I was talking to someone recently about historic family photos. She was in the process of downsizing, and noted that she had boxes of photos and no idea what to do with them all. Some were hers, but many she had inherited from her mother.

And while the history was great, she realized a key problem - no one in the next generation of her family would know who those people were. In essence, the photos would remain, but the stories and context behind them would be lost.

And while there were steps to take to preserve the photos, was it worth the effort? One could scan them all into a computer and label them, but what then? A hard drive would take up much less physical space than the boxes, but would anyone use them or want them?

And then there’s a secondary problem – what happens when technology moves past that drive, and renders it obsolete? All the work and effort would be a waste, because eventually, storage systems will evolve. It’s already happened a few times. Remember floppy discs and zip drives? Then we had handy external hard drives, which are now little boxes we can keep in a drawer, and thumb drives that can store a lot of data – and they aren’t much bigger than my car key.

One option is to store the photos in a cloud-based system, with a backup drive at home.

A second option is to weed through the photos and print out any favorites, either in traditional photo prints, or in photo albums made online and printed through one of any number of companies.

The nice thing about that is, while there are still physical copies, printing only favorites limits the number of prints floating around the house – and all still exist in a digital platform.

And therein lies the catch. As the digital storage landscape continues to evolve and change, we have to stay on top of what we use to store photos – and really, other important digital documents as well.

Digital photos are terrific though, because those boxes of photos are gone – instead, I now have a hard drive or two, and a handful of prints floating around. But as much as I love the ease of digital photos, it does have some flaws. I tend to overshoot, because it doesn’t cost anything to do so – I don’t have to print rolls of film in the hopes of getting one good shot. And then it takes time to weed through those photos to determine which are worth keeping – and that’s a step I often tend to skip. The end result is way too many digital photos, with little organization.

Successfully utilizing digital photography and storage options requires we stay on top of changing technologies, and at the same time stay organized. And as I’ve learned over the last few years, that’s no easy task.

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