For all its many advantages, digital photography has one significant drawback. Many of those perfectly captured moments remain locked away on the hard drives of cameras, computers and phones.
Printing photographs out and having them always to hand, a permanent and indelible record of a unique moment in time, is a magical thing. Here are seven other things we miss about old-school photography and film.
PNC via Getty Images
When you first see the print of a cherished photograph of your family two things tend to happen. First, you smile, lost in a perfect moment in the lives of the people you care for most in the world. And secondly, you relax, safe in the knowledge that it’s a perfect moment you will own forever, and one that can never be overwritten, accidentally deleted, or fall victim to a server meltdown in a distant country.
Or put it this way. No packet of prints ever got hacked.
catscandotcom via Getty Images
Some prints end up in an old shoe box, brought out and passed around only on special occasions. Others make it into family albums, or are stuck to fridges and pinned to cork boards. A printed picture is a real and tangible object, for you to do with exactly what you choose. It becomes your possession, rather than bits and bytes in somebody else’s cloud.
Hans Eggensberger via Getty Images
Digital photography is effortless, and that’s a good thing. But taking pictures with film, or even choosing which digital images to print, takes a degree of self-editing that can be beneficial. Instead of an endless stream of snaps of the same occasion, you end up with a few really good pictures that perfectly sum it up. Printing out pictures makes you selective, and that can make the results extra special.
Alicia Llop via Getty Images
Prints are a feast for the senses, in a way that digitised images on a screen can never be. The picture is the main thing, of course, and both digital and film can produce images that are rich and sharp.
But printed images (with their waxy coats) are also made to be touched, examined and passed around. They are there to be pored over, sparking conversations and memories. The albums they are kept in become adored celebrations of the good times. And prints age, yellowing at the edges as years turn to decades, creating a perfect sense of history.
susan.k. via Getty Images
Shooting with film, and getting the prints developed at the local pharmacy, brought with it a tingling sense of anticipation. It’s hard to imagine today, but there could be a time lag of days between taking a picture and seeing the result. Then there was the sheer unpredictability of film photography, when every shot counted and you might not spot a photobombing pigeon until two days later.
So when you opened up a packet of prints you were never entirely sure what you would get, and that really was exciting.
PBNJ Productions via Getty Images
It’s been estimated that, collectively, humans took 1.2 trillion photographs last year. Let’s face it, most of them will be forgotten. Many will have been almost instantly deleted. Only the very best will make it onto social media, the flawless evidence of perfect lives.
Deep down, we know that perfect lives don’t exist, and that a flawless picture only survives because five less impeccable ones have been taken and discarded. But as far as pictures of family and friends are occurred, every picture tells a story, and that’s as true of the bad ones as it is of the good. Prints are too precious to throw away, and in years to come give you a complete picture of the life you led, and not just the airbrushed, tightly edited highlights.
Jeffrey Coolidge via Getty Images
Print out a couple of extra copies of a family gathering, a fun day on the beach or a grandchild’s first swimming gala and you can make someone’s day. Sending a few printed photographs of a special occasion is the perfect way to share the love with someone who couldn’t be there. You can send them an email of JPEGs, of course, but it really isn’t the same.