New York State Funeral Directors Association

It must have been a nightmare for the husband and wife.

Their two sons were dead - killed in Syria’s violent political climate – and they had only photos and videos left to remember them by.

Then they became victims of ransomware.

All their files were trapped by hackers who demanded money to free up the computer.

Hackers can’t hold printed photographs hostage, and that’s why I’m encouraging everyone to start printing.Ransomware could lock you out of your digital photographs

The couple in Syria were lucky enough to get their memories back.

This type of situation could happen to anybody – and it isn’t just crime that could result in the loss of your digital photos.

Frequently-changing services, upgrades in computer software and companies changing hands are all factors that can threaten people’s ever-growing collection of digital media.

FREE – FOR NOW

I started a project several years ago scanning historic images of my ancestors.

I figured they’d be safe in digital form, but I almost lost them - I never printed them.

In fact, I’m facing the possible loss of some 40 gigabytes of photographs that I’d never be able to replace were they to be lost.

I got myself into this bind several years ago when I heard about a full terabyte of free cloud storage the photo-sharing service Flickr was offering.

It was too much to pass up, so I signed up for an account and hooked it up to sync with my laptop at home.

It was the third computer I’d used consecutively, so it had all my photos dating back roughly 12 years.

Flicker got bought by some other company and now the “FREE” accounts are going bye-bye, at least in their original form.

I have a choice: cut my Flickr photo collection down to 1,000 pictures to keep the free account - or lose any above 1,000 within a couple of months.

Or, I could pay money to keep what is already mine.

PHOTO MEMORIES

According to an article in Business Insider, people were expected to take 1.2 trillion digital photos in the year 2017.

It’s clearly a lot more than we used to take back in the days when we had to buy film, load it into the camera and then bring the film to a photo shop to actually see the finished product.

The photos I’ve been storing on the cloud – their days are numbered whether I like it or not.

The way photos are stored by computers is also changing, according to Digital Trends magazine, so it’s not actually safe just keeping them in computerized storage.

People can lose their passwords and find themselves unable to access their photos on the cloud.

Mobile phones, tables and other devices that hold photos – including digital cameras – can be stolen.

Even the storage media and the ways computers store images are changing.

I remember slipping 5-inch floppy discs into computers before they were replaced by those hard, 3.5-inch discs.

Then came the Compact Disc – I have all my wedding photos on a couple of those. How long will it be before I won’t be able to find something to view them on?

Trying to make sure your digital photos “last forever” is a laborious task that entails moving your photos to new types of storage media before the old ones disappear altogether.

JUST PRINT THEM OUT

I have a huge project ahead of me. There are many photos I don’t plan to lose, but it’s going to take work to whittle it down.

Not just work securing the photos, but work into the future as well.

I don’t want to face a similar situation 12 years from now, so I’m being more careful taking pictures.

If it’s something I’m not going to print out, it’s something I’m not going to keep.

You see, I did the same thing with another cloud service – Google Photos – and there are even more pictures in that cloud than on my doomed Flickr account.

And these don’t include all the photos I’ve uploaded to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media sites.

My first step will be going through all the photos, oldest to newest, and selecting those I want to keep.

Now, the expense part comes in. How much money have I saved by not buying film and prints over the past decade? I couldn’t guess.

I’ll certainly be spending some of that savings now so that I can secure these images.

You can still get print-outs using a thumb drive or SD card at those kiosks I see at the pharmacies and other outlets.

Some services will slide your photos into a handy sleeve book.

Most printed photos – even those you print at home with an ink jet printer – will last 100 years or more.

So far, I’ve been very pleased with my newest method of preserving photo memories – turning them into photo books.

If you make use of Google Photos you’ll see Photo Book as one of the choices of things you can do with your photos in the cloud.

There are others who make photo books – including Wal-Mart. They make soft cover and hardcover books – along with blankets and calendars and other items using your photos.

Hardcover photo books seem the most durable. They can print each picture on a page or put multiple pictures on a single page.

I’ll be starting a new collection of photo books as I gradually go through my photos.

If you decide to start making books of your digital photos, do yourself a favor and jot down information your cloud may have on the photo – like the date it was taken or the location.

This will preserve their value to your family decades from now.

They’ll be saved memories your family can look back on with only one requirement to see them: light.


EdsPhotoEdward Munger Jr.
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association