PhotoShelter – Archiving Digital Image Files

With the Digital Age thoroughly upon us, the continuing question of the longevity of digital files becomes more insistent as the mountains of files build and build. For professionals, it’s not much of a choice. You back up or risk losing your livelihood. For everyone else it’s a decision based on the importance of images such as births, first steps, first day of school, graduation, wedding, best friends, and so on. Where do you store these files?

Unfortunately, there is a large population of digital photographs out there without the original file. People without computers make the trip to the local drugstore, superstore, or image kiosk, insert their memory card, make a print, then delete the card to make room for more files. Once done and overwritten, that file is pretty much gone. Once the print fades or is damaged, it’s gone forever. Without a computer or other way to backup original image files, personal history (in photographs) can easily end with the purchase of a digital camera.

There are several solutions, burning to CD or DVD, storage on internal or external hard drives or server arrays. Also, multiple copies stored in different site locations is preferrable for optimal security. Digital file storage can get expensive very quickly if you’re a prolific shooter. This is compounded by the file type being stored (JPEG, TIFF, RAW, etc.) as the individual file size increases from JPEG to RAW. CDs, DVDs, even hard drives become inadequate storage devices and continually need to be replaced with empty storage media.

A person getting into digital photography needs to be aware of the technology (and changing technology), keep up with changes in software, hardware, storage technology, and upgrade and purchase new equipment. It’s a daunting task even for those of us trying to make a living at it. It is often overwhelming to first-time digital shooters.

A new business model is cropping up which provides off-site data storage accessible via the web and includes a variety of other features such as storefronts and product creation (t-shirts, mugs, calendars, photo prints). The interface allows you to upload, describe, keyword, search and otherwise manage your collection and your files are guaranteed to be safe, although I’d hate to be in their shoes if that ever wasn’t the case.

One such company is www.photoshelter.com. This company has been gaining in popularity, primarily among professional photographers, for it’s storage options, relatively moderate cost, and other features geared toward the stock and fine art photographer. There is no setup fee, no minimum contract, no bandwidth limits and no termination fee. Storage starts at 10GB for $5.99/month and goes up. 35GB is $19.99/month and 1TB is $400/month. Other features include sales customization with website integration for $20/month, set up a virtual agency for $5/month and be able to FTP directly from PhotoShelter also for $5/month.

If you’d like to sell online, it will cost you $1 per transaction in addition to any merchant or other processing fees assessed by your e-commerce provider.

For stock photographers, Rights Managed and Royalty Free pricing can be set. Rights managed pricing is currently done via an online form that is customizable. Soon, it will be menu-driven.

RSS feeds are available to keep your clients informed when new images are uploaded to your library. Text or graphical watermark overlay is generated “on-the-fly” so it can be changed for all images easily and at any time.

If you want to sell prints, PhotoShelter is partnered with EZPrints to provide up to 20×30 enlargements on Fuji Crystal Archive paper. Other products are available through EZPrints, such as mugs, t-shirts, calendars, but I don’t know if those are also available through PhotoShelter.

PhotoShelter’s statement “Photography that can’t be seen has no value” is true on many levels. A 7-day free trial is offered.

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