Richard Grenfell Photography

The Importance of Printing to Preserve Your Photos



This is a photo of my parents wedding album from the 60's. To look at the photos all I had to do was pull it out of the cupboard.


There are plenty of good reasons to print photographs. It is great to hang them on the wall so you see them. Awesome to send to your grandmother who does not have email. Also it is a much more tangible way to enjoy photos rather than looking at your phone. This is not an article about the experience of digital versus prints and what is better. This is an article that I hope might make you pause and think about preserving your precious memories.


In an era of everyone being a photographer with the advances of phone camera technology, we are swimming in photos. We have them on our phones, on our computers, on our tablets and online.


For the vast majority of people their photos are very important to them. You often hear people say that that their photos are the one thing they would grab along with the kids and pets if their house was on fire. They simply can not be replaced.


If your photos exist only on your computer or on your phone you are in risk of losing them. You can lose or break your phone. The hard drive on your computer could crash. Or your devices could be stolen or hacked with ransomware. The list is endless.


You say to me... I back them up on to a USB drive or hard drive. I say you are awesome (and I mean it) you are in the minority of people who remember to do it.


However let's back up a bit and look at this more closely. Digital photography has been available to the masses for quite a while now. I would say since the late 90’s/2000’s people have had digital cameras. OK.... so say it was 20 years ago that I took a heap of photos of a family event or friends or my kids birthday party or whatever. Let’s also assume that I was vigilant and backed them up to a zip drive (most people will not even know what that is). Assuming I want to look at the photos I now have a hassle. Zip drives don’t exist except as a vintage computer item on eBay. It means that I either have to find a zip drive and figure out how to make it work on a modern computer or send it off to a data recovery company to get the photos of the drive. Then there is also the potential issue that the data might be corrupt as the zip drive cartridge may have deteriorated over the years.


So fast forward to now. We have USB hard drives and memory sticks and we have the cloud. How long before USB drives are redundant? Back in the 90s we never thought Floppy discs and zips drives would be phased out. Right now Apple are making computers without a USB port and many people do not even bother owning a computer with phones being so good. Assuming you have saved the photos to a USB device, in 20 years will you be able to access those files? Assuming the device is still ok the answer would be yes but not without hassle and cost. Also will you be able to find the USB Sticks or Hard Drives easily after having moved house a few times. Did the kids borrow the drives to take their assignment to school and forget to bring it home. Will you even remember they exist ? When I go back through photos I rediscover photos I had completely forgotten about.


The cloud could be the answer to all these backup problems but I am not sure I can trust a third party to hold that data for ever. Also you have to pay for that space online for the rest of your life. What about if you get hacked and your data is held for ransom like you hear about in the news a lot. No one wants to talk about it but what about when you die? Is access to all your online accounts available to your family and would they even know about them. If they do know about them do they know the username and passwords??


The answer is a simple one. Just print your photos. I am always lecturing my clients to do this. I do not even mean purchasing fine art prints from me. I simply mean something as simple as going to Office Works or Big W and printing simple 6x4’s. This is now so ridiculously cheap. You can print 1000 photos for about 80 dollars. Yes 1000 photos for 80 bucks! Put your favourites in an album so you can enjoy them with other people and stick the rest in a shoe box. That way you can always view them whenever you want and you do not need a machine to look at them.


A bridal portrait of my mum. She is young and beautiful forever in this photograph.


I heard an archivist at a museum once say that it you need a machine to view photos, maps, books and so on then it is not archival. Think about that for a moment. With my computer background this really stuck with me.


I have family photos from the 70s and those photos all still look great and that was 40 years ago. To view them I just pull them out of the cupboard and look at them. They mean more to me now than they ever did since mum and dad both passed away. Ask yourself the question .. in 40 years will your family be able to look at your photos?


Nothing is foolproof of course. But you stand a much greater chance of not losing them simply by printing them out.


So in this digital age stop and make the effort. Take your photos on your computer or on your phone and get them printed. As well as the peace of mind you will have that they are now in a hard copy you can display them and enjoy them.


I promise that you will be glad you did.