I became a photographer to get my work into print. I love it when we can use my stuff on the front page, and I love it when my good images get used big.
I thought of this recently as I came across an article on a photography website that informed me that Costco is doing away with many of their photo labs. We don’t have a Costco here in Ada, so this doesn’t directly affect us, but a cursory query of a local photo processing facility indicated to me that they don’t process color film, though of course you can still bring them photos to scan and print, and you can upload them to their website and have them printed.
I tell my photography students that their work will always be more impressive in some tangible incarnation like large prints on the walls, or a book you can share with guests, family and friends. This isn’t a particularly old-fashioned point of view. I have dozens of my news and sports photos on the walls of our newspaper, and a giant bulletin board full of my personal prints in my office, and everyone who visits pores over them with amazement. Prints, especially big prints, never fail to amaze.
Yet we all know how much less frequently we print our photographs. When was the last time, for example, someone showed you a print of their grandchild or new golden retriever?
An average smartphone has hundreds or even thousands of photos in it, all taken with the best of intentions, but most of those images get lost in an ocean of images. When was the last time, for example, someone showed you 1,500 digital files of their grandchild or golden retriever?
Then up pops the ugly head of technology. If you had a digital photo stored in 2004, it was probably stored on a compact disc or even a floppy disk. Fifteen years later, all our images are stored in the cloud, almost always as JPEG files, easily the most common file format for photographs. How will our photos be stored 15 years from now? What kinds of photographic devices will we have then? Imagine 30 years from now. Will photographic smart devices see 360º and record a gigapixel 200 times a second? If so, where will today’s pictures be then? Think they will still be around? How many of your 2004-era Motorola Rokr E1 640x480-pixel photos are around today?
There are a lot of ways to enjoy photographs and photography. Setting technology aside to some degree and enjoying a printed photograph is one of my favorites, and if adding a lasting image to your life sounds like something you might enjoy, now is the time to create that book of your child’s graduation, or have a really big print made of your picture of the sunset at the Grand Canyon. You won’t regret it.