THE END IS NIGH!! Everybody PANIC!
Or at least that’s the argument everyone makes to tell you why you should do things their way. And when it comes to photography, there’s been a surge lately in experts telling you to print your photos. It all ties into the worry that we’re going to lose all the digital history of our generation (see this article explaining Google’s vice-president’s theory on that).
I’ve been mulling over this issue for a while, trying to sort out my own feelings on the matter. You see, I’m an artist. As an artist, of course I want you to print your photos and hang them on your wall, or put them in an album, so that someday your grandkids can flip through it and make fun of your hair, or the ugly dress Aunty Mae wore. (Also – sorry, but no matter how much you try for a “timeless’ look, there is no escaping your wedding reflecting the time frame it happened in. So quit worrying, and embrace it!)
But prints are destructible!
There. I said it. Crap happens. Fires, floods, massive earthquakes that flatten the PNW (you all know what I’m talking about). Or maybe we’re just talking about an excited kid who rips a page, or a toddler who spills their milk, or a 4 year old that decides to go on a tempera paint rampage at 3am painting furniture, books, art, cats… (at least the cat came clean). Prints can be damaged. And as much as we would like to think that we can always go back and buy another copy, not all photographers keep an archive.
That’s right. They don’t always keep the files.
When I was 25, I worked for a digital photo studio. I came in with my family to get our family photo taken. Money was tight (it was right before Christmas), and so I only ordered a couple 8×10’s since that was all I could afford. A year and a half later, I was no longer with the studio (better paying job for the win!). My mom had just passed away from cancer, and I had saved up the money to buy the big print I’d always intended to get. But the files had been deleted to make room for new customers. My mom was gone, and so were the pictures. Sure, I have my 8×10. But I wanted that big wall portrait. And it wasn’t like we could just redo it.
That’s why getting digital files is so important!
I’ll admit it – I’ve scanned that photo of my family in case anything happens to the original. It’s behind glass, on a wall in my house. But I’m still scared of losing it. (I’ve finally come to peace with its size.) I’ll also admit that I’m not 100% there on all the advice I’m about to give you. That’s a project for me this winter!
How to capture, display, and protect your precious memories!
Step 1: If you’re getting professional photos, choose a photographer that offers the option to purchase high resolution digital images. It can be a photographer that requires you to buy prints if that’s what you want, but you need someone who will also give you the digital copy. Then buy that digital! If you’re taking your own photos – keep reading!
Step 2: Get your absolute favorite photos printed. Hang them up. Enjoy them. Put them in an album or make a book. Get them accessible, so that kids, friends, and family in your life can see the photos too (and not just on facebook or instagram).
Step 3: Get your digital copies, and back them up. Your photographer will usually provide you with a thumb drive or online gallery. Never settle for just that. Back them up on your computer, another drive, or some other device that can store large files. Have them in two places, in case one fails. THEN – put them on the cloud (this is where I’m falling short). I don’t mean that you should rely on your photographer’s provided gallery – get them on Amazon or some other cloud service. Because if your house floods or catches fire or falls flat as a pancake, you need to have those files backed up somewhere else that you control. Or they might as well be paper.
Step 4: As technology changes, make sure that you keep your files stored on devices and in places that you can continue to access them. I don’t expect the .jpg format to suddenly be unreadable…. but raise your hand if you still own a zip drive. *crickets* Anyone?! Make sure all your efforts to preserve your files in the first place isn’t for nothing. :)