The Cloud for Digital Photography
CONVENTIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY: STORAGE & MANAGEMENT ISSUES
The advent of photography in late 1830s (Roosa, n.d.) has mandated later introduction and development of memory storage methods. The capacity for cameras to preserve in photographs personal and collective memories has made permanency a more urgent issue as photographs became household collectibles. Moreover, as development methods improved, older photographs (developed using outdated methods) required more maintenance during storage, particularly photographs produced by acetate negatives, chromogenic color film, polyester film and instant color print processes (Roosa). The deterioration of photographs by poor environmental storage conditions, poor storage enclosures, inadequate handling and shelving conditions, and residual photographic processing chemicals or using exhausted processing chemicals (Roosa) has, moreover, made storage conditions (and, for that matter, capacities as personal and corporate collections continued to grow substantially) more necessary.
The question of preservation / storage is not, in fact, limited to final products, i.e. photographs per se, but includes as well unprocessed films used in producing photographs. For instance, unprocessed films require a set of care and handling procedures prior to loading to cameras. Notably, unprocessed films require refrigeration conditions of 13°C temperature and below 60% humidity for short-range storage and -18 / -23°C and below 60% respectively for long-range storage ("Storage and Handling of Unprocessed Film," n.d.). This is not to mention exposure to contaminants and X-rays ("Storage and Handling of Unprocessed Film"). For processed films, a longer list of precautions are required for better repository maintenance and storage including, for example, room cleanliness, winding, perforation damage, brittleness, shrinkage, abrasion, breaks and lubrication ("Handling of Processed Film," n.d.).
The case for final filmed products, i.e. photographs, is far more complicated. Given how photography has come to represent an increasingly important business in day-to-day activities, short- and long-range preservation has evolved, in response, over years and has come, more significantly, to include increasingly more cataloging and organization options. Notably, memory institutions (i.e. organizations responsible for archiving / preserving substantial photography repositories such as national libraries) put in place logical cataloging systems (now becoming more outdated, as is discussed shortly) in order to better catalogue photography archives. For example, in appraising photography collections, photographs are assessed based on a broad range of variables including, for example, value, relevance and, not least, preservation needs (Roosa). Predictably, storage priorities and needs differ across institutional practices, let alone unassisted, amateurish preservation methods of personal collections. Thus, storage / preservation is not limited to granular maintenance of independent photographic collections but also includes, more significantly, proper management (and, for that matter, prioritization) of photography collections, an effort made more complicated by growing institutional an personal needs for more proper cataloging (in good condition) of growing collections.
The storage / preservation of national memory collections remains a particularly case in point. If anything, managing substantial photography collections does not only require massive financial investments (in archiving systems) but also proper storage ecosystems not usually available in national repositories. Corbis-Bettmann Archive Photography Collection is a prominent example (Wilhelm et al., 2004). Purchased by Bill Gates in 1995 in steadily deteriorating condition, Corbis-Bettmann Archive Photography Collection has been moved from New York City into a storage facility in secure, sub-zero storage conditions (Wilhelm et al.). The underlying rationale for photography storage / preservation is, if anything, memory preservation.
DIGITAL STORAGE MECHANISMS
The innovations in photography methods, increasing Internet speeds and storage facilities – all has made storing digital photography a viable possibility. If anything, storing digital photographs has not been a linear, steady process. Indeed, quality, storage capacity, reliability and security of storage media and, not least, backup solutions remain debated issues as vulnerabilities, glitches or risks are identified.
The early phase of digital storage solutions is characterized by quasi replication of conventional storage practices. For example, Eastman Kodak's Photo CD system was introduced in 1992 in order to convert (film-based) photographs into readable formats on compact disks (McCandless, 2002). Compared to current standards and practices, CD-stored photographs are nothing but obsolete. This practice involved, moreover, making print-outs for paper copies (McCandless). This required high-resolution printers which, by late 1990s, developed into high quality laser jet printers such as Epson's Stylus Photo and Hewlett-Packard's Photosmart (McCandless). The continuous development in photo storage capacities and broadband connections has opened up new potentials and mechanisms alternative to refrigerated conditions for conventional, film-based photographs.
