Don't Show People Your Photos... Seriously, I Mean it.

Ok... now I have your attention, I'm partially kidding. But, there are those that think there's a lot of logic to what I'm saying. How in the hell can that be logical?

I've been asked to share my storage, back-up and archival procedures. Now, first let me say, this is an ever changing and evolving process. Now I may not be as paranoid as some. But, I might be more paranoid than others. I also could be DEAD WRONG. So, on that note, I'm not handing out "hard" advice here. I'm sharing my methods and philosophies. Your mileage may differ and in the spirit of remaining non-litigious, proceed at your own risk.

As many of you know, I'm a certified (not certifiable) Aperture user and use the program religiously. So, let's start with a quick snapshot of my workflow and then we'll see how that impacts my storage solutions.

Starting with the Aperture Library, I work using the Managed Library.. whereas Aperture manages all of the hierarchy and file locations. I didn't always do this. It was only after completing certification and understanding the "package contents" that I found the confidence to "believe." A Managed Library's hierarchy seems very convoluted and scary until you understand it. Then, suddenly, it seems extremely logical and not a lot different than your own folder structure. The big difference I see is Aperture creates a hierarchy far more complete than you'd EVER commit to or be able to maintain as efficiently or accurately.

My local storage contains double copies of everything I've done since 2001.... even earlier for some customer files. But honestly, the importance wasn't realized until I reached a certain point of critical mass and could see I needed to get a handle on things. Who knew?

My Aperture libraries, (I run a dozen or so) go back to 2006. Again, they're all stored in duplicate. I prefer to mirror my libraries as opposed to using Aperture's Vault.

Starting in 2008, I began employing what some refer to as backing up in "the cloud." An online back up. Here's where things got/get interesting and how I had to start wrestling with the fact that we're very much pioneers in the field of Digital Asset Management (or DAM) and as such, I needed to find my own comfort level of "what do I really need?" in order to sleep at night.

Six, count em' SIX terabyte.I'm up to 6TB of storage. Is it neat? Sort of? Is it accurate? Pretty much? Is it perfect... HELL NO!!! And to all my friends who run multiple backups with multiple drives stored off premises with the passwords stored on their grandmother's porch in an airtight mayonnaise jar, yours probably isn't perfect either.

Six, count em' SIX terabyte. Good lord... I'm a guy, not a space agency. We're talking 6000 gigabyte here. Maybe... just maybe, we need to look at that part of the equation. Ya think?

Hmmm... every car, every corner, every lap or every race of the last 5 years. Ok JT, who are you kidding? One hundred thousand plus images per year. And those are all keepers, right? Of course they're not. Read that again... OF COURSE THEY"RE NOT. But, hey, you never know, so lets back em' up in triplicate. Are you with me camera man? Absurd.

Through my website Wheels On Walls, I became exposed to The Klemantaski Collection. More than representing the works of famed motorsports shooter Lewis Klemantaski, The Klemantaski Collection also purchased and maintains archives of many other famous and infamous motorsports photographers. I noticed when they bought a new archive, images weren't immediately available and that they took several months cataloguing and inputting the archive into their system. Hmmmmm.... that makes sense. Regardless of how organized the works may have been, they still needed to be integrated into The Klemantaski Collection's system. Though, I'm guessing a lot of the film needed to be scanned too. But, the point is, everything needs to be consistent within their system.

However, something to consider for our conversation, especially since these are film archives, is how many images does an archive really contain? How big is it?

So, I started to think about this in a more pragmatic way. What part, if any, of my archive is truly going to be of real value? By real, I mean monetarily. If/when I die, should my family have the fortune of liquidating my archive, how much of it is really valuable? Would a collector or someone like The Klemantaski Collection really want 150,000 sport car images from 2005? Could the size, in fact, end up being a liability? Would a potential buyer say, "give us the best 1500 from each year, we'll asses it and make you an offer?" Think about it, someone having to cull through my 150,000 per year just may view that as too much hassle and actually devalue the collection because of the necessary work getting to the good stuff. Hmmmm....

