Durable photo workflow

Ever since my kids were born I have accumulated thousands of digital happy-snaps and I have finally gotten to a point where I'm quite happy with my work-flow. I have always been extremely dubious of using any sort of external all-in-one solution to managing my photos; so many things seem to shut-down, cease development or disappear, all leaving you to have to figure out how to migrate to the next latest thing (e.g. Picasa shutting down). So while there is nothing complicated or even generic about them, there are a few things in my photo-scripts repo that might help others who like to keep a self-contained archive.

Firstly I have a simple script to copy the latest photos from the SD card (i.e. those new since the last copy -- this is obviously very camera specific). I then split by date so I have a simple flat directory layout with each week's photos in it. With the price of SD cards and my rate of filling them up, I don't even bother wiping them at this point, but just keep them in the safe as a backup.

For some reason I have a bit of a thing about geotagging all the photos so I know where I took them. Certainly some cameras do this today, but mine does not. I have a two-progned approach; I have a geotag script and then a small website easygeotag.info which quickly lets met translate a point on Google maps to exiv2 command-line syntax. Since I take a lot of photos in the same place, the script can store points by name in a small file sourced by the script.

Adding comments to the photos is done with perhaps the lesser-known cousin of EXIF -- IPTC. Some time ago I wrote python bindings for libiptcdata and it has been working just fine ever since. Debian's python-iptcdata comes with a inbuilt script to set title and caption, which is easily wrapped.

What I like about this is that my photos are in a simple directory layout, with all metadata embedded within the actual image files in very standarised formats that should be readable by anywhere I choose to host them.

For sharing, I then upload to Flickr. I used to have a command-line script for this, but have found the web uploader works even better these days. It reads the IPTC data for titles and comments, and gets the geotag info for nice map displays. I manually coralle them into albums, and the Flickr "guest pass" is perfect for then sharing albums to friends and family without making them jump through hoops to register on a site to get access to the photos, or worse, host them myself. I consider Flickr a cache, because (even though I pay) I expect it to shut-down or turn evil at any time. Interestingly, their AI tagging is often quite accurate, and I imagine will only get better. This is nice extra metadata that you don't have to spend time on yourself.

The last piece has always been the "hit by a bus" component of all this. Can anyone figure out access to all these photos if I suddenly disappear? I've tried many things here -- at one point I was using rdiff-backup to sync encrypted bundles up to AWS for example; but I very clearly found the problem in that when I forgot the keep the key safe and couldn't unencrypt any of my backups (let alone anyone else figuring all this out).

Finally Google Nearline seems to be just what I want. It's off-site, redundant and the price is right; but more importantly I can very easily give access to the backup bucket to anyone with a Google address, who can then just hit a website to download the originals from the bucket (I left the link with my other "hit by a bus" bits and pieces). Of course what they then do with this data is their problem, but at least I feel like they have a chance. This even has an rsync like interface in the client, so I can quickly upload the new stuff from my home NAS (where I keep the photos in a RAID0).

I've been doing this now for 350 weeks and have worked through some 25,000 photos. I used to get an album up every week, but as the kids get older and we're closer to family I now do it in batches about once a month. I do wonder if my kids will ever be interested in tagged and commented photos with pretty much their exact location from their childhood ... I doubt it, but it's nice to feel like I have a good chance of still having them if they do.