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Heed My Warning

June 14, 2016

I don’t generally believe fear is a good way (or the right way) to motivate people. But if a danger is real, then it’s got to be appropriate to provide some warning.

So here it is: your digital photos are at risk for loss. This isn’t a fanatical opinion; it’s simply true. And as I see it, it’s the number one reason to print your favorite photos today!


There are lots of fabulous reasons to print photos, and I’ll share those in future posts. But for now, let’s focus on loss prevention.

Before we do, I offer a quick peek at the current state of photo taking in our society.

Data suggests that more digital photos will be taken this year than were taken on film in the entire history of analogue cameras. Snappity-snap that’s a lot of pictures! Still, this probably doesn’t surprise a single one of us since mobile phones with cameras have basically become human appendages.

What do we do with all those pictures?

Well, many of us share them digitally via social media and electronic messaging. Interestingly, data suggests that even the colossal amount of digital photos shared only accounts for one-third or possibly one-half of photos taken. (Who would want to see them all anyway? Not me!)

So these masses of pictures (at least one-third or so) are being shared and enjoyed—at least for a second or two. Fabulous!

Then what? Back in the analogue days, after developing, handling, and looking at our photos, we either put them in albums or in boxes—physical albums or boxes. There they sat and waited to be taken out and enjoyed on some future date. Today, digital picture files sit around as little bits of data and wait on all sorts of storage media, including an ethereal place called The Cloud.

The most diligent of us use more than one digital storage method to backup our picture files, and some even attempt to do it in an organized manner. The very sound idea behind this practice is that the more ways data is stored, the more likely it can be recovered/used/seen in the future.

What do we know about the lifespan of photographs?

The photographic print (printed on quality papers with good inks) is easily capable of lasting 100 years and potentially a lot longer. History bears this out. Sure, they can be lost or destroyed, but by and large, printed pictures have a very long life. They can and do get handed down from one generation to the next.

old photos

The lifespan of a digital photograph file is, well, largely unknown. We just don’t have a lot of history in this area. What we do know is that data can and does degrade. Technology changes. Storage devices get damaged, lost, and corrupted. Mobile phones get dropped in toilets. Clouds blow away.

This is why your digital photos are at risk for loss and why you should print and store your favorites. Do it right away. Do it for yourself, your family, and your future family.

Writer and photographer, Mike Yost, recently observed, “the most photographed generation will have no pictures in ten years!” That may be a bit overstated, but since it’s estimated that less than 1 out of every 100,000 digital pictures taken will ever end up printed, it’s a legitimate concern.

Okay. Now you’ve been warned. Don’t come crying to me when you no longer have a drive that reads CDs or your phone gets stolen, etc., etc. Actually, you can come crying to me—I just may not be able to resist saying that I told you so. Print the photos that matter.

And stay tuned for some fun, creative, meaningful, and inspiring reasons to get your photos off storage devices and into your hands!

– Cynthia