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Old Aug 8, 2011, 7:03 PM   #1
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Default Life of digital pictures

I wonder what the lifespan of digital photographs would be:

  • on DVDs
  • On Hard Drives
  • As printed pictures
  • On flash drives
  • Other systems
I ask this question as other photographers have indicated to me, that digital pictures colours fade...pretty well on any storage system or as a printed picture.

I have some film pictures I developed in B+W...back in the early 70's that still look ok....I also have some film pictures that are in colour from the mid to late 60's that have not faded appreciably.

They have been stored in photo albums, etc...some were framed and hung on walls and still seem to be fine.

I think most of them were processed either with Kodak or Fuji processing.


So...can I expect my digital pictures...both B+W and colour to give similar life as my old film based pictures ?
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Old Aug 8, 2011, 7:39 PM   #2
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Hi Lesmore49,

Theoretically, pictures stored on DVD, CD, Hard Drive (in other words digitally) shouldn't lose colour. Not like printed pictures. All the colours get recorded as bits (ones and zeros) and as long as that doesn't get corrupted, then the colours shouldn't change.

But DVDs and CDs won't last forever and are subject to failure themselves (if you scratch them enough, if they are put through tough environments or if they are left long enough.) So I keep two sets of DVDs. One on site. If that fails, I still have a 2nd copy at my parents.

To protect a bit against the storage medium failing, every time there's been a change in what is affordable, I've copied my images to the new medium. Originally I stored my pictures on 3.5" floppy diskettes. When Zip disks were affordable, I copied everything to that. When CD burners were affordable, I moved my images to that. And now, 15 years later, I'm at DVDs.

The other thing people are worried about with keeping digital RAW files is that eventually the codecs to decode the RAW files might disappear, rendering access to the RAW file impossible. (So I also store a JPG version of pictures along with the RAW files I save. And I save a copy of my picture viewer / converter on CD along with my back-up files.)

The added benefit of storing digital is that you can have multiple copies of the same quality image files to store at two different locations. And for me, with 2 daughters, I will be able to give a complete set of images to each of them of their childhoods. [Which is the biggest reason I'm trying to preserve these images in the 1st place.]

Take care, Glen
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Old Aug 8, 2011, 7:43 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lesmore49 View Post
I wonder what the lifespan of digital photographs would be:
As long as you can store the numbers, digital photographs will last
forever.

Quote:
I ask this question as other photographers have indicated to me, that digital pictures colours fade...pretty well on any storage system or as a printed picture.
A printed picture will fade eventually. A digital picture stored in a
fine stays as good as new for as long as you can preserve the
file integrity.


Quote:
So...can I expect my digital pictures...both B+W and colour to give similar life as my old film based pictures ?
It is irrelevant whether the digital file contains colour information or
just B&W. Archival grade CD-R are rated for 30-100 years. Archival
grade DVD-R has similar ratings.

So yes, your digital pictures can last for a century and probably
much longer if you make multiple backups and store the media
under ideal conditions.

As digital storage capacity and price is falling steadily, you will
find that it is easy to move your files from CD, DVD or Blu-ray to
whatever technology comes next. Obviously, there would be little
point in having a perfectly preserved CD-R in the year 2111 if there
were no working CD drives left in the world.
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Old Aug 9, 2011, 10:56 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tacticdesigns View Post
Hi Lesmore49,
...
The added benefit of storing digital is that you can have multiple copies of the same quality image files to store at two different locations. And for me, with 2 daughters, I will be able to give a complete set of images to each of them of their childhoods....
A good example of preserving things by giving them away - duplicates for photos, cuttings/seeds/sprouts/... for plants.
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Old Aug 9, 2011, 12:51 PM   #5
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If you store digitally then as said above they last forever or until the hard drive crashes so its a case of securing your data. so look at a raid or mirror backup solution
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Old Aug 9, 2011, 1:27 PM   #6
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Flash drives gradually lose the charge which maintains the data, with about 10 years being the limit without being connected to a power source. DVD and CD organic dyes fade with exposure to light and temperature/humidity changes. Without a controlled environment, don't expect more than 10 years from this medium. Hard drives, when they are not in use, will retain data indefinitely. Problems arise from physical shock and electronics problems when they are in use.
Prints from some pigment ink printers, on quality paper, are estimated to have a life of up to 100 years, framed behind glass and kept from direct sunlight. Inside a photo album, who knows?

brian
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Old Aug 9, 2011, 4:41 PM   #7
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Thank you to all for the info provided. I appreciate it.

I have a Lacey Hard drive right now, which seems to do a good job....it's about 2 years old. What I'm thinking about is buying another Lacey Hard drive and ensure that I have a copy of every digital picture I have on both Hard Drives.

I only have my Hard Drive turned on and plugged into my computer when I'm transferring pictures from the computer to the Hard Drive.

My practice has been to transfer my digital pictures from my camera to my computer....to my hard drive, leaving no pictures on my memory cards or on my computer.

In order to have a backup system I think a good move would be to have two hard drives.

Opinions ?

When I bought my Lacey Hard Drive I was told by staff at two different camera stores that the Lacey unit was very good.
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Old Aug 9, 2011, 6:12 PM   #8
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I always store my finished images (once rotated/edited and titled) to both disc and hard drive. That way if one medium fails I have a backup in place. As for discs I have been using Memorex Brand with very good results. I tend to use Memorex DVD-Rs for the smaller projects and collections and Memorex BD-R (25GB Blue Ray Discs) for the larger projects such as full weddings and larger long term projects. Also been having good results with Seagate G-shock type hard drives.

dave
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Old Aug 9, 2011, 6:27 PM   #9
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There is another thread going on storing digital pictures, with lots of ideas. the main question being "How far do you want to take it?".
I ended up losing dozens of rolls of developed film, the prints, and etc. when my first wife and I split up. Have just a few photos from those times left. Nobody died, though, and the memories (including the good ones) are intact.
Lost over a half-year's worth of digital photos when a hard drive crashed irrecoverably, a couple years back. Again, nobody died.
I quit obsessing over this some time ago.

brian
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Old Aug 9, 2011, 7:05 PM   #10
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To some it means more than others... how far you need or want to take it, how much it would mean to you if you lost a years worth of digital photos. For me working for a local newspaper part time and doing a major project documenting the local high school construction project it is important to me that I not loose my photos so I have found the two different mediums to be a good best for me. The other thread mentioned has a lot of good info in and I would check it out.

dave
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