As I’ve been experimenting and playing with the new Lomo’instant camera, I got to thinking about what it was like to take photographs before digital technology. Digital photography has made it simpler to take nice looking photographs, as well as given us the ability to enjoy them instantly. But, it’s also set the stage for a potential disaster, if you are someone who cherishes your photos and memories.
The convenience of digital photography certainly has pushed film photography to “niche” status. But this convenience has also made us dependent on the technology – dangerously dependent, if we’re not careful.
One of the advantages that film photography has over digital is the ability to look at and enjoy your photos any time you want, whether you have electricity or not, whether it be today, tomorrow, or fifty years from now. As long as you keep your photographs in relatively good condition, you’ll have them to enjoy for many generations. You are not reliant on anything further to ensure instant access to your photos and cherished memories. This isn’t the same for your digital photographs.
With digital photos, you are completely reliant on your laptop, desktop, tablet, smartphone, or other digital device to read and display the digital files that are your photographs. If, for some unexpected reason, the storage device on which your photos are stored fails, or becomes obsolete and cannot be recognized by said device, you might as well consider your photos as gone.
Just think about it for a moment. As time goes on, each and every form of electronic storage will (or has) become obsolete. Are you old enough to remember having files stored on floppy disks? If you ever came across those floppy disks again, would you be able to look at those files today? How about ZipDisks? Sure CDs and DVDs are used today, but for how long; and do you still have a device that reads them? Today’s tablets, Chromebooks and smartphones don’t usually come with optical disc drives. There’s probably going to be a time when these optical drives won’t even be offered on laptop or desktop PCs. So, you better keep your older PCs in good working order, if you want to be able to look at your library of photo CDs in the future.
Services, like 23HQ.com, are a great way to ensure you have backups of your digital pictures, stored “off site”. But, services like these depend on having access to the Internet, and outages do happen. So, completely relying on them to safeguard your memories isn’t the best solution.
So, how can someone safeguard cherished photographs, giving them the best chance of being around to enjoy fifty years from now? The only way that I can think of doing this is doing what our parents, grand parents and great-grand parents did before us: have paper prints stored away in a photo album for safe keeping. I know, in this digital age, printing photos isn’t something that many of us think of doing. But, it really is the only way I can think of to safeguard memories from obsolescence or from being erased.
These days, printing your photographs isn’t all that expensive. Photo labs, at least around where I live, charge between thirty and forty cents a print. I print our photos with the Canon Selphy, which I purchased a couple years ago. The cost of printing my own photos is about forty-one cents a print (not considering the cost of the Selphy). This is quite reasonable, especially when you consider the cost of photographing with Instax instant film, which runs about ninety cents a photo.
Polaroid also makes a photo printer, called the Zip mobile. I haven’t done a cost comparison of the prints, compared to the Selphy, but I did read somewhere that it’s Android compatible, making it easy to print photos from your smartphone.
So, while photo printing is still affordable, just like film photography used to be, now’s a good time to get your favorite memories and works of art on paper for safe keeping. You never know when electronics are going to fail; and with the quality and craftsmanship they put into electronics today, failure should be expected. There’s also something I really like about holding a photograph in my hand, rather than just looking at it on a screen.