Storing Digital Photos > Storage Options

Storing Your Digital Photographs

Permanent and temporary archive solutions

Memory cards do not always work perfectly.

Just like any digital storage device, they can experience errors that cause all of the data on them to be lost. If you've ever opened a film camera without rewinding the film, you've been in a similar situation: all those great vacation photos are gone, never to return.

This should not happen frequently — if it does, you probably have a bad memory card and need to get it replaced. Most memory cards can be used over and over hundreds of times without ever losing a single digital photograph.

However, for the wary and the cautious, there are plenty of storage alternatives to ensure that all of your important photos are preserved.

Internal and External Hard Drives

Internal and external hard drives attached to your computer are the easiest and most common way to save your growing collection of digital photographs. Once you transfer images from memory card to computer, the memory card can be cleaned off and reused over and over again.

SPECIAL NOTE: We recommend that you reformat your memory card whenever you have moved the files off of it. If you're not sure how to reformat, refer to your camera's manual — there should be instructions about how to do this. Reformatting the card ensures that all the data has been cleaned off, and seems to prevent errors in the long run.

Once the photos are on your computer hard drive, you can name them, sort them, edit them or anything else that you'd like to do. The only drawback of keeping all of your photos on your hard drive, is that hard drives can fail just like memory cards. If your hard drive fails, you lose a lot more than just a day's worth of photos.

Since this is possible, consider backing up your photos with one of the more permanent storage devices below.

CD Burner

You can purchase either an internal or external CD burner for your computer. Many computers today ship with a built in drive that can burn CDs. If you have purchased a computer within the past year, you probably already have a CD burner.

A CD burner lets you copy all of your photographs onto a CD. While CDs can have problems of their own, they hold data much better than hard drives because they are not being used constantly. Many CDs are designed to store information accurately for 100 years. By then, who knows what technology will be available?

The maximum capacity of a CD is 700 MegaBytes. If each of your photo files has an approximate size of 2 MB (average for most consumer digital cameras), then you can archive 350 photos onto a CD.

ProsCons
  • Blank CDs are cheap
  • Burning a CD is easy with today's software
  • CD burners are inexpensive
  • Burning a CD is fast — most burners can write data to a CD at 20x speed
  • CDs fill up fast so you need a lot to store your photo collection

DVD Burner

Here is a gross oversimplification: DVDs are CDs with more storage space.

DVD burners are more sophisticated than there CD counterparts, but the essential process is the same. DVDs are a permanent storage medium that hold a lot more data than a CD: 4 GigaBytes vs. 700 MegaBytes (about 6 times more!).

This means that if you can store 350 photos on a single CD, you can store approximately 2,100 digital photographs on a single DVD.

ProsCons
  • Substantial permanent storage (4 GigaBytes)
  • Blank DVDs are (relatively) cheap
  • DVDs are more complicated to burn than CDs
  • DVDs take longer to burn than CDs — most burners can only write at 4x speed

USB Flash Drives

Flash memory devices are basically tiny portable hard drives (about the size of a stick of chewing gum).

It is incredibly easy to transfer files from your computer onto one of these devices. You plug the flash drive into your computer's USB port, and copy files onto it.

Flash drives are less permanent than CDs and DVDs, since they operate more like hard drives. The best part about them is their portability. Consider using one to carry photos over to a friend's house instead of a permanent backup device.

Portable Storage Devices

These small contraptions can go with you wherever you go, unlike something that is permanently tethered to your computer. They are all light and battery operated so that you don't have to be near electricity to use them.

Look ma, no wires! All of the devices allow you to transfer photos off of a memory card without a computer. The devices have slots for different types of memory cards. Just insert your memory card, and transfer images straight to your portable storage device.

You pretty much have two choices when going on a long vacation with your digital camera: purchase additional memory cards so that you don't run out, or get a portable storage device. Since these storage devices have a much larger capacity than most memory cards, you can transfer your photos every evening, clear the card and be ready to shoot some more photos in the morning. No extra memory cards required.

Multimedia Storage Albums

These devices not only let you store your digital photos, they also have LCD screens so that you can preview your photos. After you have transferred your photos off of your memory card, you can view each photo in turn and decide right there whether or not you want to keep it.

They come in a variety of storage capacities, and have different compatibility with the major types of memory cards. Some of the more popular storage albums: the Delkin eFilm PicturePad, Epson P-2000 and the SmartDisk FlashTrax.

Portable CD Burners

Portable CD burners allow you to backup photos like a storage album, but they don't have LCD screens and they suffer from the limited capacity of the CD (700 MegaBytes vs. up to 80 GigaBytes for a storage album).

The benefit of a CD burner is that CDs are fairly permanent media. Imagine if you had saved 1,000 photos from a trip onto your multimedia storage album, and the drive failed. All 1,000 of your photos would be permanently lost.

When you burn a CD, you can rest assured that the photos on the CD will not be lost, unless the CD is inexplicably cut in half. Unless this happens, your photos should be completely safe.

Since a single CD can only store about 350 photos, it also means that should you happen to lose one, then you have only lost a limited number of photos, and not every single last one.

Some common portable CD burners you can consider are the Apacer Disc Steno, the Kanguru FC-RW and the MicroSolutions RoadStor

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