It goes without saying that photographers want their work to continue on into an undefined future- to be available almost in perpetuity. But to do that requires establishing an archive containing the photographer’s “important work”. And setting up an archive means looking well into the future – 25, 50 or even 100 years –

Some would argue that the best way to archive photographs is to print everything you want the archive to include. While that may be true in the abstract, the reality of archival printing and storage certainly raises a number of issues.

  • Archival printing gets extremely expensive when you have a large number of prints to make.

  • Archives that contain a significant number of physical prints require a significant allocation of specialized storage space {read: flat files).

  • Archive storage for physical print demands a highly controlled environment (light, temperature, humidity, etc.).

  • Archiving with physical prints severely limits access and portability.

  • While experts in print longevity claim that a properly made archival inkjet print can last ‘a hundred years or more in a controlled environment’, there is also a lot of evidence that it will last just 10 or 15 years.

Some argue the digital approach is fraught with its own set of issues.

  • Hardware used for digital archiving today may not be compatible with future systems.

  • Hardware used to store the archive may fail at some point in the future,

  • Software needed to view the archive may not be available on future systems.

  • File formats used for digital archiving today may not be compatible with future systems.

  • There is more chance of user error with digital archiving systems that may erase the entire archive.

While there are risks and pitfalls with both approaches to archiving, it would certainly seem that the digital system has the advantage especially looking well into the future.

This is really a very simple distinction. An archive is designed for long term preservation of material while a backup file is for disaster recovery or to restore lost or corrupted data.

Deciding what to archive is a very personal decision taking both time and personal review.

Some people avoid the whole decision making process and just archive everything. If you have the space, time and organizational skills, that is certainly one way to do it. Depending on how extensive your collection is, it might take some time to get things organized for an archive.

But if you don’t have the space or the patience to deal with the minutia, identify those places where you have photographs stored – the hard drive in your computer or laptop, on your tablet, your phone, your online accounts, etc. Pull out or copy the photographs you consider the most important. These can be of your family, your vacations, events you attended, etc. And you don’t need to limit the number of photographs. Depending on your storage space you can archive as many or as few as you want.

You should archive a copy of each book you complete. You can archive all of the photographs, research, early drafts, etc., as work product for the book, but the important thing to archive is the finished book. Work product is all of the stuff that led to the final, finished, published draft.

If you have done any commercial work, all of that should be archived in case the client wants access to the material in the future.

When to archive may seem like keen perception of the obvious but an archive in vastly different from a simple backup and should be treated that way. Files you are archiving should be ones that are no longer being actively used.

There are more than a few ways to organize the photographs for archiving but the two that seem to make the most sense are by file structure or by structured tagging.

In the former approach, you would gather all of the photographs relating to a particular subject into a single folder and give that folder an explicit and descriptive name that can’t be mistaken for any other in the archive. These names are not cryptic, ‘cutsey’ or ‘creative’ but very matter-of-fact specific. A folder with photographs of a vacation to the family reunion in Davenport, IA, could be named “2018 vacation to family reunion in July at Uncle Jacob’s farm Davenport IA”. The names of the photographs in the folder would be similar in their specificity. “Molly and Billy Jackson (cousins) winning the three legged race on Saturday”. You don’t need to restate any information from the folder name as we assume the activity was at the 2018 family reunion.

The other approach is to simply tag all of the photographs with as much information as possible. This can take a considerable amount of time and you will need to develop a tagging structure to assure information will be consistent both between photographs in a specific folder and between folders.

Preparing the photographs – and this is where it might get a bit dicey given current photography workflow and consciousness -

There is no way to predict what computer or imaging systems will look like 25 or 50 years in the future. They may be all internet based. Or maybe not. They may be virtual reflective data transmission based (whatever that is). Maybe not. They may be some form of organic artificial-intelligence based technology. Or not.

But one thing is certain, if past is prologue, the file format is not going away. In the very early days of computing some “experts” predicted that those pesky three-letter file extensions used to identify file types ‘would be a thing of the past very soon’.

Uh… didn’t happen.

When considering the file format to use for archiving, the goal is to create as sustainable an archive as possible. Sustainability means that the archive is will be viable/usable/accessable over time.

This demands that the format chosen for archiving be an open standard and optimized for photographic reproduction. It must be well supported and well documented in the public sphere. It must have a long and extremely stable development history. It must be universally accepted.

In reality all of that leaves only two file formats- the JPEG and the TIFF.

