One of the most popular questions I get asked during photo viewings is whether I would recommend printed media or digital media. For example, should someone purchase an album / piece of wall art or the digital files to store on their computer and get printed when needed? Well, the short answer for those bored with this post already is printed media every time. But let me take a few words to explain how I reached this conclusion.

How many times have you got out the old photo albums and laughed at the pictures of yourself as a child? Shed a tear or two over loved ones  no longer with us? or reminisced in the good old times? Printed media is great. It’s tactile textured paper there for all to see. Once an image is printed using high quality materials it’s around to stay and is as easy to access as looking up at the wall on which it hangs or opening a book. Indeed, even now you see photos of great great relatives that have survived the test of time.

By comparison lets consider the revolution of digital media. Lets go back to say the 1990’s when I was young. If the photos that were made of me back then had only been delivered on digital media, would I still be able to access my past with the same relative ease? Back then its quite likely the photos would have been stored on ‘floppy disks’. Remember those? Big square blocks of colour that stored a whopping 1.44mb of data. How many modern laptops, PC’s and smart phones can read a floppy disk? The chances are to recover my images today i would have to spend time and money either enlisting specialists or tracking down an external disk drive compatible with my computer. Even moving further forward to the more familiar CD and DVD, how many laptops and tablets today come without that ubiquitous disk drive needed to read them? Arguably,  USB is king! However, as the shift towards faster, more reliable and cheaper storage continues, it is unlikely in 15 years time it will be as easy to retrieve your photos as plugging that same USB into your shiny new computer.  This is of course all based on the assumption that the digital media has not become damaged or corrupt. CDs, DVDs and USBs all fail with age, which is why we as photographers keep so many backups and copies of the images we produce. Cloud storage is growing. Keeping images on the latest phone you will likely only have for a couple of years, or on a facebook account that like myspace and bebo before it will one day be neglected to the history bin. What if that phone was stolen?, or the Facebook account deleted without notice? Would you still have those precious memories stored away for future generations?

Of course I’m playing devils advocate here, and in many ways it is good that digital standards move on. Back when photos of me were made as a child, it’s likely a 35mm film camera would have been used, and a digital camera today is capable of producing files in excess of 36mb each. That means I would need 25 floppy disks to store a single image. But coming back to the original point, none of these issues are applicable to printed media. Sure they can fade, get lost and damaged, but looked after correctly they will be around far far longer than digital media.

To answer the question in one sentence then, if you would like your great great grandkids to be able to look back and see you in your youth, give that cheeky smile and maybe shed a tear just like you do today then please seriously consider the investment of printed products.

Please feel free to leave your comments on this topic, it’s always great to know what others out there think too!