The Pros and Cons of Prints vs Digital Files in Photography
Digital technology has rapidly replacing traditional film prints—but what are the trade-offs? Discover the pros and cons of both types in this post!
Photographers and photography lovers alike are familiar with the debate between prints and digital files. On one hand, digital technology has made it easy to take, edit, and share photos quickly and inexpensively. On the other hand, prints remain a classic way to commemorate special moments in physical form. Let's explore the pros and cons of each method.
Pros and Cons of Prints vs Digital Files.
Prints offer a physical representation of the moment, with an ability to reminisce now and in the future. They look great on walls and can be framed, allowing you to truly appreciate your work. The downside to prints is that they can deteriorate over time and require special storage conditions in order to remain in good condition. Digital files offer more flexibility, with the ability to quickly edit through various software and share photos easily online. On the downside, digital photos can get lost if not stored properly or backed up regularly.
- To be seen- The purpose of photography is to be looked at and admired.
- Viewed every day- Whether it’s a small print on your desk, a large wall portrait, or some family photos on the shelf, they will bring a smile to your face as you fill your home with lasting memories.
- Preserve your legacy/inheritance- Photos help preserve your legacy and can last for generations. No one lives forever. It’s important that you have those memories and can access them for when you want to remember those you’ve lost. Your children and grandchildren with thank you.
- Nostalgic- There's nothing quite as heartwarming and nostalgic as going through old photographs. Photos that you can hold in your hands have a timelessness about them. They are reminders of what is important in life, what inspires you, and remind you of the love you have for your family.
- Gifts for others- Printed photographs make great gifts for family and friends. It’s fun for kids to trade wallet-size pictures with their friends in school, photos can be included in thank you cards, Christmas presents for the grandparents, or something special just because you love someone.
- Print stimulates more senses- When you print a photograph, it becomes real, part of your daily physical existence, and your experience with something tangible is more complex and complete. Looking through a photo album you hold in your lap is very different than sitting at a computer.
- Not portable- You can't view all your images everywhere you go.
- Portable- Thanks to smartphones, digital photos can be taken with you wherever you go, and you can access all of them anywhere at any time.
- Make copies when you want- If you have a Print Release allowing you to print your digital photos, just make sure you go to a quality lab so your photos turn out as beautiful as intended.
- Theoretically, they’ll last forever- When backed up onto a separate hard drive or online storage, your photos could last until the end of time.
- Easy and quick to share- In the age of social media, digital photos are easy to share with a large number of people very quickly. With an online gallery, clients choose their favorites from the comfort of their own homes, then have the option to purchase prints and albums from the photographer’s professional lab.
- Commercial use- Ideal for clients who want business-related photos for social media, advertisements, or web-based use.
- Not seen regularly- Compared to having physical photos on your wall, you're unlikely to scroll through all of your images onscreen on a daily basis. A digital photo is not ever-present as a print would be. Because of social media, printing these photos is often overlooked.
- Electronics can fail- Computers and cell phones crash, flash drives get misplaced, and it can be too easy to lose all of your precious memories in a matter of seconds. Internet pioneer, Vinton Gray Cerf, warned about a “digital dark age," which is the rapid evolution of technology that makes different storage formats obsolete. We will lose a huge amount of digital information, including important documents and photographs. There is also "data rot," when digital material decays over time on a drive, disc, or USB.
- Changing digital options- Remember floppy disks? The 8” disk, the 5.25” and the compact 3.5” floppies are all obsolete, and zip drives barely lasted 5 years. CDs and DVDs are still in use, but until recently, a lot of laptops don’t even have optical drives anymore. SD cards have changed sizes and shapes, and USBs are great but can easily get lost or corrupted with viruses. Right now, the best option for saving digital files is a Cloud service. However, those services can be expensive and there's no guarantee they will be around in 20 years. What if the entire internet crashes??
- Lost memories- There's the risk of being "out of sight, out of mind.” When photos only exist on your phone or computer, they can be easy to forget that they existed at all.
- Not as personal- You lose a little bit of the personal touch that comes with physical photographs. People are less likely to enjoy a digital photo than they would a print. Once they see it, they click the "like" button, and they're scrolling on to the next thing. There’s nothing exciting about having a beautiful photo saved on your smartphone.
- Not for everyone- There are some people who still don’t really use computers or smartphones. Plus, digital ordering can be confusing for some clients.
- Non-Professional prints aren’t as good- Not all prints are created equal. The digital photographs you have printed at the local drugstore might not hold up as well as the ones created through a professional lab. Many drugstore printers are not color-accurate, so it’s recommended to go with a professional lab for printing.