Some may argue that camera raw files are the best to archive but these files are proprietary, subject to the whims of the various manufacturers and don’t meet most of the requirements for sustainability. The DNG format (digital negative format) could be used but it does not have wide support.

It is strongly recommended you save your photographs in both JPEG and TIFF formats.

When saving a JPEG for archiving it is recommended that you save it at a quality of 100, with the photometric set to the RGB colorspace and with the Huffman table optimized. This will give you an astonishingly large JPEG file but remember that this file is intended for archival use and not for distribution in a production environment. The goal here is to have as much data as possible in the archive file.

When saving the image as a TIFF file, save it as a 24-bit file. Make sure it is uncompressed and the photometric is set to the RGB colorspace. Again this may not be in your normal workflow but these files are going for archiving and not a production environment.

These files are now considered the ‘original’ files for archiving purposes.

For books you have finished, it is recommended that for archiving you save it as a PDF/X3 format with both color and grayscale image downsampling set to 300DPI and ‘best quality jpeg’ selected. The photometric can be set to either the CMYK colorspace or the RGB colorspace. All of the pre-press options should be set to off save for the overprint black. This will give you a very large PDF file but, as the fonts used in the book are now embedded in the file, the book is completely self-contained. And as with the image files, this PDF is intended for archival use and not for distribution in a production environment.

Once the archive file is completed, it is strongly recommended that you save your it in at least two different places with at least one being a removable USB hard drive. To assure the most compatibility, it is recommended you use the FAT32 file system for this drive. The other location for saving your archive could be another removable hard drive, an online location, etc.

There are concerns voiced about the longevity of a hard drive. Critics have all of the horror stories about a brand new drive failing 17 days after it was purchased, losing all of the irreplaceable family photographs that were put on it.

The usual specification for hard drive longevity is MTBF or Mean Time Between Failure. Some manufacturers claim an mtbf rating of 50,000 hours. Others claim 30,000 hours. Some web hosting companies, where hard drives are running constantly, use a three-year replacement cycle or approximately 26,200 hours.

Lets assume you archive data monthly and the drive you use is in operation for four hours a month. Even at the lowest mtbf rating, assuming you take reasonable care of the drive and don’t use it to drive nails or scoop out dirt to plant your tomatoes, the drive will last more than 500 years in theory.

While we certainly don’t know what the state of computing or imaging will be in 25 or 50 years, it would seem logical to assume that whatever the technology is, it will still be able to read a USB interfaced hard drive. Some may argue that the floppy disk and the zip drive have died but it certainly appears that with the universal acceptance of both USB technology and hard drive technology, they will continue on well into the future.

Internet-based sites may be a good alternative for the second storage location provided they are going to be around into the indeterminate future and you are able to keep the subscription costs covered. Free sites like Google are a viable option as long as you abide by their restrictions. And while considering an online storage site, bear in mind that a number of internet sites limit stored photographs to the JPEG format.

Remember that creating an archive is not a one time effort. You may not make contributions weekly or even monthly but you do have to keep putting important material that you want to preserve into the archive.

Your archive is, after all, a part of your legacy, a part of what you will leave to those who come after you. It is important that your legacy be both as complete as possible and reflect what you feel is important.

We have all heard the horror stories about photographers who have lost volumes of work and possibly their entire collection to some disaster. It could have been a fire, a flood or a computer-related disaster of some kind. The moral of these stories is always make frequent and complete backups of your stuff. And this is always sage advice.

There are a number of different schemes to create a backup but before we go any further, it would be wise to again state the difference between an archive and a backup. An archive is designed for the long term preservation of important material. A backup is designed to hold work for a period of time for disaster recovery or to restore lost or corrupted data. An archive is a put-in-only system while a backup is a put-and-take system.

But these systems do not exist in a vacuum or in isolation from each other - the longer backups stay around the more archival they become and occasionally an archive is "raided" for a copy of a particular photograph.

The backup system that seems to make the most sense is the 3-2-1 system.

In this system you have three copies of the photograph. The "first" copy is the active copy (the copy you are working on/using). The "second" and "third" copies are the backups. One of the backup copies is stored locally on a removable USB (or similar) drive or on a network attached storage drive. The second backup copy is stored somewhere else.

