5 Ways to Archive Your Facebook Photos

Imagine that you’ve taken some great digital pictures of a special event, uploaded them to Facebook and then deleted them from your camera and computer — only to realize that you’ve now lost the higher quality originals forever due to lack of an archive. That’s what’s happening to consumers who don’t realize that Facebook — and other sites that allow photo storage — doesn’t store images at their original quality.

Problems

This discovery is a huge problem for consumers, especially when you consider that Facebook has surpassed sites such as Flickr and even the old photo storage king Photobucket, in terms of most popular site for uploading photos. This isn’t surprising considering how much fun it can be to upload photos to Facebook and then tag your friends, which in turn prompts them to come comment on photos and reminisce about old times. However, people often don’t realize that they’ve lost their originals.

Now, when a friend wants a copy of a photo for themselves, to print out, what do you do? While the act of printing pictures has decreased significantly, with possibly as much as 40% of picture-taking households never printing photos, there still may be occasions where you want to print. If you don’t have the original digital image, you’re probably out of luck. Whatever version you have on a photosharing site or on Faceboook probably doesn’t have a high enough resolution to be printed at more than postcard size without being grainy. That means printing off 8″x10″ for an album, or larger images such as a poster for framing, are out of the question. Sure, there’s imaging software that can reconstruct some of the lost quality, but there are still limits.

Image Storage Options

Even with Facebook announcing earlier this month that they would save uploaded images at about a 20% size increase, it’s still not the same as having a high-resolution copy available when you need it. If you’ve already deleted your original digital image files, you’re probably out of luck, unless you want to get very technically-savvy and scrape your hard drive to see if the files are still around. For the future, you can save your digital images before you upload them to Facebook or some photo-sharing site. Here are some of your digital archival options:

  1. Memory cards. Keep digital image files on their original memory cards and keep a library of cards. Memory cards are much cheaper these days, and even the smallest can hold a significant number of high-resolution photos.
    Drawback: Memory cards can get erased or lost, and are hard to label.
  2. DVD or CD. Burn image files to a DVD or CD. They’re cheap, easy to label, easy to share.
    Drawback: Unless you take a lot of pictures at once, discs have more space than you need, and often you end up wasting it.
  3. Internal drive. Store files image files on your computer’s internal hard drive. This gives you easy access to do image editing and create digital photo albums.
    Drawback: Your hard drive stands to get filled up quickly.
  4. External drive. Store files to an external hard drive. These are getting cheaper and larger in capacity, and often work cross-platform (that is, can function on a PC, Linux or Mac OS X computer).
    Drawback: They tend to be slower than internal hard drives.
  5. Cloud storage. Store files to a “cloud storage” service. There are multiple options for file storage services online, and many offer freemium options — free under a certain storage capacity. For example, Dropbox offers up to 2GB free, with space bonuses each time anyone you refer completes registration and activates their “dropbox.” Dropbox and other services even act as if they’re a folder on an external hard drive, making it easy to drag and drop files.
    Drawback: Some of these services have an unexpected “drag and drop” behavior. Be sure to note whether you’re creating a new copy or not, when dragging the original to its cloud target. Experiment with unimportant sample files.

Many of the above options can also benefit from having photo sets compressed with a “ZIP” type of application. This is of course only useful if you are truly archiving your digital photos and don’t expect to edit or otherwise manipulate them any time soon. If some of your images are very important, you might use multiple options from above.

Do you share a lot of photos on Facebook? Do you preserve the original digital images? If so, how do you store them? Let us know in the comments.