Thursday, May 29, 2008

Getting My Digital House in Order

I didn't get nearly as much done as I had planned over the Memorial Day Weekend. I made a start on cleaning up the living room, but the table laden down with tax stuff is still glaring at me. Because the weather was so chilly, I didn't get anything done on the garden. More work for this coming weekend, I'm afraid.

I did make considerable progress in consolidating my digital photographs into one Adobe Lightroom catalogue. There are about 17,000 images in it right now and I think I've found the repository of the missing images of General Wesley Clark that I took at a fund raiser. He's a brilliant man, an amazing speaker, and one of those people who uses your name in the brief conversation you have so they remember it (John Denver did the same thing when I met him.) I had a panic yesterday when I realized the pictures weren't among the imported images for 2005, but last night I managed to find them in a different backup folder from my old PC laptop.

Unfortunately, about half of the images were shot as JPEGs, not RAW, so the long-term prognosis of the health of those images is not good. JPEGs are self-destructive, and every time you open one, it closes with different, uncontrollable, bits going to Jesus. I learned my mistake after I had the digital SLR for two years, so now I shoot everything I can in RAW (my pocket camera shoots only JPEGs) and I export to JPEGs when I need them.

I've also managed to get most of the image files off my MacBookPro and onto an external hard drive. There's a few more to go, but I'm planning to get another big external hard drive to hold them, because I don't need to go carting those images around with me when I'm traveling with the laptop. Currently, I've got about 1/3 of the internal hard drive free, which is a whole lot better than it was last week when 80% of the drive was filled. I'm aiming for the optimum of no more than 50% of the drive being filled, because processing slows down considerably when the drive has less free space. I've already noticed a difference in speed.

So my free advice to anyone reading this is that if you take digital photographs, buy a separate hard drive for storage. And if you care about long term survival of your photographs, back that hard drive up to another and shoot RAW if you've got the capability. I'd also suggest storing a set of files as DNGs (digital negatives, an open source RAW file format from Adobe), since all camera RAW files are proprietary and someday you may not be able to read the files in your own camera's software program.

Eventually, I will have to face the task of digitizing at least the best of my pre-digital work, if for no other reason than making digital portfolios. The other side of that coin is that I know those images, be they transparencies or black and white negatives, have a whole lot better chance of being readable in 10 years than my digital images do. When you think about how fast technology has changed, and the fact that it is virtually impossible to find a computer which can read 5 1/4" disks or files created in Windows 95, the long term prospects of looking at digital family pictures becomes pretty grim.


Grey Horse Matters said...

you really know your digital camera stuff, I am a little confused about the JPEG pictures and the RAW ones. I don't think I've ever taken a RAW picture and wouldn't know how to. I've got a Canon Rebel which is basically point and shoot and then I have some picture processing programs like Corel paint shop pro X, I basically fiddle around with them until something comes out looking okay. I hope I don't lose any of my pictures because of my stupidity. I guess we all could benefit from some schooling on digital cameras and photoshops. You seem to have mastered all of this, hats off to you for learning it all.

M. C. Valada said...

Arlene: If your Canon Rebel is a digital SLR, it should have a RAW setting. If it isn't, it probably doesn't, and the best you can do is shoot the highest quality JPEGs of which the camera is capable. I think (though I'm not entirely sure) that Adobe Camera Raw is a free program and taking your highest quality Rebel JPEGs and running them through ACR and then exporting them as DNG (Digital Negative files), will keep the files from self destructing as much as possible. A DNG is a basically a file which will contain all of the metadata with your adjustment to the images, and a JPEG you can read. Adobe is hoping that eventually all camera companies will use it as the standard for RAW files, since it is not proprietary.

I have far from mastered this, but I've got to know enough to teach it to beginning photo students and keep my work in order. I'm really having a very tough time with digital printing. I've got an Epson 2400 from which I have not been able to get good results--and that was considered one of the best inkjet printers around. I'm still working on it.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Thanks for helping I'll have to check my camera to see what applies. I seem to have a pretty good ink jet printer, it's a Hewlett Packard 7550 series and it seems to print decent pictures. I'm sure since it is almost 5 yrs. old it is already outdated. Again thanks for helping out.