Saturday, December 5, 2015

Make photo books to preserve digital photos in your phone - December 4, 2015

We are awash in photos. Once, families took a roll of 12 pictures on a week-long vacation. Today, some people take 12 photos before breakfast – mostly selfies and shots of their breakfast.

Yet, our children may have fewer pictures of us and their own childhoods then we do of our own parents and our childhoods.

The digital cameras in our phones are always with us. With no cost for film and the delay of processing, we are able to take multitudes of photos. Burst mode in many camera apps let us take a dozen photos of one single shot to get the one with the best look on the subject’s face or the right moment in an action shot.

We send the photos to Facebook to share with friends. The rest reside on our phone, until we replace the phone.

Perhaps you use an app such as Google Photos, Amazon, Facebook or others to back-up your photos to the cloud.

So how can I say few photographs will be available for the next generation to view?

The sheer number of photos will be daunting. Imagine pulling up a loved ones photos and scrolling through the first hundred, and you’re still looking at the same vacation trip. That would get old fast.

That is even supposing the photos will even survive.

Who knows if Facebook or Google will even exist in 30 years. Internet companies rise fast – Facebook would still be in elementary school if it were a kid – and fall even faster.

Even juggernauts such as Google – only 17 years old – might have a change of ownership or control and decides to get out of the photo storage business.

And, technology changes. Will the formats we store photos in, such as JPEG or .jpg still be readable by computers in 30 years?

I’ve been mulling this problem for a while as have historians. Historians are fearful our generation may be recording more information than any other, yet leave less behind that historians can use in a generation or two.

Stored data will be lost due to technology failure, corporate changes and loss of support for the technology storing the data. The same is true of our photos.

I heard a tech mogul turned professional photographer speak about this problem on a recent podcast. His solution was an elegant one.

And old fashioned.

Photo prints. More than that, photo books.

He suggests that once a year, your family sits down and selects from their mass of photos, a small selection that best represents your year.

It will be hard, but who better to gauge the best photos then the ones who took them. Gather not only the photos shot by the parents, but if your kids are taking photos too on their own phones, ask them to send you ones they would like to keep. Give them a quota to force them to be selective.

Once you have the photos, maybe a hundred at most for the year, take a look around at photo book services.

Most stores with a Photo Department such as Walgreen’s, CVS, Costco, Walmart can make a photo book for you.

The professionals strongly suggested printing to acid-free paper. Acid-free paper will decay much slower than conventional paper. We are in this for the long haul; we want our great-grandchildren to have these photos. Pay a little extra to preserve these photos.

I searched online for “acid-free photo books printing” and found many sources.

Many come with apps for designing your book online. Just upload the photos, position them on the pages, add captions and hit submit.

The books come in a variety of sizes and covers. Looking forward 10 or more years, you can’t be sure the same company will be available or there will be the same cover choices. I’d keep it simple, so that if covers do change, it won’t be so glaring on the bookshelf.

And as easy as it is to make one book, you can make copies for grandparents or one for each child to take eventually with them to their own homes.

And despite what I said about long-term survivability of digital photos, I’d still make a DVD of each year’s collection of photos. They will be enjoyable for the next several years at least.

And, I’d consider taking a photo of each page, and post that to Facebook for friends to share your year-in-review.
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