If we’re not careful, we could lose all the digital images we’ve ever made. The only way to be safe is to make a print, warns Roy Sealey

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A print of an image made by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1844, still on show today. It shows Nelson’s Column under construction and features in Salt and Silver: Early Photography 1840-1860, which runs at Tate Britain in London until 7 June [Photo credit: © Wilson Centre for Photography]

It’s been common knowledge among enthusiast and professional photographers – for many years – that there is only one way to guarantee those digital images for years to come – and that is to copy those images every few years to ensure their stability. But what is rarely said enough is that stability of those important photographs is dead easy – print those images!

This has been a personal crusade of mine. For example, after an Olympic champion has received his/her medal, in a few short years there will be no images of those individuals’ early achievements that grew towards their Olympic dream. In my view, it is very important to keep ‘shouting’ this message encouraging people to make prints – or in years to come there will be some very disappointed individuals.

Interestingly, the mass picture taker is quite shocked when you tell them that if they want that key digital image to last a lifetime, they really must print it.

We had some success in getting this message across to consumers when myself and a colleague, Mike Sigrist, produced three print campaigns on this subject, as well as a 10-second TV commercial and a 30-second radio ad. We got Fujifilm to sponsor these three print campaigns through its Fuji Digital Image retailers during the spring and summer of 2013.

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One of the campaign posters encouraging photographers to print

At the end of the summer last year, director Martin Scorsese and other notable film-makers asked the Eastman Kodak Company to continue to make motion-picture film. The reasons for their request? Film gives a better colour palette, there is a perceived ability to be more creative with film, and most importantly, image stability. This recognition by the motion-picture industry really indicates that we should be shouting this message across all the media.

It requires a big, big stage across all interested parties to tell those consumers who take pictures, but currently upload to the net through social media, ‘make a print and it will last a lifetime’. Yet it is so important because there will come a point in their lives when they suddenly realise there are no pictures of their early youth, of what we used to call growing up!

Vint Cerf, the Internet pioneer who paved the way for the World Wide Web and currently Vice President of Google Worldwide, recently supported this very subject via his statement in an article that appeared in the major news outlets – ‘make a print or lose your history’.

This statement says it all for me, but I would prefer a rather more shocking message – print it or lose it!

 

Roy Sealey’s career in the photo imaging industry is a long one, embracing Kodak Ltd, Fujifilm and Swains International plc. So he was there at the launch of 110, Disc, APS and Digital. Having seen many changes, it has become a personal crusade to get across the message to all picture makers: ‘Make that print or lose it!’

  • Byegad

    I agree. While I do print a small number of my images, and publish a few on Flickr and the like, the vast majority of my images are stored on two hard drives.
    Will my children/grandchildren/great-grandchildren bother to look at those once I’m dead? I doubt it.