Technology is finally to the point where we can share things quickly and easily via download. The days of, "Can I have that on a disk?" are long gone as CDs, DVDs and other optical technologies have gone the way of the cassette tape.
While the preferred method for delivering professional photographs is still albums and prints, (because those last a very long time and do not become obsolete) there are times when we are asked to deliver images in digital format. The best way to do that (as of Spring 2015) is via digital download. Because of the variety of options with this method, some confusion is possible, so I wanted to offer some basic guidance on the subject.
First, know that when you receive a link to download anything, it should be from someone you trust. Often with photos, you will receive a link that will take you to the web site where the images are stored and then have the option to view them or download.
Second, DOWNLOAD YOUR IMAGES IMMEDIATELY! Sorry to shout, but this is important. Images take up a lot of space in the cloud and space costs money, so it's likely that your images will only be available for a week or so before we'll need to make space for the next job. There is typically a button that allows you to download all images to a folder of your choosing on your own computer.
Third and most important, copy your images to several different places. This is probably the greatest thing about digital images; we can easily make exact copies and put them in several places. I recommend a simple three tier backup system that I list below.
1. Your Computer's Hard Drive.
This is the necessary first stop on your images' journey and by far the easiest place to access them for sharing in the future. It's also the most vulnerable place to store them. Hard drives wear out, laptops are stolen, data gets corrupted. Always be sure that anything that lives on your computer also lives somewhere else in case the unexpected happens.
2. USB Thumb Drive
As of this writing, this is the combination of the safest and easiest to use physical device to store data. There are no moving parts to fail like hard drives have. You can't scratch it like a DVD and they are compatible with most every computer and laptop made right now. They are also cheap. so get one that's at least 8GB, copy all of the images you downloaded from me to one and put it in a safe place. That way, when your computer hard drives crashes, this is your backup.
3. The Cloud
Cloud accounts are easy to come by and are finally reasonably priced. Right now, my favorite recommendations are Dropbox and Google Drive. You can sign up for a free account with either one, though, depending on the amount of storage you need for you photos, you may need to purchase space. Wait, this just in. If you have an Amazon Prime account, it now offers free unlimited photo storage. Cloud storage is great, because if your computer is struck by lightning, you can access your images via the web from any computer or mobile device with a web browser and simply download them to your new computer. (BTW, having your computer struck by lighting sounds far fetched, but I've had it happen, and I consider myself to be a pretty lucky person)
Now let's talk about obsolescence. Because everything listed above is what works now, but that won't be the case in a few years. It's likely that something better, faster and more secure will be introduced sooner than later and eventually, USB thumb drives will go the way of the DVD and that company who hosts your cloud account may get bought out, forcing you to decide if you want to leave your data there.
Just like your preserved wedding gown, now that you have this digital data you will need to find a way to shlep it around with you and keep it safe forever. We call it data migration and it's what we've been doing at W&W for almost twenty years now. We went from negatives to Zip disks and Syquest drives to CDs, then DVDs to Hard Drives to Blu-ray....
Now, we're back to Hard drives, combined with the cloud and with a very healthy organizational system for managing the literally millions of images we have generated over the years. We wish you much joy with the few dozen or few hundred images we have just delivered to you and hope they are there for you to enjoy twenty years from now and beyond.