Prints VS Files

I’m staring a stack of prints going back 50 plus years.  So many memories of people, places, events. And they are priceless, accessible, here and now with a tactile experience when holding them in hand.  In amongst the box of photo’s are several discs from about 5 years ago.  They won’t open in my computer.  They were assembled in a format that was supposed have a slideshow as well as  individual prints. A similar situation has occurred when I backed up my entire hard drive using a back up tool that has it’s own unique compression scheme.  Can’t open those files either.  I had also backed it up onto a separate hard drive, so the files aren’t lost, but I had counted on that backup, copied to disc, to be archival.

It made me realize the importance of keeping an analog record, one of prints rather than just digital files.  I say this now as I’m in the thinking phase of developing a portrait package.  I’ve been looking at other photographers and most offer a few prints with each level of package.   These days more and more photographers are giving full resolution files as an option for purchase.  Some simply include them in a basic package.

It’s a difficult dilemma that we all face.  Giving away the file means you no longer have control over how  prints are made.  Whether the prints made are of any quality.  This means that the customer can choose to go to a big box store and have a bunch of cheap prints made with no adherence to paper quality or color correction and the results are most often far less than a professional made image. Especially in terms of  longevity.   Today’s professional inkjet printers produce images that last for over 200 years.  The inks and papers you may get for less at another location may only last a decade before serious color shifts occur. It means that all the effort that went into making an exceptional image gets lost.

The other concern, which is well documented on other sites, is the idea of archiving to an old format.  Floppy discs are history.  DVD formats are changing quickly.   The standard format for sharing is .jpg which is a “lossy” format.  You lose a lot of valuable image data when you save to .jpg

Another potential problem  is the color profile assigned to the image by the photographer when editing or importing the image.  Most .jpg’s  saved in either sRGB or Adobe RGB  Neither is the best  for professional photos. Pro Photo RGB is the best for showing the available color gamut.  But in order for most consumers to be able to view the image on non professional systems, such as home pc’s, we generally save the file in sRGB.  The result is that the image loses a lot of great color detail, especially when printed.

If you are investing in quality images, especially fine art work or having a fine art portrait photographer take your image, you owe it yourself to seriously consider having professional prints made.  If your going to spend the money to have high resolution digital files, then know that you need to continually maintain that image set across platform upgrades as your operating system changes over time.  It’s an absolute that the digital files you have today won’t be viewable in 50 plus years like the prints I view today. And now that I’m 51, I can tell you, that’s not a long time.

Something to think about.

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