So in this day of digital domination, what are people buying? Is the shoot and burn style here to stay, or is there still life in the album or printed products? Obviously like any other market there are different priorities but lets look at the case for the good old fashioned printed product, or as I prefer to see them – family heirlooms.
Recently I had an urge to have a look through some old photographs. It was Christmas time and being the time for sentimentality, the coversation went on to family photographs, followed by the inevitable “let’s get the old albums out”. Now I must admit much of what I saw, certainly of myself, was embarrassing, and many of the school photos made me consider that if I did that to my children nowadays, social services would more than likely be involved. The hairstyles, if it is even appropriate to use the word ‘style’ in this case,and which seemed to be similar to those worn by lego figures, were not good, the clothing even worse, and yet everyone laughed and had a great time looking through them. In the same box were old black and white wedding photos from when my grandparents tied the knot, in the 1940’s. Even more impressive was a wedding photo of my great grandfathers sister, which we worked out was over 100 years old, and yet still in very good condition. Lit and set up better than much of what I see being produced and posted on social media these days. The prints were still in pristine condition, and sharp as a tack. There was such a huge and varied array of memories in that one cardboard box, it got me thinking about the current generation. The memories seemed to stop around the early 2000’s and the reason is, I started using digital, and none of it had been printed. I immediately vowed to get some prints done of some of the older stuff, but from a professional point of view I think it was a wake up call.
Lego Hair ^^^
The photo above is over 100 years old!
People want their wedding or portrait images digitally, but how often do they get them printed, and again, how often do they get a lot of images done? And at a good quality? In the good old days, you shot a roll of film, got it developed and rarely threw anything out if it was anything like half decent. Now we do a shoot and confine it to a folder on our PC. Some of us will back it up to a separate drive, and some will back it up to the cloud. What happens if we can’t access that computer or drive in twenty years time, which is very possible? What happens if for some reason we delete our cloud back up? What do we have for memories? I got a new phone in August. It developed a fault recently and I had to send it away. I did a backup to some cyberspace location, restored it to factory settings, and then did a restore from my back up file. All my messages and photos magically reappeared on the phone. This was a test. I then restored the phone to factory settings and sent it away. A week later a new shiny replacement handset arrived. I was very pleased they had sent me a brand new phone and went to reload everything. When I logged in, there was no back up file. I still have no idea why, or where it went, but I have lost every photo I took between August and January. There wasn’t much of importance on it, but there were some images from Christams, some landscapes I had shot when out on my bike, and a few other things that I am sad I have lost. How many people have suffered a similar fate, and how many more will in the future. How many people have a CD or DVD stored somewhere, which will not play on their computer in ten years time? How many people will have a hard drive failure and lose everything? I’d suggest a great many.
The next factor is the experience we shared of leafing through that box of images together. Do you think this will happen with a hard drive full of folders from every event? I’d suggest not. It is a totally different experience, and one which is unlikely to provoke the emotions and memories which so many previous generations have experienced. You may have a folder for every event in your computer, or just one folder with absolutely everything in it. How will you share this with the family, the children, the grandchildren? Get them all round and sit around the laptop or tv while you put a slideshow together? It just isn’t the same is it? The experience of looking at the old prints and albums is what makes it special. Not just the image on the print, but the feel of it. The way you can pick it up and look for as long as you like, discuss it and share memories. Not clicking a mouse and having a quick glance as they scroll through endless boring images to find one gem.
I don’t know how many times in recent years I have met a client after the first series of communications have taken place via email and website links, for them to be blown away when they actually get the album samples in front of them. Unless they have been to a wedding fair, they probably have no idea what a digital album looks and feels like. Also when a client has only ever seen their images on a screen, then view the album layout as a PDF, then they open that box and take their own album out for the first time….it never fails to produce another ‘wow’ moment as everything looks so different printed.
People need to be aware of this. It is important to see and ‘feel’ albums and framed prints, or whatever other products we do. They need to know the importance of having physical copies to show their children, and their children, and so on. Otherwise we will look back on this entire generation as the one we can’t see. In a generation where just about everybody is walking about taking photos every day, either on a phone, a tablet or a camera, is it not ironic that this generation will be the one we have the least physical memories of? The other thing worth pointing out is, that now more than at any other time, having prints and other products made, has never been easier. The days of having to hand write an order form, write out a cheque, package a set of negatives up and send the whole thing to the lab, are long gone. But back when I started, that was how it was done, and everybody had prints back then.
There is something a bit special about the album. The new style of albums can be customised in so many ways now, that you can create a real masterpiece. I imagine people looking at my albums in ten, twenty, thirty and more years time with their grandchildren or other family members. I imagine them sharing the same feelings and wanting to keep that album safe for the next generation, and the next, and so on. Having my grandparents photos from 70 years ago is a special thing, and I will make sure they are still in the same pristine condition in the next thirty years and beyond. I for one, despite offering digital files, really push the sales on the albums and will continue to do so. I hope everyone can see the value of it, and look at getting some products printed, before we become the lost generation in a few decades. I sell my albums as a family heirloom, and recent events have only reinforced that notion for me. I will also now be usng a folder on my desktop to pop files in for printing my own personal pictures every week or two.
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