The Importance of Printed Photographs, PART 2
Athens Atlanta Wedding Engagement Photographer

February 16, 2015

print photos digital albums forgotten generation

Yesterday I wrote about the importance of enjoying your wedding photos on a daily basis by seeing them in your home and touching/feeling them in printed form, and I linked to this video which pretty much sums it up.  :)  Yesterday’s post also addresses the problem with “I’ll get them printed soon — It’s on my To Do list!” which I encountered for years.

Today I’m going to talk about printing your photographs in regards to keeping them.  I always tell my brides that photography is such an important part of a wedding day because out of everything (the dress, the shoes, the venue, and even the marriage), it’s what lasts the longest and even increases in value over time.  I tell them that photographs last hundreds of years, long after we’re gone, and can be passed down to their children and grandchildren… but will they?

There’s no doubt that today’s generation is by far the most photographed generation of all time.  There are cameras and iPhones everywhere, and people effortlessly document every little moment.  But the scary part?  They say that the most photographed generation will have no photos in 10 years (Mike Yost).  Some estimate longer, but it won’t be anywhere near the length of time that articles and records from past civilizations have existed.  Why?  Because of ever-changing technology and the fact that today’s photos only exist in the digital world.

Let me start by telling you about myself.  I’m in my 20’s and fortunately experienced part of the era when people printed photographs and put them in albums before digital was the norm.  Therefore, I have baby photos that I can always look at and photo albums of my childhood that my parents can always bring out and use to embarrass me.  But what about the photos of my teenage years?  Those are the ones I can’t find.  Many of them were on a cute pink Razor flip phone, or on my next phone, or next one.  I have a drawer of old phones that no longer work, actually, and I haven’t gotten rid of them because I know how many precious photos and memories are on them… although I’m not sure how easy it is to get at those photos or if I ever will.  And then let’s talk about my high school years of Myspace — wait, actually let’s not.  Needless to say, I don’t know where those photos are now.  On to college years.  I blew up that social media.  I had albums and albums of Facebook photos, not to mention the photos I was tagged in by all of my friends.  And I won’t get into what happened, but I no longer have access to my old Facebook account.  Meaning… if you want to see a photo of me from college, good luck searching through the albums of some of my old friends trying to find any photos I made an appearance in.  Because mine?  Mine are gone.

Now, before you say “well I still have my Facebook photos from 4 years ago,” I want to assure you that Facebook will not last forever, just like Myspace.  Social media platforms are always changing out, and photos are being left in the dust.  Now, some of those photos that were uploaded to Facebook came from files on my computer.  So now let’s talk about hard drives.

If you’re one of the few people who haven’t experienced an external drive malfunction, just wait.  “At most, hard drives are built to last around five to seven years” (Keith Wagstaff).  They’re a physical device, so they’re susceptible to breakage or information loss be it from being stored in the wrong temperature, being placed next to a magnet, degrading over time from not being used (like an old car that doesn’t get driven), or having a cup of coffee spilled on them (amongst other things).  Long story short: they don’t last forever.  And CDs?  Even worse.  I’ve had multiple clients come to me within 1-2 years of their weddings and tell me that something happened to their CD and it no longer works (back when I delivered wedding images on CDs).  My response: “I told you to make a backup!!”  Just kidding (kind of).  It’s a popular phrase amongst professional photographers that “photos don’t exist unless they’re in 3 locations.”  Meaning, we know things are bound to happen to digitally-stored files.

But what about the cloud?  Yes, it’s a somewhat “safer” alternative to physical devices.  However, while the internet may be around for quite a while, cloud-services and websites will change out, just like the social media platforms out there.

Let’s take a break from storing your photos and talk about accessing them once they’re stored.  “In the 1980s, it was routine to save documents on floppy disks, upload Jet Set Willy from cassette to the ZX spectrum, slaughter aliens with a Quickfire II joystick, and have Atari games cartridges in the attic. Even if the disks and cassettes are in good condition, the equipment needed to run them is mostly found only in museums.” (Ian Sample).  You see, I don’t even know what most of that means, which is the point!  The technology to read storage devices is also rapidly changing.  New Mac computers don’t even have CD slots anymore, and they say USB ports won’t be the norm in 5-10 years either.  “Ancient civilisations suffered no such problems, because histories written in cuneiform on baked clay tablets, or rolled papyrus scrolls, needed only eyes to read them.” (Ian Sample).  I’m sad for the grandchildren that will want to see their grandparents’ wedding images and won’t know what to do with the flash drive they found in the attic.

So, now that I’ve been a huge downer, let’s talk about the best way to save your photos: PRINT THEM! :)  Furthermore, print your photos through a professional photographer.  Photos that are printed by a professional lab use acid-free, archival-quality ink and are the photos you will find still looking good in an attic generations later — not the photos printed on cheap paper with cheap ink at a drugstore (those will change colors, curl, and fade over time).

My fear is that my generation, the most photographed generation yet, will end up with less images than previous generations.  My goal is to educate people on how to save and cherish their wedding photos, for those are your precious and valuable memories, and that’s why you paid a professional photographer to take them.  If not for yourself, do it for your children.  Oh, and you don’t want to be this parent either:

So that’s my summary on the subject.  Here are some links to other amazing articles that go into way more depth than I did about the problem that Google’s vice president & “co-father of the internet” Vint Cerf calls the “forgotten generation” and what we can do about it.


Google Boss Warns of ‘Forgotten Century’ with Email and Photos at Risk by Ian Sample

The Case Against ‘Good Enough’ by Kathleen Trenske ** my favorite

Will Your Grandchildren be Very Upset With You? by Fred Molesworth

The Most Photographed Generation Will Have No Pictures in 10 Years by Mike Yost Photography

Why your digital photos might die before your grandkids see them by Keith Wagstaff

Claire Diana