Digital images

Digital image files are vulnerable to damage just like photographs. Find out how to care for them.

Digital image files / Ngā whakaahua hiko

Your CDs, DVDs, and computer’s hard drive are as vulnerable to damage as print objects, and file formats can quickly become obsolete.

Tips for preserving digital photos

  • Use lossless formats like TIFF, RAW, or DNG, rather than JPG or other formats that easily lose information.
  • Back up your digital photos.
  • Keep more than one copy of photos that matter to you. Use a combination of hard drives portable drives, and online storage.
  • If you have digital photos on optical discs (DVD or CDs), think about transferring files to a portable hard drive and/or an online storage space
  • Label discs and drives clearly and systematically.
  • Store discs and drives carefully. Have a dedicated space away from light, heat, moisture and magnetic fields.
  • Check files, drives, and discs regularly. This is the best way to know if there are any problems with the technology.
  • Keep original copies of scanned photographs. The original photograph will probably still last a lot longer than the scanned copy.

Organising your files

Digital image files are so easy to create that it can be difficult to keep them all. The more files you have the more storage you require. You may not be able to keep every image, and those you do hold on to should be well-organised.

To manage your digital filing you need to give each image a simple and descriptive name. If they have names like IMG_0617.TIFF or IMG_0622.TIFF , how do you know which one is your wedding photograph and which one is your pet?

Rename them with key words, such as a person’s name, an event, or a date. Renaming hundreds of files can be daunting, so a good start is placing files in subject or keyword-named folders. Also, file renaming software is available, allowing you to bulk rename digital files.

Digital photographic files are as vulnerable to damage as print photographs / Ka whara hoki ngā whakaahua hiko, pēnei anō ngā whakaahua pepa

File naming tips:

  • Avoid using capitals and characters such as #, $, % /, &, as these can cause problems when moving files around between computers and websites.
  • Use underscores instead of spaces in filenames.
  • Be aware that some operating systems may have difficulty with macrons in file names.
  • If using a date in the file name, record it in the format yyyymmdd. For example 20120909 (9 September 2012)
  • Try to keep the original digital image file order, for example:
    • IMG_0622.TIFF to Leigh_35thbirthday_20120909_001.TIFF
    • IMG_0623.TIFF to Leigh_35thbirthday_20120909_002.TIFF

Remember, digitisation is not a substitute for preservation. If you decide to digitise a photograph you should keep the original – otherwise you may find that one day you do not have a copy of the photograph at all.

Need help?

Backups, backups, backups. You can get more detailed professional advice in caring for your digital images from the National Preservation Office.

Email —
Phone — 04 474 3000

More information on managing digital photographic files

Make it digital — Advice from DigitalNZ

Personal Archiving Library of Congress

Example of file renaming software — Bulk rename utility

Download the Caring for your taonga — photographs guide

Download the Caring for your taonga — photographs guide.

Caring for your taonga — photographs (pdf, 1MB)

Caring for Taonga — photographs / Āta tiakina ngā whakaahua Māori (pdf, 1MB) — Te Tari Tohu Taonga, National Preservation Office