Saturday, August 16, 2008

Your photos, finally off the shelf . . .

. . . and onto portable media. A couple of days ago, a David Pogue piece in the New York Times focused on ScanMyPhotos.com, which will, for $50.00, digitize 1,000 of your home photos and place them on DVD.

ScanMyPhotos.com isn't the only company providing such services, which might be useful to people who want to produce digital copies of their photos but don't want to take the time to scan thousands of images at home. However, Pogue doesn't discuss the file format and dpi/ppi that ScanMyPhotos uses or the file naming conventions that it employs. According to its Photo Scanning FAQs, bulk scanning customers can receive their images in only one format and resolution (300 dpi JPEG only, at least for bulk scanning customers) and those who want their photos scanned in a specific order, vertical/horizontal orientation preserved, etc. , will have to pay extra. Detailed information about file naming conventions isn't available, but it's pretty evident from the FAQ's that the first image on each DVD is no. 1, the second is no. 2, and so on. Anyone sifting through 1,000 arbitrarily numbered files in search of that wonderful picture of Great Aunt Oona at the 1972 family reunion will have some work to do . . . .

Moreover, although he notes in passing that one advantage of digital photos is that they are "easily backed up," Pogue doesn't explain that the long-term survival of these images will require periodic intervention. Pogue's a sharp guy, and his readership is most likely more technologically savvy than the public as a whole. However, even people who understand, in a general way, that DVDs will eventually become obsolete, that storing backup media right next to the computer isn't a good idea, and that electronic storage media have wildly unpredictable lifespans sometimes fail to plan for the preservation of their data. A paragraph or two about the importance of creating multiple backups, storing backups well away from the computer (in a safe deposit box, at the home of a trusted relative or friend, or at the office), copying files from old media to new in accordance with a predetermined schedule or when replacing one's computer, and remaining abreast of changes in storage technology would have been extremely helpful.

Pogue's absolutely right that digital copies provide an added layer of protection for photos. The parents of a close friend of mine have spent the past few weeks cleaning up after a major house fire, and their family photos were either badly water-damaged or became what Pogue vividly calls "Toxic Photo Soup." They're heartbroken, and I'm sure that they would love to have digital copies of those images--even if said copies were in no discernable order, needed extensive descriptive/indexing work to be truly useful and accessible, and couldn't be used to produce good-quality enlargements. They would also doubtless appreciate some of the extra services (e.g., ability to create albums) that ScanMyPhotos.com and other vendors offer.

Pogue's piece concludes with a brief but very welcome discussion of preservation of photographic prints, and I'm glad that he recognizes the value of keeping the paper originals. I just wish that he had devoted a little attention to the preservation of digital files as well.

1 comment:

seanachaidh2 said...

This is great- thanks for writing this- I'd never heard about ScanMyPhotos.