Don't let your family history die on a hard drive!

July 07, 2017


Remember how we used to archive our photos? Those albums with the sticky pages that you pasted your prints into before putting them on a bookshelf, to be retrieved in those moments of nostalgia when you realize just how fast the kids are growing up. But that was the days before digital media gave us so many options. DVDs, thumbdrives, the cloud, social networking sites. The options seem endless so your photos will always be there, right?


Well..... let's take a look at how reliable all these options are.


Computer hard drive (Including backup drives)

Pros: Easy access, simple to share by email or social media if drive is installed in a computer. Fast access for editing.

Cons: Hard drives will die. About 25% will fail within four years. Data recovery is expensive if possible at all.

Average Lifetime: 4-5 years


Optical Media (CD/DVD/BR)

Pros: Cheap, easy to store.

Cons: Fragile. Not handy to access. Impending obsolescence.

Average lifetime: 1-5 years.


USB Thumb drive/SD Card

Pros: Solid state, reasonably durable, will stand up to being used better than optical media. Format likely to have a long lifespan.

Cons: Small size is easy to misplace. Less easy to label. More expensive than optical drives.

Average lifetime: If used only as an archive the lifespan can be decades but if data on it is constantly being written and erased, 10 years.


Cloud storage or gallery service. (Dropbox/Flickr/zenfolio/etc)

Pros: Immune to physical dangers such as flood, fire, or vandalism. Can be accessed world wide. Can backup multiple devices.

Cons: "The cloud" is just someone else's computers, and these companies go bankrupt all the time. Images can vanish without warning.

Average lifetime: Depends on the financial health of the company hosting them.


Social Media

Pros: Simple uploading and sharing. Free. Easy to access from anywhere.

Cons: Images stored are a degraded image that doesn't print well. Arbitrary account decisions can lead to locked/deleted profiles.

Average lifetime: Facebook will probably be around for awhile, but what will they become in ten years? How are the pics you put on MySpace doing?



Retail Print from photo lab

Pros: Paying for prints forces you to sort out which photos are really worth keeping. Prints never go obsolete. 

Cons: Degrade quickly when stored or displayed improperly. For backup they need to be scanned if no digital copy exists.

Average lifetime: When stored properly in an album - 50-60 years.  Hung in a frame out of direct sun - 15-30 years.



Archival print from print shop

Pros: Long life. When taken care of will outlast any subject. Pigments last much longer than photo lab ink and produce a better image.

Cons: Can cost 5-10 times what a standard retail print costs. 

Average lifetime: Colour - 100-150 years. Black & White - up to 300 years.

Your old black and white prints could be hanging next to the transporter room!


My Recommendation:

- Print anything that is important to you and put it in an album.

- Have a backup copy of important photos on good quality thumb drives that you only use for this. Store them in labelled envelopes.

- Have a cloud storage backup. Flickr is fine for this.

- Really important images that you want archived for future generations should be turned into archival prints.


Not to get melancholy, but our own mortality plays into this too. If preserving your family history is important then you need to make prints. In the days after you pass away your family is going to go through your stuff (I'll wait while you clear your browser history). People are going to make sure your photo albums go to someone in the family that takes care of this sort of thing, but they're unlikely to check for an online storage account or spend days going through your DVDs.

People will try to tell you that the photographic print is a fragile thing that can be wiped out by fire, floods, or any variety of disaster, but you know what? These kinds of things will also mess up any of the other options to a degree. Hard drives don't do well in floods or lightning strikes. Heck, a poorly thought out vacuuming of your desk (Never let a vacuum touch a computer. They're giant static machines.) can wipe a hard drive. None of these options handle file successfully. Distributed cloud storage saves you here, but as I said above, it's a poor bet as your only backup.


The bottom line is that there's no easy answer to preserving your photographic memories, but if you aren't printing them, your life's record will probably vanish one day. That would be a tragedy.


Thanks very much to The Print Lab for info on archival prints. Other info came via Storage Craft, BlackBlaze, and PC World Magazine.


Image credits:

"Hard Drive" / Computer Problem" - Open Clipart Vectors (Public Domain)

"Japan Camera" - G. Aquitaine (Creative Commons)

"Enterprise" - Paramount Pictures (Fair Use)




Why you shouldn't buy photography gear for photographers at Christmas (or anytime).

December 12, 2016  •  Leave a Comment


Christmas shopping is well into it's peak mayhem of retail carnage and there are lots of people with photographers on their shopping list. What are the best gifts you can give the photographer in your family? I'll skip the formalities and cut to the chase below:


- Wine.

- Single malt Scotch.

- Gift cards.

- Anything but photography equipment.


