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Why Make Prints?

I humbly suggest that print is not dead.

I speak from experience both as a producer of images (dance photographer, and one-time portrait photographer, Bar/Bat Mitzvah Photographer and Sports Photographer) and consumer of images (in all of these same areas). I have tens of thousands of images of my family’s life. I even have those images winnowed down to about 1000 images I really love that sample our lives over the years; but in the end, no one generally looks at them. They even live on an online gallery so family far and wide can look whenever they want to. Not much (any) traffic there. What does get regular traffic are the real physical albums and books. Either digital or homemade scrapbook pages, press printed books and albums from milestone events, they are all perused regularly. Wall-hangings of single images or collages are regularly interacted with and elicit memories. The print enables the viewer to view them on their own terms and at their own pace. Print is constant; the image is exactly how it is meant to be seen. The print simply is. It is always there, waiting for us, waiting to remind us.

We hired someone to be the photographer at our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. We got a disk of nicely processed images. They sat of months and months, and then over a year. No one looked at them past the initial oohs and aahs. Then, as the two-year anniversary neared, I turned our favorites into a beautiful press-printed book. It lives on a coffee table. It is picked up; it is interacted with; it lives. I still have all the images from that wonderful weekend years ago, but the only ones we look at are the prints.

We hired someone to do a family portrait. Once again, I really wanted those digital files. Once again, a total of two have been used for avatars on Facebook. The two images we loved most are on the walls in our home. The 4×6 prints sit in a box, and the digital files, well, we know where they are.

Don’t we all (or at least all of us over the age of 30) have shoeboxes of 4×6 prints from Ritz or Costco that we never look at? I did, and I still do. I had some of the good ones scanned to archive them, but they just changed shoeboxes from a physical one in my closet to a digital one in the cloud. They exist in that same stasis they did when they were in the shoebox. When I talk about prints, I’m talking about something that doesn’t go in a shoebox, digital or physical. The “My Pictures” folder quickly becomes as unwieldy as the dozen photo boxes in the closet.

In the end, we can archive our happy memories or we can live amongst them. Choose life!