During the great internet fail of October 2021 I watched for about 4 hours while people flocked to Twitter to cry that Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp weren't working. It was just a flood of posts to let us know a different social media platform wasn't working. We didn't care but also why does anyone even use Whatsapp? We all get free txts.
What REALLY stood out amongst the posts though, was one person freaking everyone out with a screenshot of coding telling everyone Facebook was dead and seeing women replying on how many years worth of photos they'll lose of their children if Facebook doesn't return. It blew my mind that people are really using Facebook to 'store' photos.
There are so many reasons why you shouldn't do this...
I know everyone likes to show off what they've been up to on social media but is it really worth risking all of your memories to leave them only on Facebook? Years ago Myspace crashed and permanently lost data which is why if you log into your old account now you'll see a whole lot of broken photo links. Your emo past is gone. Maybe that's an era you want to forget anyway, but there's no walk down memory lane now. It's one thing to leave that photo of your dinner from last Friday on Facebook but photos of your family and friends deserve to be treated better.
[You in your home of no photos - photo by Zachary Kadolph]
Lets say you don't back up your photos anywhere because they're on Facebook. What you aren't realising is that Facebook dramatically compresses your photos when you upload them or send them via messenger.
Example 1: A lady recently sent me a photo to restore that was 1500x2100 PPI 1000 DPI but Facebook compressed it to 280x427 72 DPI.
Example 2: If I upload a high-res photo that has 3497x5238 PPI 300 DPI, Facebook has shrunk that down to 1312x1985 72 DPI.
What does this even mean? It drastically affects the print quality of the image.
DPI (Dots Per Inch) refers to the output resolution of a printer. Professional printers and photo kiosks need you to have 300DPI (some can use 150-200 but 300 is recommended for best quality) but you also need the pixel length of the image to be at least 1200x800 for a standard 6x4" print. As the DPI shrinks, so does the pixel length of the image. So using my example above - it's taken a file size that could print to poster size and shrunk it so I can only print it as a 6x4" print.
When I upload photos to my Facebook page I purposely make them small and at 72DPI to avoid what compression might do. While working at Camera House though I accidentally printed one of my low-res files instead of a proper sized photo and it came out a blurry mess. It was good to know that the average person couldn't just steal my photo and print it out at the shops.
On the other hand it can have little effect on the 'document size' which is why photos can be printed at home ok, but I hate home printers so I'm not talking about them. I had one years ago that I printed old photos out for my mum and 15 years later they're faded looking and they've been sitting inside of a photo album protected. Going to a proper photo printer is so cheap (10-50 cents depending on where you go) that I just don't see the point in compromising quality.
As much as I cringe, I know everyone uses their smartphones to document every little detail of their life and nobody seems to ever back the photos up onto their home computers or the cloud which Apple has for people to use. I don't use the Cloud myself but I suck at remembering my own passwords. Phones are probably as reliable as Facebook for storing photos. Phones end up stolen, smashed, inside toilets..if you really cherish those photos of your kids, your friends wedding or those holidays we got to have in BC (Before Covid), print them. Get rid of the LIVE LAUGH LOVE sign, print your photos and display them!
[Photograph by Laura Fuhrman]
Your parents printed photos. Your grandparents did it, your great grandparents, your great great parents.. You know all those old photos you probably have stored in photo albums and family trees? That's because your relatives treasured their families and wanted to keep their memories safe which future generations can look at. By leaving your photos on Facebook, what is your child going to look at 20 years from now? If Facebook ever dies or you lose your account then you just erased their entire childhood.
When I started studying photography back in 2004 we learned about archiving and the importance of Acid-Free photo albums. I went home and told my mum and we started to redo all the old family albums to better store our photos and keepsakes. We had all those 70-80's style albums where your photo stuck to the page and was covered in plastic and sure they worked but we had a hard time getting some of those photos out. A scalpel was used for some and we just had to admit defeat. Even the 90's style slip-in albums seemed to like sticking to the photos making them hard to get out. We bought some large albums with plain black pages and white tissue paper between each page - that stops the photos rubbing together. How you stick your photos into the album is up to you with choices of acid-free glue sticks or double-sided tape but using sticky photo corners makes photos easily removable if you ever need to scan one. You can be as boring or as creative as you want with your photo album too thanks to scrapbooking. There's endless choices every year for themed papers and embellishments. My mum liked including ticket stubs and things she picked up on holidays into her albums.
Storing your photos on a hard drive is a good move but it also shouldn't be your only backup option. Hard drives can die too. Anything electronic can and will but for a good tip - buy a desktop hard drive. They last so well! I've got one here that's over 10 years old and still going. 'Plug N Play' drives are garbage though. I've had at least 3 crash on me as soon as the warranty is up. They look compact and cute but they just cause you grief. One was just random movies so not the end of the world but losing photos makes me wish I was dead. I had one fail while I was in the process of backing it up to my main hard drive to make it even worse. I had just emptied my Macbook to the plug-n-play to transfer over and suddenly it was broken. I lost every photo taken in 2015-2016. Some were photos I was still working on and others were concert photos that I wanted to print my favs out to make a gallery wall but I hadn't had the time yet. From those 2 years I have 2 physical prints to show for it. It's also really easy to accidentally delete a folder without meaning too and if they aren't backed up properly then that's another box of tissues you're going to need. While finishing off my Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes gig photos back in 2018 I realised I saved them wrong and deleted the files. Due to how little room I had on my Macbook at the time I instantly emptied the trash can. I went back into Lightroom to realise I also deleted the raw files by accident. Just like that EVERY photo was gone. A few months later I realised I had the last few photos from that concert still sitting on an SD card. I'd used 2 that night, the first one I'd wiped but somehow I hadn't used the 2nd card since that night. They aren't the best photos but I at least have a couple saved now. During backups I also managed to deleted a folder with 10 years worth of photos of my nephew. I was completely devastated because I thought they were on my external hard drive BUT I had a huge stash of photos printed that I haven't put into an album yet and because I had done this it means I can scan them and make new backups. This is why its important to print your photos.
My mum was into her family history so I now have a collection of random old photos dating back 100 years. So while you can lose your photos electronically in 0.05 seconds, this is how long a printed photo can last when looked after! But even in cases where photos haven't been cared for well, they can still be saved.
Honestly this is all a good advertisement for film photography. I've never lost a negative.