So, beginning in 2008, I started getting really hardcore about managing the best 150-200 images from each race. I still keep all the keepers and everything continues to be backed up in mirrored libraries on separate drives. Except now, the 150-200 cherry picks are managed to a higher degree... keywords, captions etc. and transmitted to an offsite, online (or cloud) storage solution. It is here, I believe, I'm building my true archive and preserving a third level of back-up... but only of the very best images. It also represents what I feel could become an archival asset that has the potential of having value after I'm gone to that big photo hole in the sky.

Additionally, the cloud offers added value to my business. Since all the images transmitted to my "cloud" archive are in high resolution, they are immediately accessible to me anytime, anywhere. Since I travel, that's a genuine value-add. Also, they are available for purchase with managed rights and in any appropriate size to clients, potential clients, agencies or editorial outlets. They're even available as prints. All of this, to me, is a value add, when you consider it was originally created as a top-teir safety net for my important images.

Now, naysayers ask, "what if your "cloud" provider goes out of business? Well, fair question. But, like anything else, all we can do is minimize riskes. Your car maker may go bankrupt. Your storage facility may burn... risk is just that... risk. You have to asses and calculate risk as best you can and make a decision. You can't dwell on the "what ifs" for ever. And remember, these are back up copies. I still have two sets of everything stored locally.

I should also point out, this all continues to be managed within Aperture. Everything is happening as part of my normal workflow. So, with two copies of everything stored locally and a third copy of "the important stuff" stored off-premises, online with all the benefits and value-add I described, I feel I have the best of all worlds. Will it change in the future? Maybe. But for my thinking now, I've got a manageable process (which means I'll stay on top of it) that meets my immediate and future needs while allowing me to sleep at night.

Just as a side note: During the season, I travel with a portable (1TB) hard drive with an Aperture Library called 2009 Motorsports. I will work with that library throughout the year. However, THAT is actually my current back-up for 2009. When I get home from a race, the first thing I do is import the week's project into a mirrored 2009 Motorsports library that resides on an external drive at home. It is that Library I work from and becomes the main library. At year end, I will mirror a copy of that "main" Library and clean off the one on the portable drive. Usually my work is complete before I get home from a race... so the "cherry picks" will already be online and available for download and ecommerce.

Ok... the hook to this journal entry was talking about showing (or not showing) your photos online. I continually read and hear all this banter about Facebook will keep your images, and Digital Railroad went broke and kept peoples images .... and basically, once Al Gore kills the internet, the sky WILL fall and we'll all be left with spoon fed government message streams on our iPhones or Blackberrys. Yeah... right?

Look... put your photos on the web. Put them out there at 640 or 800 pixels and let the world see your work. Trust me, as sure as you're not going to get $16 million dollars from Folger's coffee because they used your face on their can, NO ONE is going to rob you blind by stealing your little 640 pixel image off a web site. Should you care if someone does benefit commercially from your images? Of course you should. If you capture the next high profile assassination on video should you put in on YouTube? Of course you shouldn't. But the point here is to not over think this stuff. Get your name and your photos out there. You've heard the word... it's called VIRAL. Believe me, I have tens of thousands of images posted on the internet. Have I caught people using them? Yes! BUT... not in the manner you're thinking. The times that I've had to pursue unauthorized use of an image was rarely because of someone taking a lo-res image. Again, I have hundreds of thousands out there... it's not an issue. It's certainly never been an issue that couldn't be resolved with an email or a phone call. More often than not, it's resulted in a relationship or a customer. You can make it work.

But if you aren't showing your work, what's the point? We have this phenomenal marketing tool available to us. We have the means to market our name to a worldwide audience by showing a "sample" of our work. Don't you taste free samples in the supermarket? If you taste one that's good, don't you buy it and/or tell your friends? Of course you do. SHOW YOUR IMAGES and stop worrying about "what if?" If "what if" happens take proper (and calm) steps to resolve it. But DON'T kill your potential growth by hiding your work on your hard drive.

Like I said... thats my take on the process. Hopefully, I've made some points that will get you to think REALISTICALLY about the process. Just whatever you do, don't have a knee-jerk reaction to every change that comes your way. For the most part, digital photography is only about 10 year old... who knew we'd be having these conversations? We've got lots more to learn and a lot more will change. Six terabyte indeed!!!

Thanks for listening...

JT