In a recent survey, researchers from PlusNet found that despite the “selfie generation” snapping hundreds or even thousands of images every month, three quarters are never actually viewed again. It refers to these as “digital baggage”. Essentially unflattering or ill-advised shots that people don’t want to share, less people want to see, and no one bothers to print!
Vint Cerf, Google’s Vice President at the time, in 2015 warned that digitised material including photographs and imagery could be lost forever as the programmes needed to view them became defunct. His advice? “If there are photos you really care about, print them out.”
Digital printing of photos doesn’t mean simple transference of an image on to paper and, as was often the case in the old days, consigning it to a shoe-box or a dusty album on a shelf. Digital photo printing now opens a world of possibilities. Think photo gifts such as personalised books, canvases and wallpaper, calendars and other stationery, even ceramics and textiles can be transformed.
With estimates of around 1 trillion photographs having been taken in 2018, that still leaves an eye-watering number that are, or at least were, valued. Plenty that hold meaning, happy memories and which captured an instant in time never to happen again. But what will become of them, and what has happened to those taken in previous years?
The storage conundrum
If you’ve ever had a hard disk fail or lost a USB stick, you won’t need convincing that neither is worthwhile as a permanent method of storage. They may be neat and lightweight but, apparently, SD cards, CDs and DVDs all rot in time. And, should they survive, technology moves so fast it’s unlikely that soon any households will have a means of retrieving files from them.
Phones and tablets are frequently updated and replaced, computer disks are wiped, and back-ups can fail (or are never scheduled). All of this means that, without digital photo printing, nearly all our memories are vested then in cloud storage and services.
And these aren’t bulletproof. Before anyone could have envisaged how ubiquitous the smartphone and its camera would become, one of the original photo storage sites, Zing, folded in 2001. Yahoo Photos, which for a while co-existed with Flickr, was closed down in 2007. And though Flickr still exists, when it was sold in 2018 it imposed a 1,000-photo limit to the number users could store.
Print those precious images, so they can endure, be enjoyed and shared…in the real sense of the word.