The importance of printed photos
Let me tell you a little story. Imagine there’s a house fire at your mom’s house. She and grandpa are both out and safe, the pets are all contained, and she has just enough time to run back in and get one last thing… She rushes in, past the burning couch, coughing from the smoke. She reaches the office, desperately rummaging through a drawer. She pushes aside papers, runs her hands under a few spare batters and THERE, she finally has it! She pulls it out, sighing in relief as she rushes back out the front door, proudly holding up… a CD??
Uhhh nope. This wouldn’t be happening. And you’re not calling your neighbors over to see the new CD or flash drive of your kids you just hung up on the wall. But most people answer that they would save their prints or wedding album in the event of a disaster. It’s different when a photo is in your hands. Something tangible holds us much more than a digital image ever could.
I feel like every photographer talks about how important prints are, but I can not only tell you about that, but I can tell you about a few of my own personal reasons why!
Let me tell you a little story about my quarantine project. I’ve had these photos tucked in boxes for years. I never had enough time to get them out and scan them. I thought they were just photos of our immediate family, but I was wrong! This is the importance of printing your photos. I scanned in photos that my mother had let me take home from the attic. It took me about 2 weeks of 8 hour days with a feed scanner to get through our family photos up to 1990. On the front steps of that house, sits my grandfather at age 8. His name was Drayton Robb. That’s the house he grew up in, with his older brother Walter. It’s located in Ambler, PA. The house had an enclosed front porch with a row of windows on the top, and a stone foundation that can be seen from the outside. my grandfather was born in 1919, so it would’ve been 1928 when this picture was taken. This print is only a little shy of being 100 years old. It’s astounding that I can hold in my had a bit of history that far past. A piece of paper almost 100 years old. Through this picture, and the others with it, not only could I see what my granddad looked like as a child, but I can also see the house he grew up in. My sister has been doing our ancestry site for years, and with this photo and some public records, we were able to find out that the house number and street name had changed over the years… But the house is still there! 100-year-old photos, plus Google Street view and Zillow.
Through these family photos, my sister and mother and I found out another detail we had never known! My grandfather actually had two brothers, not one! His parents lost their first son Norman at age two, most likely to the smallpox pandemic that year. These are bits of history that we would not have known but for these prints!
I also had the experience of losing some of my own photos. How many of us have had our phones lose months or years of personal photos because we never backed them up or downloaded the photos off of them? Well oddly enough, I haven’t. I am absolutely crazypants about getting my own images off my phone because I lost a lot of my own images before phones were cameras at all!
In about 2017, I have a spare weekend. My weekend project was to go through all my old personal photos and get them into iPhoto and sort them by year and get them backed up to my external drive (which is then backed up to the cloud via Crash Plan). My professional photos are on CD, on an external, and on backblaze already, but I’d been lazy about my personal ones.
As I started going through them.. I started getting errors. One, then two, then 153.. then more. Then one CD wouldn’t read at all. Then another. I finally collected them all in one place and pulled into iPhoto, but then more and more started popping up with problems.
The one above of me is my most heartbreaking loss. My favorite photo of myself from the trip that my then boyfriend (and now husband) John and I took to Disney World in 2003. It was hot, we were waiting for the buses, and I was getting my hair off the back of my neck with my sunhat in my teeth. John never takes pictures of me, so the rare times that he does are very special to me. This one’s not a total loss now because I can still see most of it, but it’ll look like this from now on. I sure hope I have this printed somewhere and I can scan it.
All total, I had 1473 corrupted files out of about 16000. Two full CDs didn’t ever read enough for me to get anything off of them, and all of 2008 and 2007 have somehow been resized to 300px on the long side, so they’re only good for printing wallets now, if that.