• Gwendolyn Houston Jack

Digital Isn’t Forever: Storing Your Photos


Portrait artist Gwendolyn Houston-Jack poses with Mayte Garcia in Dallas before belly dancing class
Favorite photo: G & Mayte before belly dancing class

While there are plenty of ways to store digital photos, from your computer hard drive to a flash drive to the cloud, none of them are completely foolproof. Hard drives can be corrupted, flash drives can decay or break, and the cloud can be hacked.

When storing your digital files, the best thing to do is to have at least three storage places. That way, if one is lost in some way, you still have a backup. Ideally, all three of your storage options should be in different forms, and at least one should be offsite, i.e. not in your home. I personally use Flickr (which also auto uploads from my phone), Microsoft OneDrive, YouTube, and have a NAS RAID storage system.


A shoe box full of family videos on VHS and micro video along with 8mm film to be converted.
G's family videos and film to be converted

Remember home movies? Everyone had camcorders and stacks of video cassettes. Nowadays, it’s a challenge to find a VHS player, and if you didn’t transfer those home movies to a DVD or digital file, you likely have no way to watch them.

The same is true with digital images. Technology changes more and more rapidly with the passing of time. Floppy disks were the norm 20 years ago before giving way to CDs, which are already considered outdated in favor of flash drives and external hard drives. As technology changes, you have to keep up and constantly move your digital photos to the latest storage system. Otherwise, you may not even be able to find a way to view your images!

Every digital storage option has a shelf life. While keeping your images in the cloud may seem like the perfect option (it’s offsite and can be accessed anywhere), one hacker can take over your account and erase all your images with the click of a button. Or if you store your photos on Amazon, maybe one day you can’t pay for your account, and suddenly you lose access to all the memories you held dear.

Stack of dvds that have been created from converted film and vhs videos
DVDs from converted film and VHS videos

Physical prints and albums, while not immune to damage or loss, still have an advantage over digital files. They can become family keepsakes, passed down from generation to generation. How many times have you looked through your grandparents’ old photos?

Prints also give you something tangible to hold onto, a way to look back at your memories without struggling to remember a password or figure out where exactly you put that flash drive with all your photos on it. While digital files may be lost or just forgotten over time, physical prints can hang on your wall or sit on your bookshelf—a clear reminder of your most cherished memories.


Just earlier this week I was asked to send a photo to accompany my oral story from my alma mater as part of a major project. Since I've always printed pictures I was able to scan in a fun photo of me from my senior year in college and have it added to the project. How we store our memories will have an impact on our lives. Back in 2018, I made it my mission to preserve our family videos and film. Doing so allows me to now share those 8mm memories with our entire family via YouTube.



So, if you do nothing else this weekend, take a few moments to back up your photos. Get a few printed even. Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

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