Why printed albums instead of disks?

One of my professionally printed albums resulting from A Day in Our Life photography session.

One of my professionally printed albums resulting from an A Day in Our Life photography session.

Yesterday was a big day for me. Among other things, I announced my reinvention as a documentary family photographer, took my old website down, and launched my new one (only to have it crash on me and have to spend a few hours ironing out the bugs that hadn’t made themselves known in the months I’d been working on it!).

So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It seems there are many people for whom this kind of photography makes a good deal of sense, people who want more than a traditional portrait. Thank you so much to all who have sent me such wonderful comments. Your response is very encouraging.

In that announcement, I mentioned that my aim was to create physical albums that tell families’ real stories, so they have a legacy to pass on to future generations, something that is more than just a portrait showing how they once looked. This has raised the question: Why, in a digital age, would I want a printed album instead of a disk of digital files?

Floppy disks. Good luck accessing the information stored on these!

Floppy disks. Good luck accessing the information stored on these!

The short answer is that a book, especially a high-quality one, is likely to last longer than a digital file.

Digital storage media deteriorate. Most of us have had a disk stop working, or a memory card fail. External hard drives crash irreparably, and so do computers.

In addition, digital storage media go out of date and become inaccessible. I’m old enough to remember floppy disks of different sizes. I threw some out just two or three years ago (I have no idea what was on them) because modern computers simply cannot read them.

Digital image files can become corrupted, either becoming inaccessible or not appearing as they should.

File formats also change over time, which means there is no guarantee that a specific digital image or video format will be readable by computers 50 years from now.

In contrast, the oldest book in my possession was printed in 1859. The pages have yellowed over the years, but I can still read it perfectly. There are, of course, books that are much older than that, some even thousands of years old. It is doubtful that any digital image will last that long.

As I wrote yesterday, I want to create a legacy. I want my client families to be able to enjoy these photographs for years and even decades to come. I want their stories to touch the hearts of future generations.

I do offer my clients the opportunity of investing in digital files (web-resolution images, slideshows, or both) as optional extras, so they can share them on their social networks, but that’s in addition to an album, not instead of an album. After all, I feel I would be doing them a disservice, even cheating them, if I allowed them to go home without a professionally made album that improves their photographs’ chances of preserving their story for future generations.

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