BetterPhoto Q&A
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Photography Question 
Richard Jackson
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/8/2000

Storing Photos - CD, DVD, R, RW

I am a little confused (a lot really) about storing photos on discs. After uploading your photos to the computer from whatever method - a card reader, printer, digicam, etc. - what would be the best, or better yet, what is the difference with all the different discs? I have seen CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R and DVD+R ... Are there special ones for photos and others for music, or can they all be used for photos, and what would be the advantage of using one over the other? Thanks, BetterPhoto, for an excellent Web site!!
Rich Jackson

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10/16/2005 1:30:57 PM

Bob Fately   Rich, the short answer is no, there are not special discs designed to store photos in particular. Remember, to the computer, the photo is just another digital file, no different from a Word document or a Quicken file or an MP3. It's all just zeros and ones.

That said, there are differences between the technologies you mention, though they have to do with the particular drive you will be using. A CD burner can burn either CD-R or CD-RW, but not DVDs. DVD burners can generaly burn CDs as well, though, since CDs are lower density. The DVD+R verus -R is purely a matter of what your burner will be able to use - though nowadays many DVD burners can handle both. Again, just another stupid format difference, similar to but not quite as drastic as the difference between VHS and Beta in the old days (at least they both use the same size disc).

All that said, the one thing that you should know is that there are differing qualities of CDs and DVDs (all flavors). The cheap 10-15-cent-apiece stuff you can buy in any discount store are fine for short-term use, but the dyes they use can actually degrade just sitting on the shelf, making them useless coasters in a few years' time. For this reason, it's generally suggested that you use so-called Gold versions of these discs, which cost quite a bit more (on the order of $1 per disc) but which are rated for decades of shelf life. Google Mitsui gold and you will get a number of hits on the topic - MAM-A is their U.S. subsidiary that sells direct.

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10/16/2005 11:06:50 PM

Norbert Maile   One other thing to keep in mind is that cheaper disc's are generaly slower reading and burning as well. It sometimes may seem not to matter but believe me,it will. Faster is better. I have also found that image quality can be better on a DVD rather than CD.

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10/18/2005 8:46:36 PM

Laura J. Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/1/2003
  Hey Bob and Norbert, Great info here. So are there gold versions of DVD's? I'm wading through info to find the best way to back-up raw images at home AND in the field. RAW images are so big, a DVD is best, yes? Or would I be better off to just back-up the images that I've polished and saved in Photoshop? It seems to me that saving every image just out of the camera is a waste and could get expensive with gold quality discs. I haven't saved many pics yet, just starting. Thx.

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12/18/2005 10:52:40 AM

BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/7/2005
  Personally to back up files I use DVD, as they hold a lot more, especially when you photos are 22MB each and you may have 100 of them. I use CD's to burn photos on to discs for clients and save the DVD's for me.

Obviously though I have a CD/DVD -/+ burner

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12/18/2005 3:21:52 PM

Bob Fately   Yes, Laura - you now can get gold DVD blanks from MAM-A (the Mitsui company). Here's their URL:

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12/18/2005 5:27:49 PM

Brendan Knell
BetterPhoto Member Since: 4/17/2005
  Also, RW discs(Cd and DVD) are not as good as the regular R discs. RW doesn't last as long.

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12/18/2005 5:42:01 PM

Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/3/2005
  so, do you all save the Raw file or a copy of the edited tiff? I would think to save the raw if its not a photo for a customer,or if it doesnt need to be downloaded or copied again and again. if so, youd save the edited tiff (in case copies are wanted, this way they'd all look the same) is this about it?

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12/19/2005 1:08:32 PM

Bob Fately   Well, Craig - how one handles one's workflow depends on their needs. Since the RAW file is, for all intents and purposes, akin to an original negative, it certainly makes sense to save those. But at the same time, backing up and storing the edited TIFF files is probably worthwhile as well.

The most imprtant thing to remember is to have muclitple backups. Sure, you have that 1TB shoebox-sized drive attached to your Mac and back everything up to that in case the internal drive on the computer fails. But what if the house burns down, ruining both drives? That's why you want backups to discs that you can store in another buildilng (or perhaps another state, if you're area is disaster prone - witness the data losses from hurricane Katrina).

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12/19/2005 1:59:21 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/9/2005

You pose a question that leads to a variety of other questions..the biggest that looms in my mind is what Bob alluded to, that being "archival quality."

I've read an article that seems to show, each time we remove a CD or DVD from it's jewel case, we begin to damage the material..bending, stretching and stressing the "hills & valleys" of the disk.
So one tip that follows logic is to use sleeves and NOT jewel cases.

I struggle with how often to update/refresh my photos on disk..worse yet; I wonder what technology may replace these little marvels in the next ten years?

It is true that RW's are not as reliable as R's alone; but now you have to make a decision. Wait till you have enough photos to fill the (R) only disk or; add to your (RW) as you aquire more photos? Hmm? Ok; so wait if you have (R) only..and while you are waiting to get enough pics to fill the (R) disk, your HD crashes; which is MUCH more prone to do so than a disk corrupting.
I learned my lesson here when I lost over 500 vacation photos when my HD crashed.
I now add nearly all my new photos immedietly to a RW. When it is filled I transfer them to a (R) only, but keep the (RW) as a backup copy.

Digital storage, backups, making copies..ALL these things we as digital photogs do can be a pain in the butt, but I suppose its still better than going thru an attic of shoeboxes and looking for that shot of Auntie Smith. LOL


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12/19/2005 3:02:07 PM

Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/3/2005
  ya know Bob... I never thought of that.. Can you imagine what the data loss must have been? That thought never crossed my mind at all!...man1

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12/20/2005 4:28:12 AM

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