Usually the first backup copy is not a real problem. Given the relatively large storage capacity and relatively low cost of USB (or similar) drives, one that can store an entire collection can be had fairly easily. There are a number of file syncing applications available that you can use to assure the backup drive is complete and up to date. Plug the drive in, run the sync program and, when it is finished, unplug the drive. With a network attached storage device you don't even have to plug the drive in as it's accessed through your network's router. And most cable or DSL modems have a four-port router built in.

The real problem comes with the off site storage. Granted you could rent a bank safe deposit box. Or you could keep it at your office. Or you could ask your sister-in-law to store it at her house. But none of these solutions allow you to backup on an as-needed basis, which would certainly defeat the needed immediacy. Whenever you want to perform a backup, you would have to go get the drive from wherever it is, do your backup and then return it. 

The answer to this issue is simple - backup online. 

There are as many recommended online storage services as there are sites recommending them so you will have to shop around for the one that meets your needs. There are six areas you need to evaluate when looking for an online backup service:

  • Space: the service should have enough storage to keep all of your photos in one place over the years.

  • Ease of use: You need to be able to upload photos to the service easily.

  • Upload system: some services have a separate application to sync your backups and handle uploads while other user your web browser. Some service applications monitor specific folders and handle backup automatically while others do not.

  • Search features: Finding photos by date, tags or other criteria should be easy to do.

  • Restrictions: some services restrict file type, file size, etc. 

  • And finally, you should evaluate the cost of the service. Note that some services will offer a free version but these are often limited in storage size or number of uploads per month.

When designing a backup plan, you should look at several services, read the reviews and compare terms of service. There are a couple of truly free services out there but again they come with a host of CC&R's. If you don't mind the restrictions put on by using a particular service, go for it!

But don't look for the perfect online storage system. It simply does not exist. select the best one for your needs.

In operation, backing up your photos should be a simple and regular part of your working process and should not require an inordinate amount of time. There is really no excuse for becoming that photographer who lost everything! 

After setting your book either as an online book using Joomla or as a downloadable pdf in either LibreOffice Writer or Google Docs, the final step is to have the work published. 

Publishing your work in Joomla is extremely easy. In the same screen where you write your material you will see a green entry in a drop down box that says "Published". In addition you will see the category the work is published to and whether it is going to be featured on the front page of your site or not. If it is not to be included on the front page you will have to create a menu item so visitors to you site can find the work. Below the featured/not featured selection you will see an access selector which will allow you to determine if the work is available to the general public or restricted to certain registered users of the site. Below that you will see a language selector and a box where you can enter tags or keywords. When you save your work in Joomla, it is automatically published unless you have made another selection in the drop down box.

To add the menu link for your article, go to Menus, select Main Menu from the drop down and then select Add New Menu Item. You will have to enter a title for the link and then you will need to select the Menu Item Type. Generally for this kind of work you will want to select Article and then Single Article. After browsing to and selecting the article from the list, accept the rest of the defaults and click save. The item will appear in the menu.

For books set in pdf format, the process is a bit more complicated.

If you have written your book in LibreOffice Writer export it as a pdf file. Make sure you have set the Jpeg compression to 100% (this is the highest quality jpeg available) and the image resolution to 300 dpi which is a good choice if the book is printed. Make sure that all boxes on the right side of the panel are unchecked except for the "create forms" box and the "export bookmarks". Generally accept the defaults in the other panels and click "Export". After exporting to your local computer (generally it is recommended to export to your desktop as this is a convenient location), upload the file to your Google Drive.

For our purposes here, the work will be distributed from your Google Drive account. By necessity work distributed from your Google Drive account is distributed free of charge as there is no e-commerce capability. If you want to charge a fee for your book there are a number of sites where you can distribute your .pdf file. Some offer "free-to-start" plans taking a percentage of the cover price while some are "paid-up-front" sites. Googling "sell my pdf e-books" should get you started.

After uploading your file to your Google Drive account, find it in the file list and select it by single-clicking on it. this will highlight the file name. Next right click on the file name and then select "Share" from the popup menu. After the "Share with people and groups" opens, click in the "Get link" box. When the box changes to the "Get link" dialogue change the the permissions from "Restricted" to "Anyone with the link", copy the link and save it. You can then send the link to anyone you want to share the book with and it will be indexed by spydering search engines on the internet. 



You can download the entire text of Photography (Fully Realized) in a single PDF volume by clicking here.

Recommended Software/services: The criteria here is that the software is open source or offered as free for personal, non-commercial or educational use, including non-profit organizations (i.e. schools, universities, public authorities, hospitals, etc.), and that it is natively multi-platform for Windows and Mac. Please remember that any Windows program will run on Mac OSx if you have Windows 10 running in Boot Camp. 

