I started this as a rant on the woes of the ever-increasing space demands of digital media, but turned into a sort of primer.
Do you use a digital camera? Do you scan in your film photos? If so, and you’ve been doing this for any length of time, then you know how much fun it is keeping photo files organized and backed up.
You’re not backing up your photos? Please start now. Copy them to another hard drive, put them on a CD or a DVD. Something. Anything. You can lose pictures forever if you do not have a backup plan.
If you copy some photos to an optical disk of some kind, don’t rely on that as the only copy. The CD’s and DVD’s you create today are not infallible. I’ve placed a CD in my drive, and other drives, only to find that the data on it is inaccessible. I was lucky it was only some freeware I could download again, but it could just as easily have been photos.
So, you say that storing all those photos is starting to take up too much space? The moment you copy photos from your camera onto your computer, before you’ve deleted them from the memory card, look through them and weed out the pictures you do not want. This should not be hard for most folks, as even the pros shoot frame upon frame to get the “right” shot. This can save an enormous amount of space. If you do not do it right away, then you probably will not do it.
Once you have weeded out the pics you don’t want, make a second copy of the keepers somewhere (remember that backup I was talking about). Then, and only then, should you clear the memory card, and you should do that within the camera, not with your computer. Otherwise, you can end up with a card that the camera will not read correctly.
You can, of course, weed through the pictures in the camera, before you even copy them to the hard drive. If you have a large number of pictures, though, this can be fairly time-consuming and you cannot always tell from the small LCD whether a picture is a keeper.
Do you shoot digital video and then download it to your computer? If so, then all of the above apply, but deleting the parts you don’t want is trickier. You can use a video editor to cut them down, and then save the final cut onto the hard drive. Windows Movie Maker 2 (freely downloadable from Microsoft) is pretty good. Otherwise, use something like Pinnacle Studio or another of the products in that range. Mac users, you have the excellent iMovie. Enough said there.
Then, if you have the capability, output your edited video to DVD. Most modern DVD players will play DVD’s you make yourself, and it is a great way to share you videos. Remember, though, that your miniDV camera records an image that is higher quality than a DVD, so just paying someone to archive your tapes to DVD will result in quality loss. Many people do not know that.
I encourage you to keep the original, whether on tape or on the hard drive. If you keep every minute of all your originals on a hard drive, then you will start using up hard drive space very quickly. I recommend you keep the original tapes and just buy a new tape when you fill one. Sure, archive the best moments to avoid losing them to tape damage and/or degradation, but keep the original tapes, too. Until there is some inexpensive way of archiving the full-quality original, that seems the best way to do it.
This obviously is not meant as a comprehensive guide, but it was on my mind, and that’s why I have a blog.