Why would I say this you ask? Simple. You probably don't have any idea what they need or want. The chances of buying something completely inappropriate is incredibly high. What gear is appropriate to their specific needs and any one particular time can be mind boggling enough for the photographers themselves, but an outsider guessing the right thing is almost impossible. Even if they drop 1001 hints about really wishing they had a new 70-200 2.8 lens with image stabilization just like the one in the second shelf of the third case from the left at the local camera store, don't risk it. Find out how much it costs and get a gift card for that amount. Incidents of photographers thinking they need one thing but being corrected by a more knowledgeable salesperson is also rather high.

Let's turn the table for a minute and put you on the receiving end. You have a beautiful Mercedes Benz Cabriolet that you pamper and detail with no expense or effort spared. Then it's Christmas time and someone you love and don't wish to offend presents you with a gift that they bought because they know how much you love your car. Now you drive around town in the only Mercedes equipped with Yosemite Sam seat covers and a furry steering wheel.

It's the same thing when you buy that Polaroid lens for someone's high end camera. Sure it will work, but the photographer has no use for it. It's not your fault, you didn't know any better, but you made the mistake of venturing into a territory that takes years to understand.

"Thanks Grandma! Yes, I'll be sure to use it to shoot cousin Julie's wedding next month."



So thank you for your generosity, and now that you've been forewarned and are ready to go out and buy that gift card, make sure it's from a local camera shop with expert staff, not a big box store staffed by overworked twenty year olds being managed by inept twenty five year olds. The recipient will be far better off for it.


Merry Christmas!





"Japan Camera" - G. Aquitaine (Creative Commons)

"Polaroid ProCam" - Andrew Butitta (Creative Commons)

Text - © 2016 Troy More - All rights reserved.







Fear and Loathing and Photographers

July 16, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

There were some ancient cultures who feared that photographers were able to capture their souls in a photograph and refused to be photographed or acted with anger and violence if someone attempted to photograph them. You can laugh now about such backward thinking, but it's not entirely gone from society, in fact it's seemingly on the rise.

Image by: Eric Gross / Creative CommonsA couple in New York recycling their souls.

A couple in New York City recycling their souls. Image by: Eric Gross / Creative Commons


Now I totally get the modesty and shyness thing. I hate being photographed. I don't have self-image issues, but I just happen to look like a giant lumbering dork with a big dopey look on my face when photographed. I'm fine with how I look in a mirror, but on film I just don't cut it. So I'm not completely insensitive to those averse to having their photo taken.

Definitely a part of western culture, photo aversion is virtually unknown in Asia, where it's indeed difficult to shoot a crowd scene without half the people smiling and making a V sign with their fingers. In Canada an entirely different sign is the norm, though not using quite so many fingers.

The bird is the word.

Even with a group of photographers. - Image by: Troy More / All rights reserved


Nothing magnifies this worse than when children are involved. It's difficult to document the world around you and at the same time edit out all the children, but this is exactly what some busybodies would want. Interestingly, I never get this complaint from actual parents of any who's appeared in my photograph. In fact I've gotten the most flak from people riding in on their high horses after seeing me display photos of children that I was specifically asked to shoot. In fact there have been occasions where I was looked at suspiciously for taking shots of my own kid.

Let me make this perfectly clear. A photographer has every right to photograph someone in public, and a child in a playground scene, marching in a parade, or playing soccer is in no danger whatsoever due to their being photographed. Not in any logical person's mind anyway. The self righteous who like to make a big scene about how they are protecting the children have their own agenda.

The simple joys of playing in a giant sprinkler. Nothing else. Image by: Troy More / All rights reserved


The reactions to someone carrying an SLR is just ridiculous "security theatre" sometimes. I once took my daughter to a public pool and with a Canon SLR took some photos of her practising her swimming. All around me other parents were doing the same with phones and small point and shoots. Funny enough though, I was the one jumped on by staff asking what the heck I thought I was doing. I was doing exactly what most of the other parents were doing, though at a slightly better resolution. Pro tip to swimming pool personnel, the person with the big bulky, impossible to conceal SLR who is chatting with his kid is not your biggest worry. Your biggest worry is lurking in the change rooms with a camera phone, but you seemed to ignore that.


Probably the most laughable incident was when a friend of mine was photographing a marching band in a major parade, and the mother of one of the participants kept moving along to block him from taking a photo of that band.


The world creates about two billion photos per day. You, your friends, and your family are needles in an enormous haystack. Stop worrying about having a lens pointed at you. The chances that it will actually wind up even making it to the photographer's Facebook page, let alone somewhere that will attract more than a handful of viewers are slim.


