Why Photo Prints Still Matter in a Digital World

troy-photography-studio.jpg

With my recent studio buildout, I really wanted to be able to offer clients robust printing services right in the comfort of the space, and now I can! I added a Canon Pro 2000 printer in the photography studio. It’s a beast of a machine at almost four feet wide and 300 pounds — it literally arrived on a pallet. A professional, large-format photo printer with the capability of printing 24” wide prints, the Canon Pro 2000 is fed paper on rolls instead of sheets.

But why should you, someone who likely already has an inkjet printer at home as well as a smartphone and computer, care about photo prints? After all, your iPhone can store hundreds, if not thousands, of images without any need for paper, dye, ink, or frames. And even if you do decide to hire a professional studio photographer, once you receive the digital files, you could go to a local drug store or office supply outlet for printing. What’s the difference?

I don't plan to do a ton of print volume, but I'm excited to accommodate most requests without clients having to make an additional trip to a print shop or wait a week or more for their images to be delivered by mail. No matter how technologically savvy we all become, you can’t replace the tangible gratification of a photo print, both from a visual standpoint and a tactile one. Viewing and holding a photo with a sleek matte or satin finish that’s printed on professional-grade archival paper can accentuate the image’s personality. Plus, portrait prints serve as priceless mementos.

Relying Too Heavily on Digital Photos Has Its Downsides

Digital files may be more convenient than print in a lot of ways, but there are definitely tradeoffs. If you accidentally delete/alter your files or damage your hard drive, digital images are difficult to restore without professional intervention, and sometimes not even then. Maybe you lose the password to your computer. Or you get permanently locked out of your phone after too many attempts to remember the passcode.

Media formats have also changed considerably in just the last 20 years. Do you remember the Zip drive? If not, you probably have been able to track the disappearance of physical disk drives in laptops — it’s the same idea. Connectors, cables, and storage devices are always changing. So what happens five or ten years from now when you want to access the photos you burned to a disk?

Photo Prints are Timeless Backup Strategies

Sure, photo prints are always at the mercy of the elements, but advancements in archival printing have made the risk significantly smaller than it used to be. The Canon Pro 2000, for example, uses pigment dye to produce images that will not only be striking today, but 60 years from now, too. Gone are the days when you’d have to watch your collection of family albums slowly fade and yellow; some manufacturers claim their pigment dyes can last for over a century.

The prints I can produce will last a generation or more on paper. No passwords are required to view them. No need to go hunting through your hard drive to find another image with a nonsensical string of letters as the file name. And you don’t need to worry about having the right media drive in 30 years. Printing is a tried-and-true backup strategy.

troy-headshot-photography.JPG

You might not have an immediate need for a print of your portrait, but your spouse, kids, or other loved ones will be glad you took the time to have it made — and eventually, it’ll become priceless.

Case in point: When my dad passed away a couple of years ago, going through his computer was tedious and painful. It was the physical prints I made (and discovered in boxes, some of which I’d never seen) that I cherish today.

Similarly, when a client of mine passed away, his family tracked me down so I could provide them with some prints. I was honored to be able to help them process their grief by producing keepsakes they can treasure and pass on forever.

As humans, we’re guided through the world by our senses, so it’s only reasonable that if you want your memories to last as long as possible, you’ll choose a medium that you can touch as well as see. Don’t take for granted everything the power of print has to offer.

My challenge to you is to keep printing your everyday photos. Your future self will thank you.

Regardless of your specific printer choice, my challenge to you is to keep printing your everyday photos, because it’s an amazing method of preserving precious moments in time and encouraging you to go back and relive them with the people you care about. While I’m happy to help you through that process with my studio equipment, even a simple shoebox of prints is sure to delight months or years down the road, often when you’d least expect it.