“Piles of digitised material – from blogs, tweets, pictures and videos, to official documents such as court rulings and emails – may be lost forever because the programs needed to view them will become defunct," Google’s vice-president, Vint Cerf has warned.
"Humanity’s first steps into the digital world could be lost to future historians," Cerf told the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting, warning that we faced a “forgotten generation, or even a forgotten century” through what he called “bit rot”, where old computer files become useless junk.
Cerf added, "If there are photos you really care about, print them out.”
There are a lot of photographers, me for example who are just too chicken to put all of our files in one folder, so to speak. I have client images backed up on my computer, 2 external hard drives and now another external that is kept in my safe deposit box. What about my personal photos? hummm, well, I have them backed up . . . not to that extent, but they are in more than one folder. . . sad. I should know better.
I need to make prints of the images that document my families lives and make prints of the images that are my favorites for whatever reason. There is nothing wrong with a box of photos, or an album of photos to be found by future generations. I for one would be happy to discover something of my grandparents or great grandparents that told me more about their life. I have books that I have made with photos from a specific year or vacation or event, but I need to get those everyday photos documented with something tangible. After all, I have a business that revolves around the everyday, the candid, and story telling imagery, so there is no excuse to risk losing these pieces of my own life.
Here is what one photographer wrote on the subject of Print Vs Digital:
Will Your Grandchildren be Very Upset With You? by Fred Molesworth
I’m willing to bet they will
Imagine, 50 years from now, as your grandchildren or great grandchildren are going through the boxes in the attic. Finding all kinds of treasures and keepsakes, they’re enthralled with what they are, and how they tie into the story of your life.
Amongst all the old items, they find a number of round silver objects. Some have writing on them, some are blank, but they resemble some kind of a small platter about 4 inches across, with a hole in the middle.
Puzzled, they take them to their parents.
“What are these, mom?” they ask.
“Oh, I think those are all of grandma’s photographs. Yep, here’s one labeled “My Wedding”. Here’s some more labeled “Family Photos”, and some more labeled “vacations”.
“How do we look at them?” they ask.
“Well, I’m not sure we can. First of all., no one has the device that reads these any more. And besides that, I doubt after all these years that they’re any good any more. Being stored in the attic, the heat and cold probably ruined them”.
The kids are very disappointed. Nowhere amongst all the treasures are any actual prints. All that history is lost. Their connection with the past, and all the wonderful stories that might have gone along with all those photographs are gone as well.
Along with all the wonders of our digital age come some significant problems that most people have never thought of.
Did you know that something over 90% of all images taken on today’s digital cameras are NEVER PRINTED? I’m guilty of that myself. I have gigabytes of personal photographs that have never been seen other than on a computer screen.
In the old days, film went to the lab, and everything that was printable was printed. Even if it was a bad photograph, it still was a hard copy, a part of your family history, and it had permanence. Even if it never went in an album, it at least went into a box, to be discovered as treasures years later. I just came across some wonderful old prints of my mother’s childhood from back in the 1920s. They’re TREASURES. They connect me with my past, and keep alive some of the memories of the stories my mother told me about growing up.
Along with those were lots of other family-history photographs. Grandparents and great grandparents I never knew, but I have photographs of them. Yes, I’ve had to do some restoration on them, but I had the hard copy that allowed me to do this.
But that’s not even possible with images that never leave the hard drive, and. are lost when the hard drive fails. Or with images that are placed on CD’s or DVD’s, because the chances of being able to read them in 50 years is just about zero.
Try to fmd an 8 track tape player today. Or one of those large 12 inch floppy drives, or even a 5_ inch floppy. And those were popular less than 20 years ago.
The same problem exists in professional portrait studios today. Many people are simply asking for the images on CD. “I’ll print them later” or “I’ll design my own wedding album” are common phrases. Usually this is done with the thought that they’ll save some money by doing it themselves.
But you know what? Most never make it into any kind of an album. Life gets busy, other things get in the way, and 5 years later, they’ll still only have a disk. Kids come along, and life gets insane, and 20 years later, they’ll be looking for some way to read those disks, if they even happen to think about it.
And then 50 years later, the grandkids are having the conversation with their parents.
I work with a wedding planner – a professional in the wedding business – who fit’s this description perfectly. Her photographer simply gave her some proofs and a disk. Five years later, that’s all she has, and she’s admitted that it’s likely that it’s all she’ll ever have, because now with a new baby, she’ll probably never get around to designing an album. Life now has other priorities.
We periodically get calls from people in this situation, wondering if we would design an album for them; Or retouch images that were never retouched. Or if we can “fix” the poor quality images that were taken by someone who didn’t know how, or feel the need to provide a quality finished product.
I bring this up only to point out the importance of what we, as a professional studio, do Our job is not just to create the images, to create wonderful story telling photographs about the people in front of our camera; it’s to create a final product, whether it be a professionally retouched and printed single image, a family heirloom wall portrait, or an incredibly storybook album using a collection of the images that were created.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a wedding, a newborn baby, a senior or a family. Having the final product created for you is important. To do less is to leave the job half done, and to short-change the customer.
Then, if you want a disk with all the images “so I can print them later” that’s fine. At least you’ll have something wonderful to show, something your family will love for generations, and something your grandchildren can truly get excited about when they discover that box in the attic.
And that conversation, then, will never need to take place.