NEXT MEETING …    7:30pm   Thursday 23rd January 2020

Shuffell Trophy Round 3: Two PDIs, subject Open

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… for AV presentations: 23rd Jan – To complete Form via website and then Upload or Hand-in on named memory stick. or contact us

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We all learn what backups are – but normally only just after our computer has been hit by a virus or it’s hard drive has died.  Archives are frequently confused with backups, but have a totally different purpose.  Put simply…

  • backups are short term copies to restore your files after some disaster
    • (hence you need to backup regularly)
  • archives are for keeping files safe, orderly and to a non-obsolete standard for the indefinite future

Imagine yourself delving into an ancient relative’s attic and finding prints from fifty or perhaps a hundred years ago.  You may even recognise yourself or your parents!  But that won’t happen with digital photos – after a decade or three, CD’s, DVD’s or hard drives will all have decayed and anyway, the standards will all have changed.  Remember 45’s, LP’s, cassette tapes, Super8 cine, Betamax, or even VHS?  They all pass.  Oh, and by the way, printing your photos is not much better unless you’re careful but do keep your most treasured photos as professional prints in a quality album.  Most inkjets fade pretty quickly and even some commercial photo processes are now only inkjet-based: pigment inks are better than dye-based ones.

So how do you protect your valuable digital images against long term degradation and obsolesence as well as the short term threats of computer disaster?  Well, it can be done quite simply by combining archiving with backups.  This way you never totally forget your old photos because they are kept on your current computer so you have a chance to convert them to the latest image or storage standard, or to move them to a brand new computer.  (By the way, jpg has only been around for so long because jpg2000 failed to take off!)

Rule 1: Archive your photos each year into meaningful folders or directories – never use a photo-cataloguing system because the software won’t exist in 10 or 20 year’s time to read your cataloguing.  A simple folders (directories) structure organised by time (year, month or quarter) is generally best, with sub-folders covering any major events such as weddings, holidays, etc.

Rule 2: Keep your archive along with your current galleries/albums and new photos on the same hard drive – for most people this is your C:\ drive or “My Pictures”.  This means at least they won’t be forgotten when you buy a new computer which uses mass storage with a different interface standard.  (You don’t have any photos stored on old HDD parallel interface IDE or SATA1 discs do you?).  If you find you’re having to “archive” your photos onto a CD or DVD because your c:\ hard drive is too full, it’s time to buy a new disc for less than £50!

Rule 3: Backup your whole computer hard drive, including your current galleries/albums AND archive photos at least once a year.  This is the secret – combine your archiving with your normal storage and backups.

Rule 4: Always use the biggest USB external storage drive you can reasonably buy for around £50 – today that means at least 500 GB (gigabyte ~ 1GB=1000 Megabyte) or even 1.5TB (terabyte ~ 1TB=1000 GB).  So you must forget CDs or DVDs except for short term use.  Ideally  your backups should be far more frequent than once a year but 3 or 4 times a year is far far better than none.  Assuming you store only jpg’s from a modern camera, you’re likely to only get 400 or so images per GB, so a 1TB drive could hold potentially 400,000 shots.  However since you will want to keep at least three backups, you’ll only have room for 100,000 shots along with your other computer files and email.  This sounds plenty but quite a few very keen amateurs, or those with many cameras in the family, will soon accumulate rather more than this.

Rule 5: Use quality open source or at least free software that is unlikely to go out of date in the immediate future.  And make sure you can browse through the individual backups so you can recover a single file if need be – this gives you a lot of confidence that the backup really does work and is valid.  There are many excellent options for software – see LINK but I currently use Macrium Reflect Free.  No software will survive for ever but provided you only make total backups ( incremental or differential backups are only for you if you are a professional computer user), it won’t matter if you have to change to something else next year.

  • In summary, any backups you do are to protect your files against disaster in the forthcoming year.  Each time you do a full backup, the previous backup is kept as the father, and the one before that, the grandfather.  Any older ones can be deleted.
  • In each backup, you will also have all your carefully archived photos which are also stored on your current computer.  So if any major change happens to image or computing standards, it’ll be easier to convert them to the new standard.  Don’t rely on keeping RAW files – in 20 year’s time today’s RAW files won’t be recognised by Adobe or whatever.  Use DNG (a digital negative standard) instead.
  • A final tip  –  provided you don’t take too many photos and have quite a big memory card in your camera  –  is not to delete your photos from the card until you need to.  Perhaps just before a big event or holiday?  That way, your camera card acts as a further backup for your more recent shots if your PC suffers disaster before you have got round to doing a proper backup.  To wipe the card totally, use your camera’s reformat command via it’s menu.

For reference, my own folder structure…

My Pictures


/sub folders as to project or topic with images to be worked on.

/_Shoebox prints

/sub-folders by year + quarter

/sub-folders by topic


/sub-folders by camera

/sub-folders by image number (also includes RAW files)

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