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Are Digital Storage Devices 
Stealing Your Business Pictures?

By L. Douglas Keeney

Think about the last time you looked for a picture at work. Was it easy to find? Probably not. Despite the increasing amount of digital cameras sold, few people are uploading and storing these photos in a way that’s organized and accessible. In the workplace, digital pictures are used for everything, from brochures to websites, headshots to media kits. Whether the pictures are new or old, they are an important part of doing business today. Having the proper storage for your pictures is a necessity.

Billions of Digital Pictures Lost: This year more than 24 billion images will be snapped, up from 18 billion in 2005 – but if the past is any indication of the future, almost all of these pictures will remain on a digital storage device. Therein lays the problem. The truth is, after almost a decade with digital cameras, as many as 50 billion photographs may be AWOL – AWOL on lost memory sticks, corrupted hard drives, misplaced CDs, or inside storage devices that have sputtered out and are now lifeless.

The first myth of digital picture taking is that electronic storage is a good thing for photographs. Not true. The expected life of a CD or a DVD under totally ideal conditions is a measly 60 years and while you get a more from a memory stick, how often have you lost one? As old fashioned it may seem, a plain-vanilla, processed print on professional paper is the surest way to preserve your memories for generations to come. Why is that? Photo papers have a shelf life of more than 108 years – and, however cluttered they make a desk drawer, they’re a lot harder to loose. So, if digital storage devices have been stealing your pictures, its time to do something about it. It’s time to start making permanent prints.

Step 1: Find Your Photographs: Gather up all of those wafer thin memory sticks and load them into your computer. If you don’t have a stick drive, go to your local electronics store and buy any of the several available plug-and-play external drives. They’ll cost less than $100 and fit into your USB port. Now, load your hard drive, sort them all out, find the best, ignore the rest, and get ready to print.

Step 2. Select a Processor: Although you no longer have a roll of film you still want good looking prints. By that I mean, no pixilation, bright colors, vibrant whites and solid blacks. But how? Do I make a CD and haul myself up to the local drugstore or do I click on a web site somewhere on the Internet and upload my treasures to a nameless, faceless place with some cute little name? Or, for heavens sake, do I just print them at home? There are pluses and minuses to each.

Kiosks: Nowadays it seems like there’s a print processing kiosk everywhere you go – and the nice thing is, they’ll all give you an excellent print, although they do have limitations. You can only make a print as large as the width of the roll of paper inside the machine which is usually a print only as large as an 8”X10” (after that, you’re out of luck). It can be awkward to work on your photos while others are in line behind you. Alternatively, Wal-Mart and Walgreens, among others, have launched web sites that let you upload your pictures from your home and pick them up later. Not a bad idea if you want privacy.

Home Printing: Digital cameras have given consumers unprecedented control over their photographs but the industry has failed miserably when it comes to educating consumers about the nuances of print processing. For instance, as tempting as it is to use your home printer, most people fail to realize that a rich, film-quality photographic print is still something that starts in a darkroom (no kidding!) and takes as much as an hour of calibrations before the print machine makes the emulsions on the papers print a real “red” when your photo has a real red. However, the absolute convenience of home printing more than offsets the quality of the colors, which for some casual photographers are not that important anyway.

Online Web sites: Online web sites such as Snapfish and Shutterfly and Myphotopipe let you do it all from your desktop. You upload your photograph, select a print size, enter your credit card number and the prints arrive at your doorstep in a matter of days. Unfortunately, not all online sites are the same. Many sites are just marketing vehicles and don’t actually print your photographs. Instead, they send your pictures to a centralized “factory” and grind them out. Some web sites are oriented towards gifts, others are volume discounters, and a few offer professional processing which includes hand inspections. Ask a few questions before you select yours.

Be sure you know what you’re getting: According to statistics compiled from customers using online services, one of the most frequent mistakes a consumer makes is to confuse matte and glossy. Matte should probably be renamed “dull,” because the finish is “flat.” Glossy is still, well, glossy.

Then there is the swimmer who has no hands. No matter how you do the math, when you take a standard 4X6” image and enlarge to 8X10” you’re going to loose two inches. Thankfully, there’s a solution to this, which is called print-to-fit. Print-to-fit means your entire photograph will “float” on the paper. Many online services offer this option but remember to tell them if you want the white areas trimmed off (most do it for free).

Of course, the most confusing thing is the pixel. Why anyone decided to measured photo sizes by pixels instead of inches or millimeters is a mystery to me but at the end of the day, the thing to remember is this – when you take a photograph, don’t take any chances. Shoot it big and save it big. When you look back and discover you have the world’s greatest shot, you want to be at least 99.99% sure that it can be blown up into a beautiful enlargement.

No matter what you’re using these pictures for, it’s important to have the proper storage to preserve them so future generations will have the opportunity to access and utilize the power of your images.

Read other articles and learn more about L. Douglas Keeney.

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