Photographers have been documenting the world since the early 1800s. Our views of the world around us are shaped in great part due to the images they create. Much as we sometimes feel uncomfortable being pushed to the front of the page, we cannot opt out of that world. We are part of it, and it would be a shame to erase those tiny moments of ourselves from history. God help us if a century from now all that was left of us was a few selfies and a Walmart portrait session. Unlike taking photos of people in public, that would a crime.




I Have a problem With Plus Size Models.

January 16, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Why is this even a thing? We don't have medium sized models, skinny models, black models, or any other designation, so why "plus size"? Plus sized people are the norm, so why do we have a special term for them when their photo is taken?

They're just f&%king models okay?

Beautiful people are beautiful people, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Despite the idealized image of a fashion model, we all know people who if they were skinny, just wouldn't look right. They would look strange if they were taller or shorter, lighter or darker. Whatever lucky combination of factors combined to make them a compelling figure to record has less to do with size than personality. 

I'm not here to knock people who fit the typical mould of of a photographic model, it just bothers me that we think there needs to be a special term for someone who doesn't fit that narrow definition. Plus size should not be an exception to the rule. 

Twiggy by Sarah C. Stanley (CC)Yes Twiggy, I blame you for starting this shit.

Twiggy, I blame you for starting this crap. (Image by: Sarah C. Stanley / Creative Commons)


People marketing themselves as "plus-sized" aren't helping matters. In fact they are not only reinforcing a stereotype, they're indirectly saying it's okay to say that someone without a visible rib cage is somehow not normal.

Now I know one could say that the idealized ultra-slim fashion model, and their opposite, a severely overweight person both represent an unhealthy standard, but that is not a photographer's problem. It is not our job to idealize anyone or anything. Our job is to record our subjects faithfully, and respectfully, and that begins with not putting unnecessary labels on them.



Don't Worry, I'm Just a Photographer

April 18, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

I don't know if photography makes people a bit eccentric or if you need to be a bit off kilter to get into the game in the first place. Either way a photographer has little quirks and oddities to them that non-photographers (and I include the self-obsessed selfie proliferators in that group) find perplexing and even annoying. I'm a firm believer in the adage that knowledge is the antidote to fear, and maybe by explaining myself I can put non-photogs a little more at ease with the rest of us.


First of all, We don't see things like the rest of you do. While you might see a field of beautiful wildflowers on a bright summer's day and experience a feeling of joy, I see blown out highlights, awful shadows, and a lack of clouds in the background that would add much needed depth if they too weren't blown out by that blasted sunlight that I can't even polarize into submission at this angle. Mother Nature is the biggest diva model you'll ever meet. Always demanding things be done her way with scant regard for my needs, but as a non photographer you wouldn't get that. You see a beautiful field of wildflowers. I'm seeing nature's contempt for me. 


That woman I was staring at? Yes! Did you see the bone structure in that face? How sharply defined her eyes were, and those amazing skin tones? The way the late afternoon sun left a radiant auburn halo around her head? No I didn't notice she was in a bikini. Well, I don't expect you to believe me. You just don't get her on as many levels as I do. Besides, that pierced belly button would have been a distraction in the corner of the frame.

Trust me, the way the sun is cascading through her hair is magnificent. (Not pictured: The Sun)

Trust me, the sun is cascading beautifully through her hair. (Not pictured: The Sun)


I've noticed on cold, dreary winter nights that houses using lighting in the 2700-3000K temperature range cast a beautiful warm glow from their windows. I've also noticed that people get cranky when they see you staring at their house on cold, dreary winter nights. Reassurances of "Don't worry, I'm just a photographer!" fall flat on its inhabitants, who for all their lack of artistic vision may as well be surrounded by bluish 5000k bulbs if they are just going to pull down all their blinds like that.


I should offer one apology on behalf of all of us for asking so many questions at the movies after missing major plot points while we were trying to figure out how a scene was lit, and paying more attention to changes in depth of field than the dialogue. So thanks in advance for filling us in on what we missed, though don't worry if it's Vince Vaughn or Russell Brand who was speaking. We've long ago memorized the same character they play in every movie. 


Everything is different to us. You see wrinkles, we see character. You see a door, I see the frame. You see litter, I see a statement about society. You see a sunset, I see a cliche to be avoided.


We're photographers, and we'll always see things in a different way. So if you see us gazing for extended periods at the opposite sex (or even the same one), admiring the neighbourhood architecture, getting down on all fours to shoot a beer can laying in the dirt, or staring contemptuously at the midday sun, just understand that there's nothing nefarious about it. We're just doing what we have to do to better our craft.





Photo credit: Yuliana Orangold (Creative Commons)



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