Preserving Family History With Photography


When you take photos, you are your family historian.  When you decide that a milestone is worth memorializing by having family photography done, or by hiring me to capture images of your newborn, you are your family historian.  This is a powerful thing, if you think about it.  It is a lot of responsibility.  You are determining how future generations will view you and the people around you, you are deciding what pieces of your life you want people to know and understand. 


Being my family historian is part of what drives me as a photographer.  And I want to spend some time telling you (over a series of posts) what this means to me, and how it impacts my business and my habits.


The fact that you are your family historian makes me passionate about one thing: printed photos.  I know, I know, almost everyone just wants to buy the digital photos and move on.  But most photographers, myself included, dislike selling digital copies.  We all have our reasons for the hesitation.  For some, it is money.  For me, it isn't about that.  It is about the fact that the odds of you printing those photos once I've handed you a USB drive or given you a digital download, the odds of you ever having printed photos go down dramatically.  For instance, I have a friend at work who was married at least five years ago.  She received no prints from her photographer, she got a disc of images.  Anyone want to guess how many of those photos she has printed?  Not even one.  And that breaks my heart.


What would you do if you found a floppy disc in your junk drawer?  Would you have the means to play that floppy disc? I bet not, unless you have an Apple II E laying around that you like to play Oregon Trails on.  The point is, you have absolutely no assurance that the disc you buy today, or the download, or the USB drive will have staying power.  You have no idea what the technology will be in ten, twenty, or thirty years.  And you want your photos to last that long, right?  You want your grandchildren and great grandchildren to look at them.  But there are no guarantees with digital.  The files could corrupt, your computer could crash, the file types could be obsolete, etc.  So when your grandkids come across a disc in your kitchen drawer, how much effort will it take to look at those photos?


Contrast this with what happens with prints.  Worst case scenario is that they get thrown in a shoebox and put in a closet, or they are thrown in a drawer and get pushed to the back.  But when someone comes across those tangible printed photos, all they have to do is open the box or envelope and flip through them.  There is no need to keep up with the latest technology, it is much more certain that those photos will last the length of time you want and you need. 


Even better than a print is an album.  It sits on a shelf or coffee table for people to thumb through whenever they feel the need, whenever they want to reminisce about little Billy playing soccer, or when you brought your puppy dog home, or Jenny's first Christmas.  The odds of technology failing you are far greater than the odds of something destroying your physical prints. 

When you purchase photos from me, you've paid good money for them.  For that money, I want them to last--for you.  Digital technology is fleeting, prints are always relevant and will always be at your finger tips.   If the memory is important enough for you to pay another person to take your pictures, those pictures deserve to be printed.  You owe that to yourself, you owe that to future generations of your family.  This is why I don't like selling digital copies. 

Not only do I want you printing photos from me, but I also want you to print your personal photos.  Even if you print them at Generic Giant Chain Store and the quality makes me want to cry for you.  Even if you print them for as little money as humanly possible online.  Print your snapshots.  Print the good ones.  Please.  Even if they get tucked away in a box, in a closet or attic.  You don't want to lose them.  You don't want your memories trapped inside your hard drive, inaccessible to anyone.  When I am long gone, I want people to have access to my memories.  I suspect that you do, too.