The virtue of digital


The virtue of digital

Preserving photos on DVD

It’s spring cleaning time again, and you’ve been tasked with the basement. In a dark corner, you find a dusty old box of yellowed photos: your grandfather on the homestead, your mother in her WWII nurse’s uniform, your father beaming with his bride. You carry the box upstairs, determined to preserve your heritage. But you’re not sure how to begin.

There are many ways to preserve these photos, but a digital archive on DVD will last for generations.

The virtue of digital

Take a look at how you store old pictures. Do you keep your heirloom photos in a musty corner of the basement? Your photos, especially those developed prior to the 1980s, can be damaged from something as innocuous as humid air.

You’ll find considerable advantages to preserving photos digitally. After scanning old photos, you can use editing software to digitally “mend” their tears, stains, folds, and other damage. (Read the art of restoring photos for more information.) You can also remove the dreaded red-eye or perfect the photo’s composition.

And while the expense of digitally preserving photos has dropped dramatically, the process itself has become that much easier. Flatbed scanners from HP start at under $80 (US dollars), and the procedure for using them has, in many cases, been reduced to pressing a single button. If you have slides or negatives, you’ll need an adapter ($80 to $250 US dollars), or you can buy a scanner specifically built for slides and negatives.

The next logical step

That brings us to DVDs. One of the great things about DVDs is that they are just as shareable as CDs. Like a CD, a DVD is cheaper and easier to mail than two rolls of developed photos, and there’s much less likelihood of damage. And here’s the capper: DVDs have an expected lifetime of up to 100 years. How much longer will that photo of your great-great-grandmother last if you keep it in a cardboard box?


DVD technology is a giant leap forward from other portable, shareable digital storage options. Consider this: A DVD holds 4.7GB of data, or about seven times the capacity of a CD. A single DVD can hold more than 15,000 photo-quality (300KB files) pictures!

DVD writers are fast in terms of raw data-writing speed. HP dvd200i writes at 2.4x, which means, assuming you have 15,000 photos sitting around on your hard drive, it would take less than 25 minutes to completely fill a DVD. That’s 600 photos a minute, or 10 photos a second!

You can record your photos on DVD+R discs (the “R” stands for “recordable”), on which you can record data only once. Or you can record on a DVD+RW (“rewritable”) disc, which can be rewritten, or rerecorded, about 1,000 times. DVD+R discs are obviously cheaper, but you may want to spend a little more money on DVD+RW discs to maintain a more secure archive.

PC not required

Depending on the type of information recorded, DVD+R discs can be played on most DVD players, including DVD drives for your computer and DVD video players for your TV.

That being said, you could also consider producing your photo scrapbook as a movie. Just use the DVD editing software included with your DVD writer. This way, your audience won’t need a PC, but can use a TV and DVD player to view it. Use the software to pan over a photo of Uncle Dwight during the Great Depression. Then add a little music and audio commentary from Dwight himself and suddenly your scrapbook plays like a Ken Burns documentary!

The making of your home movies

Another use for your photos might be as additional content when you convert your old home movies to DVD. Photos can be used as backgrounds, buttons, and as a photo scrapbook.

Preserve your heirlooms

As long as you have the photos out to scan them into a digital archive, you could organize and store them in a quality container that will protect them from sunlight, air, humidity, and other damaging influences. And while these containers are an excellent way to preserve the original, digital copies allows you to share them and preserve them for a lifetime. Read archiving photo prints for more on keeping your photos in picture-perfect condition.

Visit the HP Digital Photography Centre

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