updated 29 Nov 2011, 17:31
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Mon, Nov 28, 2011
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Mayhem in photo-land
by Clara Chow

HERE'S a true motherhood horror story.

A first-time mum was uploading her photographs into her computer when her toddler yanked at a cable and sent her portable hard-disk drive crashing to the floor.

The disk drive went kaput, taking three years' worth of digital shots - including precious ones of her giving birth - with it.

Efforts to rescue the data, including paying $2,000 for professional recovery, were in vain. The only pictures my friend K has left of her toddler's first year of life are low-resolution images in mobile phones, on Facebook.

Parenting in a high-tech age means that almost every mum or dad is armed with a digital SLR camera, capable of shooting a gazillion megapixels at blazingly fast shutter speed, so that Junior will not appear as a blur in every picture.

The downside, however, is that lazy mums like me then have scores of SD cards filled with shots lying around, the modern-day equivalent of undeveloped rolls of film.

Running after two boys, aged five and two, leaves me with little spare time. So much so that the thought of uploading digital snapshots into my computer, backing them up, organising them into folders, and printing them seemed like an unnecessary chore.

Before long, I found myself with at least five years' worth of photos languishing in computers that were fast becoming obsolete and refusing to boot up. The pictures were running the risk of becoming irretrievable.

After a late-night conversation with some friends about mouldy video tapes, unplayable cassettes, Super8 video formats and Internet servers crashing, I was scared sufficiently into doing the lo-fi thing and printing all photographs of my kids.

Nothing is going to destroy these physical copies in hand, I thought. Not glitches in the Matrix, corrupted hard disks or Facebook closing down. Nothing short of a flood hitting my 12th-storey flat (note to self: don't think about global warming).

Thus began the arduous task of trying to upload five years' worth of photos and placing orders for them to be printed, via a photo-printing service here. I spent three nights doing this, and chose 120 images for printing - and those are just the pictures I took in the last two months.

But I know I have to plug on, bit by painful bit - sitting in front of the screen, staring at the upload progress bar and willing it to go faster - if I want my kids to have something to look at when they're older.

Japanese writer Junko Yoshida wrote in 2005 about the death of her engineer father. An early adopter of the latest technology, most of his work was transferred onto (then) state-of- the-art storage media.

By the time he died, however, all the formats had already fallen into disuse and were impossible to play back.

Ironically, the sole digital memento his grown-up daughter had to remember him by was a mundane voice message on her answering machine from him, asking her nephew about his schoolwork.

If you, like me, are in the same slacker photographer- mummy boat, here are some tips from more experienced and prepared mothers:

Sort your photos once a month

Get into the habit of backing up your digital pictures regularly. Set aside a day each month to sit down and go through the images. Decide which to print or archive, then do so promptly.

Use a reputable photo-printing service to print the best snapshots

Uploading your pictures onto the company's servers is another way to back them up.

Reputable ones to use include and Firms that deliver the prints to your home help save you time, too.

There are alternatives to photo albums

Those who have trouble finding space to stash all those albums, which are also costly, can have the best pictures compiled into a professional-looking photo book.

Catalogue the rest in oblong cardboard boxes or name-card holders (I'm considering investing in a file cabinet).

Good luck, and happy snapping.

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