This past week two separate brides whose weddings we photographed some years ago contacted me. Both asked the same question: “I lost the DVD of our wedding photos, do you still have the files?” This got me thinking about how in today’s digital world, we print fewer and fewer of our photos. It’s never been easier to share our photos; we upload them to social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Flickr etc. We pin them, tweet them, like them, +1 them, but are we leaving anything tangible behind for our children and grandchildren to hold in their hands, except maybe a shiny silver disc?
Today, most people view photos on tiny screens with varying degrees of color and resolution. Since most visual content is consumed digitally these days this all seems very normal, but how would you feel if you went to a gallery or museum and all the art was shown on small LCD screens? The impact and the artistry that went into crafting such works in the first place would be lost. To be honest, I love the times we live in, but nothing quite compares at looking at an old photo of a loved one and reminiscing about that person. Maybe I am being a bit sentimental, but a photo takes on a whole new life when held in the hand. I look at it from different angles, I bring it in close, then further away. I contemplate what was happening at the moment the shutter was pressed, then the moment before and after. It is a much different experience for me when viewing images on a computer as I often skip through them quickly barely giving each a glance.
The reason why most of us take photographs is to visually document our lives. So why then would we chance those memories to the fickle nature of technology? I have had numerous hard drives fail and I have a drawer full of floppy disks, Zip and Jazz drives that I have no clue what’s on them because I no longer own the equipment that can read them. I even know someone who accidentally deleted Grandpa’s 95th. birthday party photos (oops!). Sometimes we forget just how fragile our digital images are. Consider printing your photos as another form of back up. It’s ability to be viewable will never become obsolete even as newer technologies emerge. While physical copies are still vulnerable to damage or loss, you can never have too many copies of something that is truly valuable.
I have always encouraged our couples to purchase a bridal album, but I also realize that it’s simply not in everyone’s budget. We do include printed proofs in all our collections and I wish that was something more photographers would offer rather than just shoot and burn. I believe that the photographic print still has value, even in today’s digital age.