Everyone wants one. But it’s something money can’t buy. In fact, it’s something you leave behind—a legacy. When you try to wrap your mind around leaving a legacy for future generations, you may automatically think of dollars and cents. Although leaving your family with financial security is important, it’s not the only way to leave a lasting legacy. In addition to the "assets" your financial planner may list on your balance sheet, there’s another asset that deserves protecting: visual assets. That’s why you need to know the five keys to leaving a visual legacy for future generations.
What are visual assets?Simply put, visual assets are the images that you create during your lifetime. They may be moving images, in the form of videos. They may be still images, in the form of photos. They may be in digital form, or analog form. Above all, they capture moments and milestones; they tell your life story.
While digital imaging has advantages, like making multiple copies of photos and safely storing them out of harm’s way, there are also some serious challenges. For example, migrating data from obsolete storage media to contemporary media is time-consuming. Smartphones have made digital photography so ubiquitous that many of us feel buried under thousands of our own photos. In fact, some experts warn that future generations may enter a “Digital Dark Age” as hardware and software become obsolete.
So how do you protect your visual assets?
Like any asset, your visual assets need to be managed. They need to be carefully monitored; they need to be safely stored; they need to be well-organized.
Here are 5 keys to managing your visual assets:
Make multiple backups
- Make digital copies of your analog photos.
- Make printed copies of your digital photos. (Remember, prints don’t require technology to view!)
- Store your images in the cloud. (Pick a reputable provider that will likely be around for a long time.)
- Store at least one complete set of your image archive on a hard drive.
- Use the three-copy rule: you should have three digital copies of your photos, at least one at an off-site location. (For example, store one copy in your bank safety deposit box.)
- Choose cloud systems that make at least one automatic backup, which won’t require manual effort on your part.
- Apple Photos will keep a copy of your photos on your local hard drive and another in Apple’s cloud, but you need Apple devices to use it.
- Google Photos, Google’s answer to Apple Photos, is great for people who use any computing platform: Android or iOS, Windows or Mac.
- Backblaze will make a backup of all of the documents on your computer, including your photo library, and store them in the cloud.
- Share images with family—now!
- Be disciplined and systematic.
- Organize, organize, organize!
- Add metadata
Giving digital copies of your photos to family members makes it easier to recover files if your copy is destroyed. One great way to share images with family is to tap in to the power of FamilySearch’s Memories feature. As an added backup, give family members printed copies of your favorite images.
This is the toughest one! Make sure you use one system that you are comfortable with, and stick with it. Before backing up images, delete bad photos. This mostly pertains to photos you shoot with your smartphone. Purge photos that you would never use or won’t care about in the future. You don’t need 25 snapshots of your mom’s rose bush in her front yard. Just keep one copy. And pay close attention to images that capture people—after all, future generations will care more about a blurry picture of YOU hiking Pike’s Peak than a pretty picture of a mountain.
The software mentioned above allows you to group images by dates and themes. Don’t simply rely on chronological ordering as your primary organization method. Group images by occasion or event. Logical groupings include, “Jody’s Baptism,” or “Edward’s First Christmas.” If you’re struggling to create a system that works for you, reach out to the Association of Professional Photo Organizers for tips or personalized help.
Metadata is just a fancy word for information about your photos. Think of metadata as the context future generations will need to understand your life story. Your smartphone or digital camera may add a lot of this data for you, especially time and location. But there’s more to telling your life story than time and location. For example, ask yourself these key questions when adding metadata to your images: who, what, when, where, why, and how? Remember, old photos need context and content. There’s a sense of urgency when it comes to adding metadata—gather as much data now while the people who know the information are alive.
These are just five keys to leaving a visual legacy for future generations. There are many technological tools that can help you back up and protect your visual assets. The most important principle is to create a system that works for you and stick to it! Every time you think about what you want to leave behind for future generations, remember that visuals like photos and videos enrich your legacy. And you can’t put a price on telling your life story.
About the authors:Andrew and Rachel Niesen are co-owners of LaCour + Niesen, a photography and digital asset management firm based in Atlanta and New York City. Andrew earned a dual-degree MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and WHU-Otto Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar, Germany. Before pursuing his MBA, Andrew studied photojournalism at the Missouri School of Journalism. Rachel studied photojournalism and art history at the University of Missouri, where she and Andrew met and joined personal and professional forces. She is a word wizard who loves serving clients who want to solve real problems for real people. If you’re really interested in their hobbies—or if you happen to love family history and vintage photos—check out their passion project and latest startup, Save Family Photos.
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