Digital Photo Preservation

Digital photo preservation

Simple Steps for Preserving your Digital Photos for Future Generations

If your digital photos are hard for you to find how will future generations be able to access them?

Follow these simple steps from the Library of Congress to get started organizing and preserving your digital photos for future generations.

Archiving Tips

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

Further Information

Need help with the basics?

Learn How to Transfer Photos from Your Camera to Your Computer (PDF, 213 Kb)

Archiving Digital Photos
In this video, Phil Michel, Digital Conversion Coordinator at the Library of Congress's Prints & Photographs division, offers practical advice on archiving digital photos.

The presentation was part of Personal Archiving Day at   the Library of Congress, held May 10, 2010, in conjunction with Preservation Week.

Adding Descriptions to Digital Photos: Your Gift to the Future

This 3 minute video from Library of Congress explains how to add descriptions (sometimes called metadata) to your digital photographs.

Mission Possible: An Easy Way to Add Descriptions to Digital Photos
A very informative blog post by Mike Ashenfelder about the complexities of adding descriptions to photos.  He explains why it’s much more difficult than it should be and what can be done to make the process easier in the future.

File Format Migration:
The American Society of Media Photographers researched ways to streamline and improve the process, production and preservation of commercial digital artwork.  Although the information is intended for professional photographers, the discussion of digital file formats may be useful for enthusiastic  amateur photographers and those concerned with long term preservation.

Digital Prints
Image Permanence Institute
Preserving Digital Memory Files, Saving Digital Prints, and Saving Digital Storage Media