To protect your most important photos, you need to print them

David Haueter
Feb 27, 2015

It’s a simple fact that many people have no plan in place for protecting their digital photos. Despite all the good things that digital technology has brought us, it hasn’t really made preserving photos any easier. Things were much simpler back in the film days – you dropped off a roll of film at your local retailer and you got back a print of everything on the film roll, often in duplicate. The best photos would usually be placed into a photo album while the others usually ended up in a shoebox under the bed or in a closet. One of my favorite things to do when I was growing up was to pull my Grandmother’s photo albums off her shelf and look at pictures that went back decades of her and my Grandfather as much younger people and of my Dad as a kid.

Today, we have more ways than ever to save photos, but the plethora of choices hasn’t made anything easier and none of those methods, whether in the cloud, on a hard drive somewhere, or in the camera or smartphone itself, are foolproof. People are taking more photos than ever today, thanks to having their smartphones with them all the time, but that has created a “photo overload” problem. People have so many photos that they don’t have time to organize them or do anything meaningful with them. Many photos have a short life on Facebook or Instagram and will never be seen again.

InfoTrends has been preaching for years now that printed photos are still the single best way to save the most important photos. Ideally, prints should be part of an overall strategy that also includes storage on an external hard drive (although those will eventually fail and should be replaced every so often) or in the cloud with a trusted company.

Printed photos, if stored in a photo album, can last over 100 years, and will be much easier to access decades into the future than it will be to try and find photos on a website or hard drive. Unfortunately, according to the InfoTrends 2014 U.S. Photo Printing Survey, CDs and DVDs are  still the most popular method that people use for long-term storage of photos. That media tends to degrade over time and may not be readable in 10 years (assuming you can even find a computer with an optical drive then!).

We are not alone in this campaign. PetalPixel.com recently reported on a presentation by Vint Cerf to the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in San Jose, California, in which he warned of the dangers of relying on digital storage. Cerf said, “if there are pictures that you really, really care about then creating a physical instance is probably a good idea. Print them out, literally.” Vint Cerf, in case you haven’t heard of him, is known as one of the “fathers of the Internet” and is now a Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google.

In an article at fstoppers.com, Nino Batista writes that, “I can offer you a solution that is guaranteed to preserve and secure your digital photos: print them. Simple as that. Sure, prints can get lost, burned, torn, soaked and start to fade (which takes a very long time if printed in a quality manner), but if you treasure your images enough, a reasonable amount of care can preserve them forever simply by putting them in a box. Or on your walls. Or in an album. You know, the way photos have been stored for over a century? Yeah, that.”

InfoTrends believes that the encouragement to print photos for preservation and accessibility reasons should be coming from the leading photo vendors and retailers that have a vested interest in the printing of photos, but this group has been surprisingly quiet on these topics. Our suggestion? Don’t wait for someone to come up with a solution for organizing and managing all your photos for you. Do it yourself, you know, like in the film days. If nothing else, keep a folder on your computer for each month and put your favorite or most cherished pictures in those folders. Set a reminder to yourself (something you can do on your smartphone) to print them at the end of the month and do it, either as traditional prints or in a quality photo book. You’ll be glad you did, and your grandkids will be glad you did too.

 

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