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Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 2,151
Registered: ‎11-14-2012

Re: Where do you store your photos?

The fact of the matter is there are several great ways to do it but none are guaranteed to stand the test of time all of the time. Printed photos burn in house fires every single day of the year.

"A skill is developed through constant practice with a passion to improve, not bought."
Super Contributor
Posts: 175
Registered: ‎01-31-2017

Re: Where do you store your photos?

Waddizzle wrote:

John_SD wrote:
You guys who are relying on disk drives and SD cards for long-term storage are looking at disaster in one fell swoop when those devices fail.

I shoot hundreds of photos every week.  What is your suggestion?

My approach and view of the matter may be different from yours, Waddizzle, as I am certain that based on your years of experience, you are a much better photographer than I am. Thus, you may want to save all of your shots. 


I am a serial deleter, and have no problem removing inferior shots, or simply not caring about them. Other guys are at the opposite extreme and fall in love with every junk shot they take. I don't know which end of the spectrum you fall on, but for me, if I take 300 shots, I have no problem deleting 295 of them and keeping the 5 good ones -- or at least the few that would mean the most to me. One or two of those, I will send off for printing. I suggest that every photographer who has a childlike faith in the eternal perfection of hard drives and backups do the same, as they will eventually lose their images one day due to mechanical failure or a company failing and going out of business.


Print the good ones or the ones that mean the most to you and keep them in photo albums. A hundred years from now your ancestors will be thankful for your foresight. And it will give them a glimpse into a world that will mean a great deal to them. At least that is the way I feel about the photo albums passed down in our family. 

Super Contributor
Posts: 175
Registered: ‎01-31-2017

Re: Where do you store your photos?

[ Edited ]

cicopo wrote:

The fact of the matter is there are several great ways to do it but none are guaranteed to stand the test of time all of the time. Printed photos burn in house fires every single day of the year.

You are correct, cicopo. There are no guarantees in life. House fires do happen. But hardware failures happen a lot more. Print. 

Frequent Contributor
Posts: 82
Registered: ‎07-23-2017

Re: Where do you store your photos?

As I understand, even those records carved into stone have, for the most part, not passed the test of time all that well. Sure, some have, but only a fraction of what were created. (Look up the destruction of the Library of Alexandria.) Even since the dawn of photography, the vast majority of photos (and negatives) have been lost for a variety of reasons. My grandfather was an avid photographer in the early 20th century. No one knows what happened to all his photos and negatives. 


As others point out, they often take hundreds of pictures per week. With today's large form size, that adds up to a lot of storage. Suggesting that we delete those sub-par is fine if you have very set standards. Most of us prefer to keep most of our shots. In my personal case, I only delete those obviously out of focus or where only my feet are in the frame. So instead of keeping five, I delete five.


I'm not worried that my storage devices will ultimately fail or their system be replaced. We have done that repeatedly throughout the ages. We managed to survive. If my HDD storage fails, it won't be the end of the world. If my heirs want to keep my collection, they will update the storage.

Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 2,996
Registered: ‎06-11-2013

Re: Where do you store your photos?

The drawback with "printing" is that the image goes from digital form with (if it's  a RAW file) 14-bits of color depth... to a non-digital sheet of paper.  So you do lose quite a bit of ability to work with that image in the future and any scan of it wont be as good as the original.


Paper and Ink are also "expensive" compared to the cost of a backup hard drive.  Simple mechanical drive (no enclosure) is less than $50 per 1TB.  That's pretty cheap compared to the price of ink (a full set of ink cartridges will cost more than $50 and wont produce nearly as many prints as can be stored on a hard drive.


So buy a drive and make sure you have a 2nd copy of each image.  Problem solved.  If you're worried about floods, store the drives in a water-tight Pelican case.  If you're worried about fire, you can get a fire safe.  You can also store the backup drives off-site (a family member, a friend, etc.)  


A lot of software that handles digital asset management has the ability to manage "offline" storage.  It'll store a small JPEG thumbnail preview of each image, but it knows which physical drive has the full-size RAW.  That means even if your offline storage isn't with you, at least you know which hard drive spindle has your data and can quickly retrieve it.


I use a 4-disk storage array with a RAID-5 type filesystem.  RAID-5 (RAID = Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) is a way of storing blocks of data spread across all but one of the spindles... the final spindle has a XOR'd value of the contents of the other spindles.  The algorithm is such that ANY sinlge drive in the array can fail completely and when you replace that spindle the array has the ability to completely rebuild the integrity of the data ... guaranteeing that you will not have lost any data.  it's quite clever.  One risk to keep in mind is that since all drives are the same make, model, and age... they all wear at roughly the same rate.  So when one drive fails... odds are high that the remaining spindles will not be long for this world.  But the solution is to just proactively replace all the spindles.  Replace the failed spindle, let the array rebuild it, then replace the next one and let the array rebuild that, etc... and as long as you do it one-at-a-time you will lose nothing.


I had a 4-drive array with 1TB drives and I wanted to grow the array to use 2TB drives... and it let me replace each drive one-at-a-time ... but once the final drive was swapped, it prompted me to reboot the array so it could "grow" the filesystem to double my space ... it didn't take long.


There are only two types of hard drives in the world:


1)  Those that HAVE failed

2)  Those that are GOING to fail.


There is no third category.  Everything WILL fail... it's just a matter of time.  Each time you drive your cars, you put wear on your tires.  You may not notice much wear from a single ride... but add up the wear of all the drives you take and eventually those tires will go bald and... eventually blow.  Hard drives are exactly the same.  They aren't supposed to last forever.  Even Solild State fails after enough writes (although I'd never buy an expensive high performance drive for backups.)


Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da
Frequent Contributor
Posts: 57
Registered: ‎09-13-2014

Re: Where do you store your photos?

Interesting comments, although 100 years from now storage devices will be beyond any technology we can even imagine at this point in time, I am more concerned about cyclical redundancy, you can only loose your data if you have single source, single location...
I have a 24 TB NAS server (8 - 3 TB Drives) configured to Raid 6 (16 TB usable), which allows for the simultaneous failure of 2 hard drives, the odds of which are slim, that being said my free space iz currently at 10 TB, I purchased 3 - 4 TB Western Digital portable hard drives (about $120.00 each), I can easily fit all of my photography collection on a 4 TB drive, so I have my server, and an a extra backup on site and off-site, I update the portables each month by copying to the on-site, then switching with the off-site and copying to that one.
Every few years I upgrade my primary server, every few years the technology in portable drives improves, even recently the best advance was the elimination of the external power source, which was the primary cause of failure.
Keep your storage technology current and your practices logical and redundant and your data will be preserved, and one more tidbit, do not get rid of your older storage devices, it is rarely the actual disc that fails, it is the other mechanism parts that do, I have had to perform a surgical removal of the Winchester Disks from a failed hard drive and put them into another drive case to extract the data, the Disks themselves rarely fail unless of actual heat from fire or corrosive elements or the dreaded intense magnetic field exposure.
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