Your Death Plan?

DayPhoDayPho Registered Users Posts: 11 Big grins

I don't really see a good forum section for this, so since it's somewhat software related, I'll put it here.

As I get older I am wondering how to preserve the thousands of digital images I have of my family, for my family. Do any of you have any suggestions or care to share your death plan? If you get hit by a bus tomorrow, what happens to all your images?

Also, one step more.. what is the best medium for extremely long term storage right now? 100+ years and beyond.

Thanks in advance for tips.

Canon Mark IV & 6D. Too many lenses to list, mostly L. 35mm L is my pride and joy and the 85mm 1.4 will be legend. Fan of Adorama, Smugmug and Mpix.


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    colourboxcolourbox Registered Users Posts: 2,095 Major grins
    edited July 22, 2019

    I posted a comment somewhat addressing this in another Smugmug forum, you can read it at this link.

    The gist of it is that what happens to our photos is a minor issue compared to what happens to our other valuable online assets, like large bank accounts, important digital records of property, etc. In other words, we should be thinking about how all of our digital assets can be maintained by family after death so that they aren't lost (like if no one in the family knows the password to an investment account, for example).

    @DayPho said:
    Also, one step more.. what is the best medium for extremely long term storage right now? 100+ years and beyond.

    Probably good archival prints or printed book.

    Next best would be JPEGs (since no one will know what to do with raw files) that your will directs to be continually migrated to new media as they emerge. The reason for that is that no digital medium has been able to survive more than 2 or 3 decades. There are media that will technically last more than 100 years, but what does that really mean? I can give you a once dominant SyQuest or Zip cartridge from the 1980s (only 35 years ago!) plus the drive that reads it. But are you going to be able to plug its SCSI cable into a computer your family has today? And then, can you find a driver for that SyQuest or Zip drive that works with Windows 10 or macOS 14? That is where all of the "archival digital media" solutions fall down. Connection cables and driver support in the far future. So many computers today don't even include a disc drive....can you really count on any disc media at all?

    OK so how about cloud ? No, lots of cloud storage companies have already come and gone. Yahoo Photos, Ofoto, Digital Railroad, etc. They get bought, the storage limits change, the service gets discontinued, etc.

    That is why, if your photos are of any value to your family, there should be a plan and directive in writing for all digital, nonprinted images to be copied forward as media change. Along with all your family's other irreplaceable and valuable digital documents. This only gets easier, by the way. 15 years ago it would have meant copying a tall stack of CD-ROMs I burned. Then it was 2 or 3 hard drives. Now, hard drives are so large and cheap it all fits on one drive, and a single relatively quick copy operation safeguards my entire life's work to a second copy on a newer medium.

    Or, you put them on a website that your will says must be maintained by a family member, generation after generation. But hosting costs can rise, policies can change, web site formatting can change, so that can be challenging too.

    In the end it has to be a solution that the family can handle any generation from now, for all important family digital documents not just pictures.

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    pathfinderpathfinder Super Moderators Posts: 14,700 moderator

    Interesting discussion and one I am very interested in as well, as I am not getting any younger

    Despite my extensive LR catalog and SmugMug site, I suspect the longest most secure means is still archival prints, or printed books, or some of both perhaps is best. I do try to print most of my older family photos from previous generations going back to the 19th century on my Canon ProGraf printer, but perhaps I should consider making a few books as well. Prints hold content pretty well, but loose much typical metadata and location data that might still be of interest to someone in the distant future.

    Having said this, I still am interested in some form of electronic media storage and display for some time into the future. I need to discuss this with my family.

    And I am interested in hearing other folks strategies and thoughts.

    Pathfinder - www.pathfinder.smugmug.com

    Moderator of the Technique Forum and Finishing School on Dgrin
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    OffTopicOffTopic Registered Users Posts: 521 Major grins

    This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Two years ago I was diagnosed with terminal cancer. I'm living on borrowed time and diligently trying to "get my affairs in order", mainly so my husband doesn't have to worry about such things while trying to deal with his grief.

    Family photos are one thing, it's fairly easy enough to send them out to people or upload to a cloud account. Note that if you use a cloud account such as Google Drive or Google Photos, you can set instructions set for what to do with your Google account upon your death (Inactive Account Manager). If you've been inactive for a predetermine period of time, it will send an e-mail to your contact of choice. That person can be then given permission to access the parts of your account that you specify, such as photos. You can also set what should be deleted upon your death. Of course you could always just give your log-in credentials to someone, but that's not the best idea. If you don't have instructions set up in your account before you die, your immediate family member will need to provide a death certificate and they will only be given access to limited information. You should see what your options are for any cloud account that you use.

    As to future -proofing digital media, I doubt that anything we use today will still be around in 100 years. Look how much has changed just in the last 20 years. In order for your digital archive to last 100 years, someone will have to transfer it to the latest and greatest form of digital storage as often as needed.

    My bigger concern has been with what to do with an extensive archive of images that have provided income for me.

    A few months ago (maybe last year) I attended an ASMP legal webinar that dealt with this topic. Some of dealt with making sure you understand that your (registered) copyrighted images are a real asset, and you need to be sure to address them in your will. As to what to do with your physical photo archive itself, they really only talked about two options - legally giving your copyright to another party (via your will) who will actively manage it, or donating your archives to a local museum/historical society type organization (again via your will).

    Obviously donating your archives is only viable if you shoot certain genres and/or have a good deal of name recognition. Even though I've been shooting for major brands and have a good deal of print credits to my name, in the overall scheme things I'm a nobody and I doubt there would be any historical interest in the genres I shoot. It would likely be a different story for a street photographer who has been documenting a given city for many years, or someone who has spent years photographing a topic of cultural significance.

    I had thought about making arrangements to keep my website and blog up and running to generate passive income for my husband, but he really doesn't know the first thing about managing a website and blog, wouldn't know the first thing about licensing an image or selling a print. and he has no interest in learning. I also don't think it's worth paying $360 a year to keep my SmugMug site on-line after I'm gone. I could change to just a basic SmugMug account, but what's the point of that? It would really only be to satisfy my own desire to leave a legacy behind. As it is, I already have to worry about making sure he is aware that he needs to cancel my automatic renewal after die. As to my physical archive, my husband wouldn't even know where to begin with my three copies of every photo on multiple hard drives! Might as well throw all of them right into the garbage. No one in my family has the knowledge to take over my archives and I wouldn't expect anyone to have to learn.

    What I have been doing is a lot of printing on beautiful fine art papers. After I'm gone my husband can keep them, sell them, or give them away to family and friends as a momento of me. I also hope to put a few memory books together for him.

    There are no easy answers. Will be lurking to see what others have to say.

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