Book preparation and publishing:

LibreOffice 6, LibreOffice Writer. Free and open source software. Windows, Mac.

Writer is a well developed, mature application that, while acknowledging its word processing heritage, offers a wealth of page design and layout features. Writer is fully ODF compliant. For publishing the final document, Writer offers significant control over the .pdf creation process. There is a learning curve for this program when moving into the desktop publishing realm, but the results are well worth it. Download the office suite from -

The idea behind this list is to present freely offered, open source applications that are of use here. This recommendation gets away from that a bit...

Serif PagePlus. If you are interested in using a true desktop publishing application to produce photography books, there are both expensive and inexpensive choices out there. One of the very best is Serif PagePlus X9. The only problem is that Serif has devoted all of its resources to its new Affinity line and allowed PagePlus X9 to become a legacy application. PagePlus is still available for download from the Serif website at (scroll to the bottom of the page). The license is $19.99 as of this writing and is also available through the Serif website. It is available through other online outlets (prices vary). It is a Windows-only application but will run on Macintosh equipment under Boot Camp.

Book preparation and publishing (on line SaaS):

No longer recommended - while SaaS applications have made great strides for general use, continuing evaluation has shown that none offer the needed features or level of control for this level of production.

Photographic editing:

The GIMP 2.8. Free and open source software. Windows, Mac. Allows for the complete manipulation and editing of photographs. Similar to Adobe’s Photoshop. Download the program from Gimp 2.10, which is the latest version, is available from 

Image viewers:

FastStone Image Viewer. One of the best image viewers with image adjustment capabilities is the FastStone Image Viewer. The program has a wide range of image adjustment functions and supports a wide variety of image formats. It is currently freely offered  and is updated frequently. It is a Windows-only application but will run on Macintosh equipment under Boot Camp. It can be downloaded at  

XnNiew / XnView MP. Proprietary software but offered freely. Windows, Mac. A very good, lightweight image viewer that offers basic but competent image adjustment, editing and resizing functions. If XnViewMP seems to be a bit shy on features, it appears to be in active development. It should be noted that there are some quirks in the user interface that take some getting used to. Download either program from in either classic Windows trim or as a multiplatform application. 

File Synchronizing:

FreeFileSync lets you synchronize files between two folders or drives. You can  create an exact copy of the source folder, do a two-way synchronization that will copy new or updated files in both directions or use the "update mode" to copy only files that are new or have been changed from the source to the target. You can choose how to handle file deletions, sending them to the recycle bin or moving them to another folder.

PDF Reader:

While there are a number of .pdf readers available, Microsoft Edge (Chromium), FireFox and Chrome web browsers support .pdf files natively and work well for viewing files. It should be noted that as of this writing Chrome supports .pdf forms while Firefox does not. For printing .pdf files Adobe Acrobat Reader is  the recommended software as it is fully optimized for printing this file type. 

Online image hosting services:

Use of photo sharing sites, social media sites or portfolio sites is not recommended for a variety of reasons. There a number of free Joomla web hosting services available and these can be located by Googlingfree joomla hosting”. There is a learning curve to Joomla but there are plenty of online resources to help you. The results are well worth.

Recommendations for file formats:

JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group, ISO standard format) device independent, extension - .jpg – compressed file format, use this file format for in-camera storage of images and display on the internet.

TIFF (Tagged Image File Format, ver. 6.0, tiff/ep (tiff/electronic photography) is an ISO standard format) device independent, extension - .tif – non-compressed file format, use this file format for making image adjustments, printing, in documents used for creating PDF files and long-term storage.

BMP (Bitmap Image File, de facto standard) device independent, extension - .bmp – non-compressed file format, as an alternative to the TIFF file format, use this file format for making image adjustments and long-term backup.

PDF (Portable Document Format, ISO standard format) device independent, extension - ,pdf - compressed file format designed to present (in part) documents that combine text and images, general presentation is in standard pdf configuration while pdf/a or pdf/x configurations can be used for long-term archiving.

It is recommended that when you are photographing, store images in the JPEG format. If the camera being use offered a dual-save option (JPEG and its proprietary “raw” format) that option can be selected. For processing and storing, it is recommended that you convert either JPEG or raw files to the uncompressed TIFF file format. It is not recommended that the camera’s native raw format be used exclusively for long-term storage as these formats are both proprietary and device dependent.