Digital prints are easier and cheaper than ever. So why are so few photographers making prints?
Photo © Allkindza/iStockphoto.com
It's ironic: For professional photographers and enthusiasts, making accurate prints of your color or black-and-white images has never been easier. Ditto for consumers, who can easily upload their digital photos or bring them in to a kiosk at the local Big Box store or at the local drug store chain. You can print on demand now, rather than printing an entire roll, and the cost per print has dropped thanks to competition. In the 90s, a 4x6-inch print (the most popular size, by far) from a negative used to cost 40-50 cents. Now, consumer prints in the 15-20 cent range are typical. It should be a great time to make prints!
And yet, fewer people are printing. According to research conducted last year by PMA, only six out of ten digital camera owners bother to make prints, and 90% of pictures shot by those owners never get printed. These statistics do not factor in camera phone users, whose propensity for printing is even way less.
Sure, I share some of my photos on Facebook, as do millions of others (above is a screen shot of my profile Photos page). But I also share them by making prints (framed and otherwise) and photo books to give as gifts. Facebook should have a "print" option for every photo so you can order prints of your own photos, or allow your network to order prints as an option. Hey Zuckerberg, you listening?
What happens to the unprinted photos?
The answer is, usually, nothing. Sometimes, they simply disappear.
I look at my teenage daughters' picture-taking habits. Neither one of them has asked me to order prints for them, ever. I've offered. Instead, they take low-resolution pictures with their camera phones and share them on Facebook. There are plenty of good reasons to share images online with social networks of friends, co-workers and acquaintances, but the majority of the photos being shared on Facebook are the kind that used to find their way into the family album, and the family album is becoming, for too many people, a lost art, an heirloom that got drowned in pixels.
Facebook is currently home to the largest number of digital images today, but there's no “print” option. There should be. My concern is that the cloud computers where the images are stored could one day disappear. Facebook could go bankrupt and turn off its servers (not likely, but hey, it could happen. Anybody fly Pan Am lately?). Then what happens?
Hard copies of your most important photos—of loved ones, BFFs, people who pass through your life in memorable ways—should be treasured and kept.
Why are prints still valuable?
In an age where iPad portfolios, and easy-access and upload sharing sites abound, why bother making prints? Four years ago, I wrote about the important, powerful role prints—not digital versions that could be called up on a monitor—played in giving my father comfort during his last days, and how going through boxes of family photos helped me and my family through the grieving process when he was gone.
There is something about holding a print in your hands that is powerful, and more permanent, than viewing a photo on a web site, because the latter could be gone in the blink of an eye.
But you don't have to simply stuff small prints in a shoebox. There are other options out there.
No need for a frame store or struggling with frames: You can order framed photos to your specs like these from AdoramaPix!
You don't have to make simple 4x6 prints, either. A few months ago, my cousin, a fellow photographer, sent me (via snail mail) a photo book he put together of him and his children on a recent visit to Israel. It was a more meaningful gift than if he had simply tagged me to look at the pictures on Facebook. When the Facebook photos are long forgotten, that book is still on my shelf and I can look at it any time. I recently sent my mom a couple of framed prints to hang on the wall of her condo in Florida. I simply added a framing option (AdoramaPIX has over 600 custom framing options!) when I placed the order. She loved it.
Here's Mark Wallace's video review of Adorama's Photo Books:
Greeting cards, gallery wraps and calendars are other ways you can get creative when printing and sharing physical photos. In other words, you've got options.
Another cool way to display photos on a wall is using a gallery wrap design, as shown here, also available at AdoramaPix.
So if making single prints is so yesterday for you, there are plenty of other options. Consider digital or manual scrapbooking as another way to show and share your work.
Even if all you use is a cell phone, you can still get prints made. Here's how: Make sure to take the pictures so that they end up on your camera phone's micro/miniSD card (a 2GB card costs as little as $10), then take out the card and put it in an SD card adapter. Take the card to your local kiosk, insert it into your card reader's SD slot, or if you have a printer that prints directly from SD cards, print that way. The quality will not be ideal, but it will be at least as good as what a previous generation was able to capture with a disc or 110 Instimatic film camera. For some snapshooters, that's enough, and it gives you hard copies.
As John Lennon once sang, you don't know what you've got until you lose it. Don't lose those memories! Make prints.
Connect with Mason Resnick on Facebook, Twitter, or his profile page at the Adorama Learning Center.