes it impossible to visit their site!
Perhaps the most vulnerable time for your photos is when you’ve first taken them. Most of the time, your camera uses a tiny SD card to save the images, which you later transfer to a computer for long-term storage. The process of switching out empty SD card for full ones can easily lead to a dropped card, and if that happens in an outdoor area or a large crowd, the card is gone.
A good strategy here is to start with a huge memory card. Get the biggest one money can buy so that you won’t fill it up during a photo shoot. As soon as you are finished taking pictures, get them transferred into permanent storage right away. Don’t remove the card from your camera until you are in a clean, dry, well-lit location.
Use your card space wisely, too. Don’t fire the shutter so many times that you’ll have hundreds of images to sort through because you’ll end up filling the card quickly and not want to go through the tedious process of sorting them. Erase unwanted images as soon as possible, and you’ll reduce the chances of an overflowing card.
Viruses & Ransomware
The last thing we want to address is security. Your photos are at risk from hackers, and not because of what they’re worth to the hackers. Instead, they want the photos because of their value to you.
People treasure their photos, and if they stumble onto a piece of ransomware while surfing the internet, an anonymous hostage-taker can hold the contents of their hard drive until payment is received. If you want to save your photos and other files, you’ll have to pay. Viruses can also be destructive.
The old standards still apply here. Use good basic computer security to protect your photos. Keep virus software up to date. Use a firewall. Don’t open suspicious emails. Change passwords frequently, be careful about what wifi connections you use, and scan your computer regularly for malware.
Photos are an incredibly important part of our lives. We need to be as careful with them as we are with tangible valuables because they are just as irreplaceable. With some caution and good sense, your photos will be just fine.