Digital Media Libraries

by Bob Seidel

My wife and I have been shooting digital photos for about nine years now. My first digital camera was the Kodak DC-265, which we bought in early 1999. I went back and looked up the first photo I had saved from the new camera - it was my daughter wheeling my grandson in a wagon down our Oak Island street. But our online photo libraries go back further than that, as I have digitized photos and slides that date back into the '50s.

Our accumulated photos number in the many thousands; it is difficult to count. But in bytes it comes to about 25 gigabytes of storage. That is not a big deal with today's huge hard drives, but an overwhelming pile of stuff nevertheless. Add to that the dozens of video tapes that I have on the shelf and my video PC online storage approaching 1 TB (terabyte = 1,000 gigabytes). And there is a big box of photo prints in my closet that has yet to be sorted or digitized.

My almost sole hobby recently has been trying to make some sense and order out of all this. Now I don't want to sound depressed here, but I think I am losing the battle! So I thought I would give you the benefit of some of my observations about handling your family media.

The analogy to all of this back in the old days was the photo album. You took some photos, you culled the best, and you mounted them in an album. You might have a few albums around the house, and would take them out on occasion to view, mostly with visitors and sitting on the living room couch. But we don't use that technique with digital photos - we tend to keep 'em all! So how should we organize our digital photos and what should we do with them?

At one point in time I came to the conclusion that we are almost never going to look at photos or videos in the old photo album manner again. There are just too many, and even the effort to organize them is daunting and increases with every shot we take. I then began to think about organizing with themes: our grandchildren's births, beach reunion weeks through the years (as opposed to an individual year), a particular vacation, etc. At this point, organizing photos by date (chronologically) seemed like the only way to store photos, and in fact by default most of our digital photos are currently organized that way.

I now find that I do a lot of "data mining" - going through the chronological folders looking for particular photos that fit into the theme I am currently working on. For example, I just finished the family 2007 video, but as part of that I mined thought the 2007 photos looking for the ones that complemented the video I had taken that year.

The realization of that work is DVDs, which are fine for video, but do not fully bring out the detail in photos. That will change when we are all on HiDef video, but for now I am contemplating some packaged PC slide shows for the themes that are stills only.

But what is the effort? The first of two DVDs for 2007 cost me about three weeks of work. I am very experienced at video editing, and it turned out quite well. But my kids and grandkids will probably look at it once - an hour's worth of return for three weeks of work.

And what will I do with all of these theme DVDs? The current count is 36, with more to come. If, in the future, we watched one a week it would take an entire year just to review the library. Is that going to happen? Probably not.

Again, I am not trying to sound too depressed here, but the point I want to make is that we need to carefully think about why we are taking all those photos and videos, and what we intend to do about them. I don't think I have found the answers yet. Email me with your thoughts and ideas.

(Bob Seidel is a local computer consultant in the Southport - Oak Island area. You can visit his Website at or e-mail questions or column ideas to him at For specific inquiries, please call Bob Seidel Consulting, LLC at 278-1007.)