Indeed, one major market for web-based services is digital photography. The evolution of web infrastructure and connectivity has made storing and, notably, sharing photography not only a possibility but also a day-to-day practice for professional and personal purposes (Corcoran, Steinberg & Prilutsky, 2000). Further, more investment has been made in peripheral devices (particularly digital cameras and, later, smartphones) connected to web-enabled computers (Corcoran, Steinberg & Prilutsky). For instance, Windows Media Photo (WMP) was developed a data-compressed format for archiving digital photos of high quality (Giusto & Onali, 2007). This development, combined by social platforms for sharing digital photos, has increased needs for more storage space at higher qualities in response to growing consumption of digital photography across different professional and personal contexts. Specifically, platforms dedicated to photo-only storage and sharing have continued to emerge, offering more storage space and cataloging options, particularly in connection to e-mail services. Platforms one would call "photo commons" including, for example, Flickr, Google Photos, Apple iCloud Photo Library, Amazon Prime Photos, Photobucket, ThisLife offer photo stoarge space for free or fro minmal fees (Mitroff, & Profis, 2015). The growing potential of "phoot comons" has, if anyhting, opned up still broader options for storing photos. There is, however, a confusion further accentuated by photo-sahring platforms. Specfically, "storage" and "sharing" are confused, particulaly in social netwok platforms. Given current practices, professional and personl users upload photos into a photo-sharing platform, a blog or a personal / corporate website. The growing volume of uploaded photography has made cataloging and organization a necessity. Tagging, captioning and oragnization into photo albums / sets represent common practices adopted by users, professional or not, for better photography management. The platform updates, glitches or business shotdown has brought up storgae as a decideldy diferentiated actvitity compared to sharing. In response, web-based, more secure services have evolved in order to meet growing demnads for permanenacy.
The need for standardization has become, moreover, a more pressing issue for photography storage. Specifically, as digital photography has come to replace conventional photography, needs to put in place more uniform standards for storing substantial collection of digital and film-based photography. Two issues arise accordingly: digital asset management and cost (discussed in further detail in next section). The case for digital asset management arises in big data contexts. That is, in institutions handling substantial digital photography, proper management is critical not only for proper storage purposes but also, more significantly, for recovery benefits. This need for effective storage and recovery practices is most manifest in medical / clinical contexts. For example, in response to growing needs for magneto-optical images, a digital image management system has been invented in order to help maintain image archives ("Digital image management system having method for managing images according to image groups," n.d.). This system creates a "virtual film jacket" and executes image archiving by modeling convention hospital film storage procedures ("Digital image management system having method for managing images according to image groups"). The invented system has one critical feature, for current purposes, i.e. a capability to store not only images but, more significantly, associated image information ("Digital image management system having method for managing images according to image groups"). As noted, image / photography storage issues are not limited to photographs per se but includes as well associated information and hence cataloging and organization.
The digital asset management is made more complex given different storage efforts required for different photography formats, digital and film-based. Indeed, deterioration factors for digital and film-based photography diverge. If film-based photography are prone to room conditions, digital photography are subject to loss due to data compression, multiple sharing and conversion (i.e. from film-based to digital) factors. Given more common storage practices, hard and flash drives are broadly used for storing digital photography (replacing CDs). These media, however, are subject to data loss over comparatively short periods due to extensive sharing (a practice impacting negatively on data compression) and processing of film-based photography (a practice leading, in intensive processing, to losing color balance). This storage challenge is, probably, best highlighted by Corbis-Bettmann Archive Photography Collection (Wilhelm et al.). Incorporating millions of photography collections, Corbis-Bettmann Archive Photography Collection had to be moved into a storage facility outside New York, an effort made possible by a generous philanthropist. However, independent efforts are rare and may not meet specific corporate needs. The growing multiplicity of web-based platforms in addition to hard drives, coupled by accelerating Internet speeds, has opened up, however, new potential for photography storage, i.e. cloud.
