Photo storage is the term used to denote the preservation and storage of photographic material. It covers a very broad spectrum, ranging from traditional photography to its modern, digital counterpart. The main aim is to protect and keep the images intact, making sure that the printed material does not get damaged or faded, or that files do not turn corrupt, get accessed by unwanted intruders or simply get deleted. The approach can be vastly different but that depends on the type of technology used. The celluloid film that was used prior to World War II needs to be kept in special containers, in carefully monitored conditions so to avoid any unwanted change to the texture and quality of the image carrier. Digital files are equally vulnerable, albeit in different ways. The storage devices they are kept on are often quite delicate and need to be kept away from humidity and great stress. Viruses can also wreak havoc on a portable hard drive or memory card. Each storage method is unique and comes with its own set of advantages as well as challenges.
Throughout its history, photography has gone through many transformative changes. From the initial daguerreotypes and their laborious production mechanisms through hand-painted black and white photography to the invention of color processing, progress has been fast and relentless. The human desire to capture images stretches back to antiquity and the invention of camera obscura - a mechanism that allowed for projection and tracing of images from the real world. Still, a more precise technical solution was not introduced until the 19th century when, in 1839, Louis Daguerre finally patented the use of the daguerreotype process. This method resulted in printed images that were quite fragile, requiring storage boxes and other means of preservation. With the dawn of the 20th century, photographers soon moved to a new invention - the celluloid film - which promised greater precision in image making but proved equally delicate to handle. True color photography emerged in the 1920s but did not attain wide-spread use until after the Second World War. Of course, moving pictures and the resulting film industry drove the progress forward, investing in new technology and innovations. In 1957, digital photos made their appearance, first in the form of a binary digital system invented by Russell A. Kirsch. Further progress was made in 1975 when Kodak came up with the so-called mosaic pattern. Still, it was at the end of the century when digital photography and its storage were both advanced enough and affordable enough to begin taking over the top position. By the second decade of the new millennium, the process is almost complete.
The shift from the analog camera to its digital counterpart was comparatively slow. Initially, the technology was quite expensive and both the production and the storage of images were a costly affair. The changes that occurred between the late 1950s and early 1990s were gradual and only applicable in the realm of highly expensive video production. The change came only when personal computers became an accessible commodity for the average user. With the spread of such technology, other branches were prompted to follow suit and cluster around this popular device. Digital cameras initially presented the user with a rather grainy final product, the quality of which varied depending on a number of different external factors. Still, the ability to make, view, edit, and delete as many photos as possible - on the spot - freed the photographer from the necessity of consulting professionals and waiting for days for the film to be developed. Editing a digital image was easier but also presented the user experienced with analog technology with a steep learning curve. Ultimately, digital photography took over a lion share of the market, pushing the more traditional methods into a niche populated by passionate enthusiasts.
During the early days of digital technology, the storage of images was largely confined to hard drives and certain portable devices. It was a comparatively safe method, at least during the time when most PCs were offline. With the advent of the Internet and, more importantly, social media, image sharing became an important aspect of the process. People became eager to show off their virtual albums to the world but also to make sure that their images were preserved. Suddenly, storing them on a hard drive or a social media account wasn't enough. Cloud services such as Flickr and Dropbox enabled the user to upload photos from computer onto a remote storage system that provided space and safety for the files in question. These virtual locations are often referred to as logical pools.
The main reason for the rise of cloud photo storage has been a natural concern for safety. Digital images, as all other files, are susceptible to theft, unlawful access, corruption as well as pollution by viruses and other malware. This is why laptops and phone memory cards are increasingly considered unsafe. Cloud services provide a heavily guarded alternative and intrusions are comparatively rare. Password protection tends to be strong, as are firewalls guarding the data from attacks. Of course, such companies do raise a few red flags when it comes to privacy. The debate is ongoing whether it is safer to store one's precious images on a PC that is vulnerable to online attacks or essentially give them to a profitable enterprise that can decide to misuse or sell them. Treading a fine line between the two scenarios is important for any user looking to preserve and organize photos in a way that they are kept safe and secure. Ultimately, the choice for storing one's memories, fun collages or professional photography is on the user to make.