There’s much more to being an “archival” photographer than a long-lasting print.
Step 1. Reliability
Your system will grow and change if you spend any length of time as a serious photographer. That’s because your needs will change and so will the tools you have to work with. When I started in the 70s, there was no such thing as a digital camera. Now they’re common place. When you plan for your future, remember that the media we use today, may be gone tomorrow. I have a bunch of old 5 1/4 inch floppy disks laying around to prove it.
Step 2. Storage Conditions
You need to work within a plan that utilizes archival materials every step of the way. Everything needs to be pH7, buffered and always dry. Proper storage conditions include temperature controlled areas (typically between 50 and 60 degrees F.) The humidity in your archival storage conditions should be no more than 40% and no less than 25%. There should be NO light hitting materials you classify as archival. So use of print boxes and other similar items is suggested.
Step 3. Compatibility
Will your DNG file always open for you? How about your Tiff or GIF? File formats come and go. PCX was at one time one of the most popular graphic file formats. Now it’s virtually unsupported. How about Kodak CD? Try and work with those files today. While you can still probably find work arounds for all mainstream digital file formats, that will not always be the case. Store your images in at LEAST two file formats to make sure you have compatibility going forward.
Step 4 Backup/Redunancy
If you don’t have at least three copies of each of your serious photographs, you might as well say you don’t have any. Without both a local and a remote backup, you don’t have an archival system. You can’t guarantee file viability if the files no longer exist. Make sure you backup your work at least twice and test those backups every 90 days to make sure they work. Backup hardware and software is VERY expensive. Don’t skimp here. Buy it and use it.
Step 5 Safety/Security
Are your files safe from a hacker or a virus? If you want a truly archival system make sure you have protection. Consider virus programs, and use the Internet security protocols built into most popular browsers. If your work is valuable, treat it like it’s valuable and protect it from cyber threats.
This is just a starting point. Analyze every part of your workflow and ask yourself where you’re weak. Start working on those areas if you want a truly archival system.
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