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Protect your family photographs before they're lost or damaged

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My mother's third birthday. - CAYTON FAMILY
  • Cayton family
  • My mother's third birthday.
If you're like me, you've got a box somewhere in your house filled with old family pictures. Images like these are wonderful keepsakes, but those photographs may be deteriorating if not stored correctly — or if they were printed poorly.

My grandmother with her sister on their way to school in Blue Mound, Kansas. - CAYTON FAMILY
  • Cayton family
  • My grandmother with her sister on their way to school in Blue Mound, Kansas.
Your box of treasured photographs could be in danger in other ways, too.

We live in a beautiful setting, but experience has taught me that we will always live with the threat of natural disasters like wildfire. If you're one of the hundreds of locals living in the wildland-urban interface, for instance, your emergency plan should include safeguarding your family photographs.

The good news is you can easily use technology to protect important family heirlooms in case something happens. Here's one way to do it:

Create a digital archive that can’t be destroyed by fire or flood. Use your camera phone to make a back-up copy of all of your photographs. Upload everything from your phone to a cloud storage system. Since most camera phones are equipped with high resolution cameras, you can use the copies you've made to reprint any images that somehow go missing or are destroyed.

To copy any family photograph using your phone, make sure you place the picture on a flat surface with even lighting. I like to use the dining room table and I turn off the lights so that I don’t get any glare on the surface of the photographs.

My great grandmother Georgia poses for a photograph in her wedding dress. - CAYTON FAMILY
  • Cayton family
  • My great grandmother Georgia poses for a photograph in her wedding dress.
Once you copy of photography, simply upload the photographs to your cloud storage. An iPhone will do this automatically if you have an iCloud account, or you can use a third-party cloud storage service. Amazon Prime members get unlimited photo storage with an account, and there’s always Google cloud or another cloud service like Dropbox or Onedrive.

My great grandmother Ruby, second from the left in the back row, with her parents and five sisters in this family photograph. - CAYTON FAMILY
  • Cayton family
  • My great grandmother Ruby, second from the left in the back row, with her parents and five sisters in this family photograph.

Hopefully you never find yourself in this situation, but if you protect your family photographs now, before something happens, you won't have to worry about losing what is, most likely, some of your most valuable possessions: your family photographs.
My great, great grandmother Ida, at left in the back row, with her four of her sisters. - CAYTON FAMILY
  • Cayton family
  • My great, great grandmother Ida, at left in the back row, with her four of her sisters.

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