Photographic prints – are they following the path of dinosaurs?


Will the photographic print become extinct in my life?

Based upon current consumer behavior, the answer is yes! However, the universal truth of consumer behavior is that it is dynamic, not static. Consumer decisions may head one direction one year, and then change directions the following year. Time will tell if an archive of photographic hard prints will last longer than an archive of digital images.

The role of a printer – whether that be a photographic printer or lithographic printer (the printing press) – still exists in our world. It is simply shifted to the user. Digital files, whether they be photographic prints or PDF files, have cut down on the waste and landfill produced by unwanted flyers and imagery.

So we have all followed this new digital trend and now store important documents and photographs digitally, saving the cost of printing them.

Is this a smart move? Or is it a faulty move?

When it comes to photographic prints I think this is a faulty move. And the reason is simple and there is a great example showing physical prints are the best archive to have, with digital files as a backup.

Remember those photographs you have of your grandparents? Black and white images of them in front of their homes, with new cars, with children in their arms?

You have hard copy prints of those since they were prints created from negatives, from film.  A photographic print was the only way you could hold something in your hand and show to loved ones and friends.

These negatives they were created from were very tangible items, they were fragile but you could hold them in your hands.

And, they are very similar to the digital files you hold today. They are the original content. With a film negative, a scratch, or dirt or mold could damage the negative. With a digital file a missing digital identifier, or a missing piece of code or a faltering hard drive (or memory stick) can render it completely useless. At least with a film negative you can still print through the scratch, through the dirt, and through the mold and get a print from it. Lose a digital file because of the things I just mentioned, and it doesn’t exist anymore.

This is why I advocate making prints of everything you photograph, the pictures that you want to show your children and grandchildren.

Because this way, you’ll have the best of both worlds. You’ll have a hard copy print you can archive, and you’ll have multiple backups of your digital pictures.

Over time consumers will realize they have lost many important photographs to corrupted files or failed media. People will start to realize (and this is the dynamic behavior I spoke about earlier)  that making prints from digital files is the way to go. This will give them two chances at keeping these images as part of their heritage, part of their legacy.