Lost Memories in the Digital World?

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Everybody shoots with digital cameras these days – almost everyone has a phone with a camera in it, and usually a digital compact or SLR for capturing family events – and most professionals use digital too.

It’s convenient, efficient, flexible, and immediate – and lets you take lots more pictures than we did in the “bad old days” of film.

But what do most of us actually do with those digital files? Anything?

Probably we keep them on our computers, or on a CD or DVD, or maybe on a photo-sharing site like Flickr, Instagram or Facebook. Which is all fine of course – but the one drawback of digital is that all those ones and zeros that make up our image files are terribly vulnerable.

If you have a moment, watch this short movie (it’s in French, but there are English subtitles) – and I’ll pick up the story afterwards…


Now I will concede that a worldwide electrical storm that zaps every single digital file ever made is a bit unlikely, but the movie does illustrate that memories saved purely as digital files are so dependent on modern technology, and can be irretrievably deleted in seconds.

So what should you do?

Print your photos!

Now I’m not suggesting that you print every single photo that you take, but I do feel that it’s important to make a physical copy of your most important images, and maybe some of the ones that don’t seem that important right now, but which will have significance in the future.

In a drawer in our house we have a little treasure trove. In it are my parents’ wedding album, and an assortment of prints ranging from portraits of my Mum taken at a professional studio in Birmingham in the 1920s and 30s (she’s now 87) to pictures of me and my sister and brothers growing up. So that’s a bunch of family memories spanning three quarters of a century, that are easily accessible anytime and that don’t require a computer to view them.

I’m wondering how many of the digital photos we take today will still be around and be accessible in 2087, if we don’t print at least a few of them.

Food for thought! Although like most pro photographers these days I do offer digital files on disk, in the next month or two I’m going to be revising my wedding and portrait photo packages to also include albums and prints – I really feel strongly that people don’t consider the long-term picture (pun intended) when deciding what to order for their wedding and portrait photos. “Getting the disk” is the easy option, but I hope you’ll agree with me it may not be the best.