The emergence of cloud computing is, in fact, parallel to a paradigm shift in conceptualization of software and hardware. That is, by being able to publish photography online, using web-based applications supported by increasing Internet speeds, storing (as opposed to sharing) photography has been contemplated increasingly as a service. This shift is further accentuated by emerging issues in managing incompatible (i.e. digital and non-digital) photography assets (Elmroth, Factor, Miller & Seltzer, 2012). The cloud computing has, highly hyped as is, been promoted as a viable, storage mechanism for particularly Big Data institutions. Congruent to paradigm shift in software and hardware conceptualization, cloud computing storage capability has been increasingly been adopted as preservation-as-a-service (PaaS) (Elmroth, Factor, Miller & Seltzer). In addition to convenience and storage capacity, cloud computing has shown particular benefits for SMEs. If anything, cloud computing services, including storage, represent a cost-effective solution for startups of lower operational budgets compared to larger corporations. There are, however, challenges in cloud computing, particularly in security and data management areas.
DIGITAL STORAGE: STORAGE & MANAGEMENT ISSUES
The case for digital photography storage involves specific challenges. Notably, as more and more institutions and independent professionals and amateurs use web-based and/or drives for digital photography storage, asset management, security, cost, permanence and contingency planning emerge as most significant issues digital photography stakeholders need to consider.
For asset management, outsourced storage services reign supreme, particularly for more consistent and reliable archiving / preservation purposes. For example, in a medical / clinical context, standard and quality storage options are largely catered by photographic studios in cosmetic plastic surgery (Persichetti et al., 2007). If anything, archiving plastic surgery images for clients cannot be overemphasized. Given how personalized plastic surgery services are, managing in-house digital photography assets becomes part of more branded and personalized package for clients.
For security, cloud computing, as and adopted storage option, has, for example, specific security challenges. Since cloud computing services are delivered by non-affiliated, third party, a security risk might arise, particularly if outsourced service is delivered by a provider not fully trusted by customer (Kamara, & Lauter, 2010). Consequently, an upper secure, cloud service might be required in addition to a public cloud infrastructure (Kamara, & Lauter).
For cost, practices vary according to each and every institution and/or customer. In an academic context, Harvard University Library and Texas Digital Library adopt different cost valuation models (Chapman, 2004). Specifically, whereas Harvard University Library recovers storage costs by charging per billable square foot for analog storage, Texas Digital Library charges for storage of digital objects per gigabyte (Chapman). Moreover, although storage format (a staple variable in photography storage, digital or not) is one important factor in accounting for direct costs, indirect costs should also be accounted for, including content integrity and risk permission (Chapman).
For permanence, digital photography storage faces a set of challenges. Notably, digital copies should be, in case stored in drives, preserved in stable media (i.e. drives) and conditions (Frey, & Susstrunk, 2000). Moreover, digital copies need to readable in different formats and platforms for current and future uses (Frey, & Susstrunk). Significantly, encoding digital images should account for possible, future developments in processing algorithms used in future image workflows (Frey, & Susstrunk). This requires, compared to convetional strorage methods, moer active mainatance (Frey, & Susstrunk).
For contingency planning, stored digital photography needs proper backup plans in place. This should buffer against possible data loss, particularly in case of using cloud computing services. Probably, recent Nirvanix business closure is a case in point. The announcement by Nirvanix, a cloud storage company of business closure emphasizes, if anything, needs for disaster and backup plans (Florentine, 2013; Marshall, 2013).
DIGITAL REPOSITORIES: STORAGE STRATEGIES
In order to better appraise digital storage strategies, broader investigation is required. Specifically, given comparative recentness of digital storage methods, particularly cloud computing services, longer practice should establish strengths and vulnerabilities of digital storage methods. The case for PaaS (Elmroth, Factor, Miller & Seltzer), for example, is a notable example. By offering on-demand digital storage services, i.e. PaaS, institutions and professional and amateur clients are better able to customize storage capacities each according to existing and potential needs. Significantly, data migration and exit plans should be accounted for, particularly in cases for format conversion (Elmroth, Factor, Miller & Seltzer). Finally, cost remains another critical variable by which digital storage service can be a viable option or not.
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