Sometimes people ask me if they can purchase the digital images instead of prints when they view the images from their portrait session with me. I completely understand the desire to have a digital copy of your images – especially with how much technology has become a part of our lives.
But I also want to explain a little bit more about why I think prints are important – and why I think you should always make sure you choose prints as well.
Late last year, my trusty MacBook Pro began to show signs of its age. After 7 years of working pretty flawlessly, it began to struggle to open applications and eventually started slowing down when I’d turn it on. I knew in my heart that I should take time to go through all my old files and photos and start to back things up – but the job was just so big I kept putting it off. The funny thing is, I know the importance of having backups for your images – all of my client sessions are meticulously documented and stored not just locally but also onto an external hard drive. That external hard drive is only used for client images and is put away when I’m not downloading or editing images. I keep it in its own box on a shelf that is out of reach so no-one can confuse it, take it, overwrite it, use it or lose it on me. I’m very careful with making sure I do not lose any of that work.
It turns out though that for some reason my own life and documents and photos didn’t have such an importance associated with them. There’s something about being entrusted by someone to document their special moments that really makes you aware how valuable those images are. But when it’s your own every day stuff – it’s taken for granted that it will always be there. I still have photos from 10 years ago when I was a college student and I didn’t value the importance of a proper filing system or making sure that all file types are stored in one location that are floating around on my computer’s hard drive somewhere. I just blindly copied them across when I purchased my new laptop all those years ago and I never gave them a second thought.
Of course I printed out images after my daughter was born – but only a handful and after a few months I started grouping them into folders to print out another time.
But then my computer started to splutter and slow down. I knew that I should stop and take stock of everything – delete the things I didn’t want or need and make sure I copied across the things I did. One night, I started to upload my media folder to Google Drive but after 4 hours of uploading a few hundred images, I lost steam and decided I’d keep going over the next few weeks. Only, life happened and I didn’t.
Then one day the unthinkable happened. I pressed the power button and a little grey screen appeared. My computer was trying to turn on. But it didn’t. I told myself it was no big deal and I’d try again in the morning. But it still wouldn’t turn on. Quietly panicking inside, I decided to leave it until we got back from our weekend trip away. Maybe it needed a few days to re-charge.
But it didn’t.
When I got home and finally realised that it wouldn’t turn on again – I suddenly remembered all of the images I may never access again. Sure there were friends and family ones from 10 years previous that I wanted to keep. But mostly, I was horrified to realise that all of the photos I had taken with my iPhone of our daughter and moments from my pregnancy were gone. Yes, I am a photographer and I take portraits of my daughter. But I’m also a modern mom who pretty much keeps her phone to hand and uses it to document the little day-to-day details of life.
I couldn’t believe I had been so stupid – especially because I knew in my heart that this was going to happen one day. But one day just always seemed like it was far away and I never really contemplated what would be lost.
Luckily, there is a happy ending. I happen to know a pretty fantastic IT team through my old place of work – and with a quick (hysterical) visit, they took my laptop from me and hooked it up to all sorts of hard-drive reading machines. It had to be left over night, but eventually I was able to navigate it remotely from another computer and copy everything over to a new external hard drive. I only lost a few files to data corruption – and by some serious stroke of luck, everything else was saved. Those first few hours in the hospital with my first newborn? All there!
I always stress the importance of a printed image. I grew up in a house of photo albums that were kept in the main living spaces and regularly pulled out and enjoyed. As a teenager, I printed out countless images of my friends and proudly displayed them on my walls with blu-tac. As I began to settle down, beautifully framed photos began to decorate the mantel piece and dressers in the bedroom. Now my daughter has arrived, we have family portraits and baby photos decorating our home proudly showing ourselves and our guests who we are and what we value in life. I know that images stored on computers rarely get looked at and usually get forgotten. I know that images on your phone end up getting deleted to make more room for apps or new photos. I know that technology fails you sometimes. Technology also moves on. All you have to do is look at your CD or DVD collection and realise that they’re soon going to be obsolete – what will you do with the contents on them when you can no longer play them on a machine in your home?
You cannot underestimate the power of a printed image.
Something that is tangible, always to hand and something that can be looked at and enjoyed in your own home helping to create an environment that is personal to you and that represents what you value in life. It’s something that you can pass down to your children and family over time.
It’s wonderful and so so important to take the time to print and enjoy your images.
It’s also important to make sure you back everything up!!