If you are like me you have photographs stored all over the place. From the cloud, to online databases, to memory cards to old shoe boxes. And wondering how to preserve my photos after I’m gone used to stress me out. But with the right preparation you can ensure your work is not lost once you are no longer around.
Keep Your Photographs Alive When You Aren’t
While nobody enjoys thinking about their death, a working photographer must have a plan in place or their work will largely be lost when they pass on.
If you do not have a plan in place what will happen to your images? Does anyone know how to access them right now? If you answered no then you need to do something about that ASAP.
When we look at physical photographs the answer is pretty straight forward. Photos, negatives, and transparencies can be passed on much like any other material possessions you own.
But the situation becomes much more complex once we start looking at digitally stored images. Whether you still use web based storage, the cloud or external hard drives you must have a solid plan to ensure those images are not permanently lost.
Ensuring Your Photographic Legacy
The first thing you must do is decide what you want to happen to your images after you are gone. Do you want anyone to have access to them? Only family? Or leave them to a photographic archive?
Once you have decided you must write out your wishes in a document accessible by those in charge of your estate.
If you have decided to allow access to your images then you will need to decide who will have access to your passwords. Do not put your passwords in your will though as these become public domain upon your passing. Instead inform those who you will entrust with your images what your passwords are or how to access them upon your death.
This is particularly important as some state laws do not allow anyone access to your digital information unless a password was specifically given to that individual. Think about who you trust with this info and let them know your desire to have them be the custodian of your digital photography.
To add to the complications, some digital platforms have policies in place to delete your content upon death. It’s important to know how your data is handled after you are gone so you can move or backup these images in a more permanent manner.
Choose Your Benefactor Wisely
While it goes without saying that who you choose to handle your images must be trusted to follow your wishes, you must also ensure they are technically capable of accessing your images. Not everyone will understand how to handle the technical aspect of accessing and handling your digital images.
You should not only select someone already able to handle the task, you should also walk them through the various platforms and devices you use to store your photography. You should also write out detailed instructions on where to access and how to access all of your storage locations. Don’t be afraid to go into detail, the more information you provide the less likely someone will have an issue accessing your images.
You should also take stock of how you’ve organized your images. What seems organized to you may be incomprehensible to someone else going through your pictures.
Take time to think about how you can make your images more easily accessed by someone else. Do you have well labeled and logical folders? If you don’t you need to do a better job organizing them.
Steps To Ensuring Your Images Live On
1) Think About What You Want
Consider how you want your images handled after you are gone. After you know what you want, write it in a document and put it somewhere it can be accessed after you are gone. Then make a note of the documents existence in your will.
2) Photography Passwords
Provide all of your passwords to someone you trust. Choose someone who will be technically capable of following your wishes. You can also use a password management software to make the process easier. Make sure the document you created contains every location you store your images and what they should find in each storage platform.
3) Understand Policies
Read the terms and services for all third party platforms you use for storage and image hosting. What a company does with your information and content following your death can vary considerably. Ensure you can pass on your images and if any platform does not allow it, move those images to somewhere that allows you to pass access on.
4) Organize Your Images
Giving access to your images doesn’t mean much if no one knows what to look for or how to locate it. Assess your storage and make sure an outside person can understand your storage system.
5) Provide Detail
In your document write up step by step instructions on how to access your images. Go into detail to ensure there are no issues accessing you photography. Also walk the person in charge of your images through the process too. Show them where you store your images and how to access them. Acquaint them with your storage system and ask them if they have any questions.
Every photographer needs to handle how their images will be cared for when they are gone. It’s not the most fun thing to think about but you have to do it. Consider your images like any other asset you have. Make sure that you have a solid plan in place and make updates to your document when storage or password changes occur. Once you do this you will no longer have to stress about what happens to your work when you’re no longer around.