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Protecting the Images of a Generation - PPA Today

Protecting the Images of a Generation

By Robert Behm M.Photog., Cr., CPP
PPA Treasurer

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Tomorrow they may very well be gone. The treasured memories, the smile moments, the passing opportunities for a quick shot of everyday life with those we love. That vacation to the Theme park or National park or worse yet, a rare family get-together and the only shot was one taken with a cell phone camera.

As professional photographers we know the value of what we do, and hopefully we all take the proper steps to insure that our client images are properly backed up and stored safely and securely. Certainly we value every image we create... right?

This conversation is not a new one, yet I do not see or hear much change happening out there in terms of protecting people's personal images. Digital photography has changed the way we approach photography, and for the consumer it has made it more convenient. However that seems to have devalued photography. We already have a generation of young people who do recognize the moment or opportunity for a great photo but then have no after thought of what to do with it other than post it to a social media site thinking that somehow it immortalizes the image. Sadly photography has become disposable to the majority of our youngest generations.

I am the first professional photographer in my family, however I was engrained with the idea that photographs are treasures from a very early age. My paternal grandmother had a second generation Brownie camera and made photographs on paper from a very early age. She continued with other film cameras throughout her life and always made albums with analogue metadata carefully printed on the back of each image. Later in life she became interested in painting and was a pioneer in hand colorizing black and white prints with oil paint before the invention of color film. My Dad had a part time job as a darkroom assistant at a local portrait studio in the small town he grew up in. He too became enamored with the print and how it told the story of our lives together.
In my portrait studio business I do not provide digital files to my clients unless the client has a specific business need for the image such as on-line profile or website and even then it is only after a minimum print order has been placed and the digital file is paid for and sized for it's intended use. This has not had a negative impact on my business because I educate my clients on the power of a print, and because I take that education one step further with a conversation about their own photography.
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How can we expect our clients to understand the philosophy of print making if we only approach the topic as one that protects our business bottom line? As professional photographers and members of the worlds greatest professional photography association, we should be leaders in the effort to educate the public about the value of the images they create with their own cameras too. I eagerly approach this topic with my clients often while I am actually creating photographs for them to purchase from my studio. 

How are they backing up their images? Are they printing their photographs and by what method? Do they know how their phones truly store their images? Are they aware that external hard drives and CD's are magnetic media that can be corrupted over time? That new computers come without CD drives? Do they understand that Facebook is not responsible to archive their images for generations to come?

It has been my experience that this conversation with the public consumer, shows people do not know the answer to 90% of these questions and are doing absolutely nothing. They also usually thank me for approaching the topic with them and it shows that I not only care about their photography too, but I'm sharing my professional expertise in addition to creating beautiful portraits for them that will be printed. When it comes time for the sales session, the importance of buying prints has been established through their own realization that I have documented an important memory in their life through my portraiture.

You do not have to be super technical to give your clients sage advice about protecting their own images, and you should give advice that people can understand. Keep in mind that these days everybody wants things to be easy and convenient. 

Now of course there are many different philosophies about how digital files should be stored for the future and we should always be watching industry standards for the most viable solutions. One thing we know for sure is that the print will out live any storage solution that has been introduced over the past 20 years, but leaving files on a phone or a computer hard drive is a recipe for a disaster.

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There are other things you can do too to raise awareness about this topic and promote your reputation in the community where you do business. Offer to speak on the topic at your local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary group etc. Your studio can offer copy and restoration services to your clients, because this conversation will often make your clients think about their own collection of old family photographs. The technology we have today can allow us to extend the life and quality of our client's old family photographs and further establish our credibility with our clients. Many of the labs in our industry offer true black and white prints from digital files or if you are really ambitious you can colorize your clients old black and white images for an additional fee.

If your studio has a practice of distributing digital files of your work to clients then your marketing strategy has tied your hands from being able to promote this important topic. You most likely will be hesitant to give your clients ideas about how to print their own images because in doing so you have compromised the ability to sell your own.

My mindset has always been that a digital capture is just a digital file until it is printed. That is what truly makes a photograph. The tangible printed image, that I don't have to push a button to look at. One that can be displayed and framed and enjoyed each time I pass by it in my home. I am proud to
say "I am a print maker".

A few years ago my father passed away. Of course my family looked to me to produce a slideshow of images about his life. I felt so blessed to have the treasure of my grandmothers beautiful black and white prints and my own archive of family images allowing me to produce a story that everyone could enjoy. 

Let's be the steward's of photography in our communities and towns and pay forward the gift of photography that we all have been given to the next generation.


• Encourage your clients to have a family conversation about what they are doing with their photo's, and whether they value the idea of having their images in the future?

• Apple's iCloud only stores your last 1000 images so don't think your images will still be there if you delete them from the camera roll unless you purchase additional space. 

• Back up your photos to your computer then purchase additional space on iCloud or any one of other cloud storage companies to store images. There are also many companies that offer an app for your phone that allows you to back up all your images directly from your phone's library of images.

• Make sure they understand that images stored on CD or DVD will be inaccessible in less than a decade. Traditional spinning hard drives will go bad.

• Ordering photographic prints is super easy and very inexpensive for the consumer through web-sites like Shutterfly or Mac users can actually order prints right out of iPhoto. These services will ship the prints to your door.

• Printing photo's on an inkjet printer at home is not archival quality and the ink and paper will fade or deteriorate.

• If consumers do not want to put together albums with prints because it's too much work, they can also create books ordered on-line that can be of great quality and will probably last several generations.




About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on May 6, 2015 6:12 PM.

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Image Critique: Medic is the next entry in this blog.

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