Monday, February 01, 2010

How do you archive your images? (MAM Poll Results)

How do you archive your images?
copyright Katherine Tyrrell / Making A Mark

The Making A Mark Poll for January was about how you archive your images. The results show a very marked preference for use of external hard drives for archiving images - and a significant number of people with no archive at all!

Above you can see a chart of the results. Right click and open in a new tab to see a larger version.

90 people responded to the January poll which is a much lower number than is usual for these monthly polls. I suspect there's a possibility of people ducking the question and avoiding the question of what they have - or, more likely, have not done - about an image archive.

People were offered a number of options and offered a multiple choice option. So although 90 people responded the count of options 'ticked' was 162 meaning that if you exclude the people with no archive at all (ie they only archive on their internal hard drive - which could die at any minute!) then those who are archiving are using at least two methods.

Why read on? Let me tell you a story.

I was doing a workshop once with a very prominent artist who had recently had a major retrospective exhibition of work done over the last 30 years. The exhibition involved calling in work sold in the past to very many collectors. It was a once in a lifetime assembly of these images. The artist carefully made a record of all the artwork on a good quality camera and then uploaded the images to the hard drive and deleted them from the camera's digital storage card. No archive was made. Within a short space of time the computer died. Efforts were made to retrieve the contents of the hard drive but this proved impossible. So the complete record of the retrospective exhibition was lost - forever.

Ever since then I've paid a lot of attention to how I archive images. Which doesn't mean to say I'm the best in the world but at least I've thought about it and use multiple methods - which I'll summarise at the end

Commentary on the poll results

60% use an external hard drive as one of their archive methods and this was by far the most popular option for an archive.

18% archive on their internal hard drive ONLY. I personally wouldn't count this as an archive at all as computers have a habit of failing. When they do it's sometimes the case that they eliminate the contents of the hard drive. It's always best to archive to another format if the images are important to you.

CDs and DVDs were the second most popular method of witing images to an archive - but people were split evenly as to their use of rewritable and write once only formats. 23% use on CD-R, DVD-R or DVD+R (ie "write once only") and 23% use any format. The problem with the latter is that you (or somebody else) might record over important records when trying to find a CD to record to

20% archive to a USB Memory Stick. I was quite surprised by the number of people using this format - mainly because of my experiences of knowing people who lose their USB memory stick! It's always struck me that the advantages of a memory stick lean towards portability rather than security. If this is your only method of archive you might want to consider what your fall-back position is if you lost that memory stick!

Use of the Internet as a method of archiving images appears less popular - but in my opinion is likely to grow. Relatively few people are using the internet to archive images either in an image service - such as Flickr - or a digital archive service (often called ' vault').
  • 16% used an ordinary Photo account (limits on data storage and uploads)
  • 10% used a Pro Photo account (unlimited storage)
  • 9% used a digital vault
I predict that this option will become more and more popular as broadband gets faster and faster. The problem with archiving in this way is it needs to be done systematically and the upload software needs to work! Plus of course the account needs to be maintained - the images are only available so long as you pay the annual fee! In terms of £ per gigabyte stored I regard this as being a very cheap option when compared to external hard drives, USBs or digital image cards. It also doesn't get lost!

What I do


I keep images in folders for specific works and then file these folders in artwork folders for calendar years. These get copied to an external hard drive periodically. Periodically I copy images to a write once only CD. I upload reference photos from important camera shoots to my Flickr Pro account. If very important I also keep them on the original digital SD card. A website or blog is also a useful archive of web ready images!

Good practice is to always use two methods for archiving or archive in two different places.

Having read the poll results will you be changing your archive practices?

Note: I'm currently having problems with my vision and am typing this with a patch over my left eye. Posting for the next week might be a bit lightweight to non-existent.



The Art of the Landscape

1 comment:

EdieB said...

Thank you - this a every important reminder for all of us - I learned the hard way -

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