The Enduring Power of Print

How much are your personal photos worth to you? Hundreds? Thousands? Priceless?

Despite the fact that the majority of us would place a higher value on our photographs than money (a recent study showed that 65% would choose their photos over $1million dollars!), if you're like most people, your photographic heritage is vulnerably stored in a digitized format.

These days, depending on your age cohort, the Cloud, social media sites such as Instagram and Facebook, and - if you're really good - external hard drives, are where we entrust the majority of our photographic heritage. The advent of digital cameras and smartphones has brought on a prolific new era of photography, where an estimated one trillion photographs are captured each year.

Ironically enough, however, fewer of us are taking steps outside of digital media to protect and preserve our precious memories, and the majority of us have been lulled into a false sense of security over the durability and reliability of these digital mediums. 

"People don't realise how vulnerable their digital files are."says Ms Coburn, a former head of technology at the then Dunedin College of Education. "Content is vulnerable whenever you change computers or update software," she says. "When I present, I always ask people, how many of you have lost files? Everyone has."

There’s a 25% chance that your external hard drive will die in its first four years, not to mention social media sites can come and go on a whim and owe it to no one to continue to house the data stored on their platforms. Likewise, there's the very real possibility that your data could become unreadable by machines and programs of the future (remember VCRs and cassette tapes?).

At a recent conference, internet pioneer Vint Cerf warned of the risk on our dependence of digital hardware and software to preserving our precious data.

"We have various formats for digital photographs and movies and those formats need software to correctly render those objects. Sometimes the standards we use to produce those objects fade away and are replaced by other alternatives and then software that is supposed to render images can’t render older formats, so the images are no longer visible.

This is starting to happen to people who are saving a lot of their digital photographs because they are just files of bits. The file system doesn’t know how to interpret them, you need software to do that. Now you’ve lost the photograph in effect.

If there are pictures that you really really care about then creating a physical instance is probably a good idea. Print them out, literally."

Backing up photos on multiple drives and discs may be a good option for the short term, but
as Cerf says, one of the best options you may have right now for ensuring the long term survival of important photos is to print them out physically (with materials designed for longevity) and to keep the prints in a safe place.

To get yours on paper, simply head to your local FUJIFILM Photo Printing Kiosk.