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Digital Preservation

The Library of Congress > Digital Preservation > Personal Archiving > Digital Photographs

Keeping Personal Digital Photographs

Photos have rich personal meaning. And photos are unique: if they are lost, the information they provide can never be replaced.

VIDEO: Phil Michel, Digital Conversion Coordinator from the Library of Congress's Prints & Photographs division, offers advice on archiving digital photos.

Archiving Tips

Identify where you have digital photos

  • Identify all your digital photos on cameras, computers and removable media such as memory cards.
  • Include your photos on the Web.

Decide which photos are most important

  • Pick the images you feel are especially important.
  • You can pick a few photos or many.
  • If there are multiple versions of an important photo, save the one with highest quality.

Organize the selected photos

  • Give individual photos descriptive file names.
  • Tag photos with names of people and descriptive subjects .
  • Create a directory/folder structure on your computer to put the images you picked.
  • Write a brief description of the directory structure and the photos.

Make copies and store them in different places

  • Make at least two copies of your selected photos—more copies are better.
  • One copy can stay on your computer or laptop; put other copies on separate media such as DVDs, CDs, portable hard drives, thumb drives or Internet storage.
  • Store copies in different locations that are as physically far apart as practical. If disaster strikes one location, your photographs in the other place should be safe.
  • Put a copy of the photo inventory with your important papers in a secure location.
  • Check your photos at least once a year to make sure you can read them.
  • Create new media copies every five years or when necessary to avoid data loss.

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