Everyone who’s ever known film photography knows, from shooting to sharing, it’s so much easier to manage digital photos. I mean, duh, digital photography was invented to streamline the process and make picture taking so much easier.
So, an interesting thing happened on the way to converting everything to digital: social media. This is a psychological engagement I’m still studying (and will soon likely create a documentary video on), but somewhere in the equation of the immediacy of social media and the ease of digital photo sharing, we lost a sense of value for three things: Permanency, Longevity and Legacy.
Print Is King.
Enjoy some of my favorite personal prints as you educate yourself on the reality of this topic (hover or tap for captions).
The day I introduced my mom to Ikea she realized aloud to me that no one seems to want to invest in sturdy, well-crafted, heavy oak furniture anymore. They just want all these DIY put-togethers, they just want cheap things and they want cheap things now. Replace it when it fails. Many of us have fallen into this cheap-now mindset when it comes to preserving our photographic memories too… but in most cases, there is no replacing when digital files fail! This is really sad (like, so sad I shudder at the apocalyptic realization of it), and I’ll tell you why.
Okay, if you’re young and planning a wedding or just starting a family, you probably won’t get this part until it’s too late… at least maybe not until you have grandchildren. I’m lucky enough to have realized this one day when I photographed portraits for a client who was retired from the photo finishing industry. We had a wonderfully nostalgic conversation on this very topic, and from his input I realized that photographers have a HUGE responsibility: To ensure that photographs last forever. Technically a real photographer has an added job responsibility: an Archivist. Wow, that sounds cool. Photographers are on this because we’re all in the industry of preserving memories, so in this weird age of technology and missed ideals for long term value, now we’re all Raiders of the Lost Archives (and I’m dying to put that on my biz card now).
I then found myself in discussion with my mom about tracing family lineage and understanding familial connections based on photos. We had such a great time figuring what year it was based on clothing styles or whether or not someone was yet wearing a wedding ring.
Oh my god, I thought. If people aren’t creating quality prints that last a lifetime, these conversations won’t exist in the future. People are losing connections with their families. They’re losing their legacy. Generations will be lost. When digital files are lost (to technology or a buried social media feed), they’re losing their memories. Even if you’re not a photographer, that’s a chilling realization, because most people care about their families and what their offspring will have to continue sharing family stories for their future generations.
Here’s a thing: the very first photographic print ever, created in the 1820’s, still exists today. And I can’t even access old client data that was burned to DVD in 2009. Ha! Cuz my computer doesn’t have a disc slot anymore! I saw that coming (not). Thanks, technology! I’m also afraid of clouds. You know what clouds are made of? Vapor. That doesn’t sound very solid to me, even if you have four of them with the same content. Then there are passwords and hackers and who knows what else. Yes I am a responsible file backer-upper, but I only guarantee client content for two years. I used to guarantee it for ten years. That changed the year I found a disc slot for my 2009 DVD and I still couldn’t read the files on it, ha! Disc, flash drive or cloud… you may be able to trust technology short term, but You Cannot Trust Technology Forever. If you cannot trust technology, you need something In Your Hand. Or more safely, on your wall or in an album.
If you think I’m the only one who believes this abstract-sounding data loss idea because I’m a photographer trying to sell you prints, check what Google VP Vint Cerf has to say about the 21st century becoming a new Dark Age because so much information about our society will be lost to digital… because our stuff was never created into tangible, long-lasting items. I’m not just a hippy here.
Print is the new digital.
This blog intends to educate my future clients on the significance of portraiture by considering… no, mandating print products. As a seasoned photographer I fully endorse photographers who are professionals and who care about your family legacy and the longevity of your photographs who find it a MUST to create prints for you. I’ve decided to emphasize the significance here and make the consideration of prints easy in my packages by including a custom print plan within every portrait package I offer. It Is That Important.
I had a post-middle-aged client inquire the other day about family portraits, trying to understand what my print plan was, “Would we be able to get more digital photos in lieu of physical prints? I actually just scanned a number of photo albums and then tossed the physical prints so you can see my preference is to have digital photos rather than physical prints.”
This guy just poured glass in my coffee. I face-palmed so hard.
Okay, firstly I totally get why you’d want to have digital files: either to post on social media or to make your own prints, and the latter surely seems out for this guy. So… why spend over a hundred dollars on a portrait session just for a short term post that will get lost to the internet? Maybe he had ulterior motives, but he didn’t tell me what. So I responded by educating him, a response I have since shared with my photography communities, of which some members have asked to quote me on this, or responded with commendations and the social media equivalent of a standing ovation:
“The new era of photography and digital storage has learned that prints last longer than digital files, therefore more and more professional photographers keeping in mind the quality and longevity of archiving family legacies (historically important!) are now pushing the distribution of prints and educating clients of their significance. We’ve come to believe that digital rules, but digital files have now moved into the position of film negatives: simply a reference from which to create prints, or a few quick images to share online. Prints are longer lasting than digital files, as we now realize prints created in the 1800’s still exist… and I can’t even access a digital backup I made on a DVD back in 2009 on account of my computer has no disc slot anymore… hard drives crash… floating cloud information I can’t touch makes me nervous. Changing technology is simply not as bankable as a print you have in your hand. However, I do realize the need to back up imagery, because prints have the possibility of going up in flames or getting ripped or water damaged, which is why I include a print-worthy, watermark-free digital image with every print you will own (including each individual photo used in albums). You’ll probably find that your prints outlive the files, God-willing no damage occurs to them. But, you’d still have the ability to make your own copy of any print should something happen to it. I’m in the business of preserving legacies and memories as best as possible, and that means quality pro printing (thwarting cheap printing), and ensuring we all know how important prints are, so this is why I offer the service I do. I will not be offended if you wish to find another photographer who does not have this long term archival aspiration for their clients, because I care that much for my clients and their futures and I feel pretty good about that :).”
It’s true, I will not be offended if quality archiving and longevity of your images is not important to you. You’re not the right customer for me.
He then dismissed me saying my pricing was too dependent on prints, to which I chuckled inside, because the reality of the situation is that my pricing hasn’t changed, I just decided to start throwing in a free print plan with every package. Which basically means you’re getting free prints with your purchase anyway. And if you had the digitals AND free prints would you rather print them yourself at your corner drugstore or through my awesome lab which produces archival quality stuff?