Digital Photographs – What happens to them after death?


I love looking at old pictures. Pictures from my childhood, pictures from my parent’s marriage, portraits of my grand-parents and college days of my uncle and aunts – everything. These pictures are probably the strongest connection I have with my past. It’s difficult to explain why, but I can spend hours looking at those pictures and talk about pictures from my childhood, school functions, family functions or a trip with family or friends. I guess value of these photographs increases with time. Some of these photographs have become extremely precious to me because of people or stories involved with those pictures.

Till few years back, all these photographs were stored in the physical format in my trunk. A photo album and negative camera roll stored in the trunk was easy to find, inherit and cherish. It was easy, but risky. It was (and still it) risky because fire, flood, theft, earthquake, moisture or an angry kid could ruin it all. So because of the fear of loosing these photographs, I started converting them from physical to digital format. From a trunk sitting in the corner of my old house, these photographs in digital format were at all over the places. They were on my hard-disk, compact disk and on cloud based services such as Flickr, Picasa, photobucket and so on. Pictures stored on these services are permanent, there is no accidental damages and can be shared easily with friends and family. All good, isn’t it?

Well almost, unfortunately it is a bit more riskier in one crucial aspect. One of the main problem with these services is – how do people inherit photographs stored in these services if something happens to me? Accounts in these services cannot be accessed by anyone else so what happens to these photographs if I pass away suddenly? I have shared my account details with my wife – but deep in my heart I know how uncertain life is. It is very much possible to loose all the photographs. Is this risk worth taking? Noep, isn’t it?  

I wanted to ensure that these photographs are not lost and my next generation and their next generation have access to these photographs. It might help them understand their roots, family values, custom and culture. 

When we started Planned Departure, this was one of the problem we wanted to solve. Planned Departure is an electronic vault to store digital assets or information in the digital format. For every digital asset, it allows users to specify beneficiaries for that particular digital asset. 

I am at peace now – I have stored few photographs as digital assets and assigned them to my friends and families. Not only that, I have stored my account details and specified few close people as beneficiaries for that information. I know if something happens to me, this information will be in the right hand and my photographs will not be lost in the cloud.


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