Why you should print your photographs - print vs. digital

Last week, I posted about a special photograph that I have on display in my office, and why it's important to me (check back here if you missed it - "why you should print your photographs - the power of the print" ).  Today's post is all about how the march of technology could mean losing our digital photos...

As digital cameras have become more advanced and more accessible, and especially since the advent of the camera phone, the number of photos that people in the western world own per capita has grown like never before.  Ours is the generation that owns more photographs than any other.  But we're likely to end up with fewer...

If you're around the same age as me, you'll recognise these little guys...


If you're somewhat younger, you might be forgiven for thinking that someone's 3-D printed the "Save" icon, as these haven't been around for a while!  They had a maximum capacity of just 2MB - hard to believe these days, when USBs come with 8GB and more as standard!  As the popularity of CDs and USBs rose, so sales of the humble floppy declined.  Apple was the first to produce a computer without an integral floppy drive with the release of the iMac in 1998, and production of the floppy disk ended just a few years later.  If you happen to find one lying around, it's anybody's guess as to what might be saved on it as it's pretty much impossible to read them now.

The CD was sleeker, slicker and faster.  It made high capacity portable storage available to everyone, but it too has had its day in the sun.  DVDs then emerged with higher levels of storage but, again, the story repeats itself.  You'd be hard pushed these days to find a desktop computer that has an integral optical drive, and more and more laptops are being built without them.  Competition between DVD and Blu-Ray has been blamed, and Microsoft announced in 2012 that they would be dropping the ability for playing DVD videos from the basic versions of Windows 8 and onwards.

But we still have the USB, right? Well, for now, but it's facing stiff competition from other advances in technology.  All of these various things have been or are devices for temporarily storing files, and moving them between other devices.  These days, apps such as Dropbox do just the same thing, again with greater capacity than before, and with the added advantage that when you want to share content with someone, you just connect up their email account.  No devices to lose down the back of the sofa!  So how much time does that USB with your photographs on it have until it, too, is unreadable?

If you're still not convinced, take a look at the iPad.  It has two sockets - one for headphones, and the other for the iPad-specific connector (known in our house as The Big Connector).  No USB port.  But you can still connect your USB to your laptop or desktop, put your photos into something like Dropbox or iCloud or WeTransfer and pull them onto your iPad from there...though that seems a bit long-winded for the digital age, and it makes me wonder how long the USB has left.  Market leaders have marked the beginning of the end for the floppy and the CD amongst other things by their product designs and re-designs, and I can't help thinking that the USB is already in decline.

So where does that leave photography?  There has been much demand for owning digitals and while it's true that digital images have their place in the 21st century, they really and truly should not be regarded as legacy items, memories that can be stored indefinitely.  That crown still belongs to the print, and is still very much worn by that beautiful photograph of my grandmother in my office.  One day, I'll hand that on to my daughter, along with the framed photos on the wall, the boxes of prints and snapshots, yes, even the phone camera shots!  Because while technology marches on relentlessly and storage devices are lost, prints are still here, on our walls, in our albums, and in our biscuit tins under the stairs, where we can always get to them.