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Storage and archiving: Archiving

Digital files offer many more options for filing and storage than film images. Digital files can be duplicated (copied) in seconds without any loss of quality, which means you can store the same file in several different places.

You can also use an image database to hold a single copy of a file, but index it under many different keywords. This makes it easy to find an image by date, subject or type.

ZoomBrowser EX (Windows) or ImageBrowser (Macintosh) software supplied with the camera will provide a basic storage solution for your files.

As soon as you start shooting digital images, you need to sort them into categories. Do not put this off or you will soon have hundreds of images and be unable to find the one you want.

Place the image files in folders and label each folder with a category name – ‘Travel’, for example. As soon as you have 20 or 30 images in a folder, create a new folder with a subset of images – ‘Paris’, for example – for all your images taken in this city. If you visit the same place several times, you can create different folders for each trip.

Now, using ZoomBrowser EX or ImageBrowser, you can view the contents of each folder as thumbnail images, and take a closer look at selected images.

You will also be able to see information downloaded from the camera, such as the date and time of exposure, and technical details (from selected cameras). At the same time, you can add notes or comments about the image and save these with the file.

As your collection of images grows, a dedicated ‘creative assets manager’ software application will likely be more suitable. There are many options out there that will work, and indeed several third party RAW conversion applications include archiving and asset management functionality to help keep track of your files.

Archiving images

Every image you decide to keep will take up storage space on your computer. After a while, you may find that the images start to take up too much space. It is time to start archiving them.

A good storage medium for images is a compact disc (CD). This holds up to 700MB of data. A blank CD is inexpensive.

Many computers are supplied with built-in CD writers, but these units are also available as peripherals you can add to your system. You will need special software to write the images, but this is often supplied with the unit.

Some computers have a combined CD-RW/DVD-RW unit, which allows you to write (and re-write) to both CDs and DVDs. DVDs offer capacities up to 4.7GB – around eight times that of a CD – yet a blank DVD can be bought for around the same price as a blank CD. This makes the DVD excellent value for storing large files from the latest EOS professional cameras.

Always create two back-ups of your images. CDs and DVDs can corrupt through age or damage. It is unlikely that both back-ups will fail at the same time. Keep each set of back-ups at a different location – office and home, for example. This means that in the event of theft or fire, you will still have the images available. If one or more disks in a back-up set are damaged or stolen, make another copy without delay.

The cost of hard drive storage is also falling. Compact drives holding one or more terrabytes of data are now affordable (a terrabyte is 1000 gigabytes). Some photographers use two terrabyte drives for both storage and archiving. One drive is set to ‘mirror’ the other, so that changes to the main drive are written to the second. This provides an effective back up of all the data, especially if the second drive is located in another room, or even a separate building. Keeping the drives apart provides security in the event of fire or theft.


One very useful tool for managing your digital files is the delete key on your computer keyboard.

It costs almost nothing to capture a digital image, so most photographers find they shoot a lot more pictures than they ever did with film. Do you need to keep every image? Ideally, you should be deleting in camera when you know that a picture you have just taken is not successful. There is a trash button on the back of the camera that allows you to erase individual images as you view them on the LCD screen. This also frees up useful space on the CompactFlash card. But if you don’t delete at this stage, you need to be ruthless once the images are transferred to the hard disk of your computer.