Digital Images: Why Should I Print Them?
To print digital images or not to print is sometimes the question…
Other times the question is how much should I pay to print my digital images?
This is definitely something that comes up time and time again – Why should I print my digital images? I have them on Facebook! I have them on Instagram! Or I’ll just head down to one of the large retailers with photo print booths and get them to rattle a few off for me.
What’s the difference between printing cheap digital images from them or buying the more expensive professional quality prints & canvases from my photographer anyway?
That’s a good question with good questions to answer it – How long do you want them to last? What quality are you looking for? Are they just for the sake of having photos in an album, or do they actually mean something to you?
I remember being offered a job at one of those stores where they print your digital images either straight from your phone, USB, SD card, etc. This was in the day when things were just starting to go digital but there was still film in cameras and we were working in Dark Rooms (such a wonderful place to be). What I discovered at this particular shop, was they weren’t ink printers, they were layered! What does that mean? It means that your photo is sitting on top of the paper. Something like that just will not last. I’m hoping that they’ve changed their ways by now…
What Are The Facts About Digital Images?
In further researching this subject, I read an article discussing the issue of digital image longevity by the Digital Preservation Coalition (yes, there is such a thing), here’s a little of what they had to say:
We know that photographic negatives, transparencies and prints last a long time. They are reliable forms of storing data. Recently the Royal Geographic Society reprinted Frank Hurley’s pictures from the 1913 Antarctic Exhibition – from his original glass negatives, nearly 100 years old. An example of how robust the storage medium was – remember these negatives had been in sub-zero conditions and transported across an ocean in a tiny lifeboat!
In the headlong rush to put photographic images into digital form, little thought has been given to the problem of the longevity of digital files. There is an assumption that they will be lasting, but that is under question.
“There is growing realisation that this investment and future access to digital resources, are threatened by technology obsolescence and to a lesser degree by the fragility of digital media. The rate of change in computing technologies is such that information can be rendered inaccessible within a decade. Preservation is therefore a more immediate issue for digital than for traditional resources.”
Now, I know some people that thought CD’s would only be for the rich when they first came out, and now CD’s are pretty much old school and in the drawer next to your old cassettes.
What Should We Do?
But hey, before we hit the big red PANIC button, remember we do have options. Here’s a few of my thoughts to add to why printing your digital images could be a good idea…
- Prints bring photos alive (& may brighten your day!)
There’s something about seeing the printed image – not on a phone, not on a computer screen – but something tangible. Something you can see 3, or at least 2-dimensionally. Perhaps holding the photos, or seeing the canvas on the wall. Whether they’re a fun photo being a bit silly, or the more serious pose, catching a glimpse of a photo on your desk or wall of a loved one, a mate, a special moment or holiday, can lift your mind and spirit from the weight of the day. There truly is something magical about the printed image that transports you right back to that place and moment in time.
- When was the last time you trolled through your hard drive for a specific photo? Too hard.
Far too often our most precious possessions are packed away in hard to reach places. Now this doesn’t just apply to photos, but the more happy snaps you take on that phone, or even buying the digital images but no prints from a professional photographer, the more chance there is that they’re going to be gathering cyber-dust in some folder named “27 06 2008” or “Bali trip 2014”. Printing those digital images that you love will keep them where they can be easily seen and appreciated for a long time.
- They make wonderful gifts for family and close friends – even today not everyone is online
You know that Mum can still fit one more photo on her fridge. But even so, with products like the stunning photographic Acrylic Blocks you can have a frame that you can keep changing the blocks as they’re magnetic! These make a fantastic quality gift and are an impressive way to to make your digital images preserve your memories. How true it can be too, that as life continues there are loved ones that we just don’t see either as often as we should, or we may not even live on the same continent! My Mum lives in England and she thrives on photos of her grandchildren (not so much her children anymore, I think she’s over us!).
- A daily reminder of what’s precious.
Days. Weeks. Months. Years. Where do they go? Busy with this, busy with that. So easy to lose sight sometimes of the really valuable things. Now, whether that’s your family, your last holiday, your little ones, your pets, your night out on the town, or who knows what? Having them up on the wall in all their glory for all to see is what it’s all about.
- Your prints will be there long after your hard drive has crashed
An article in PCMag.com was titled, “Will Digital Images Last?” A very interesting and balanced article revealing what we do and don’t know about digital images, with his summary being, “I just think we’re entering uncharted territory here. Traditional photos have a 150-year history. Digital photos have a decade. Which would you trust with your memories?”
Could be words well heeded.
Last Words On Printing Your Digital Images…
One last word from one of “the fathers of the Internet”, Vint Cerf:
If there are pictures that you really really care about then creating a physical instance is probably a good idea. Print them out, literally.”
However you finally choose to print out your digital images, just be sure that you do. Preserve that which matters most.