Preserving Your Wedding Photos in the Digital Age

Wedding Day LoveOver the years, I have photographed a lot of weddings and each of those produces something every new bride and groom will cherish for the rest of their lives together. These special moments, preserved in a photograph, are in many cases, the reliving of that day over and over and happens the moment those pictures are looked at.


“Back in the day”, the only media you could capture images with was film and paper. Without getting into a lot of the technical details, you basically exposed light-sensitive silver to light and a chemical reaction turned it black/grey and created a film negative. You took the negative and did the same thing to a sheet of photographic paper and viola’- you had a positive image!With the development of digital photography, you no longer have a “negative” or a film that can be preserved. You basically have a serious of digital 1’s and 0’s that are nothing but data that a computer can decode and produce an image. Like everything digital, it has to be stored on some form of media- a hard drive, a thumbdrive, a DVD, or something or someplace that can handle these files. The higher the resolution, the more data and the larger the file sizes become. Also, depending on the file type, a certain amount of “compression” takes place that attempts to reduce the file size and still maintain the original image’s integrity.

Over the years, file types have dramatically changed as well. The first ones I can remember were GIF files. Later came the TIFF files and then JPG’s. There are others, but these are the most commonly used ones. Each still have their purpose, but as images began getting larger and larger, the GIF and TIFF became less common for basic photographs. TIFF’s are still used when you need a transparent background, and GIF’s when you need animation. But even those are being replaced with FLASH files and other means of preserving image data.

Which leads us to JPG’s and their function on today’s modern computer. Most people take photos and their camera works the JPG magic for them by compressing the data into a file that is fairly small depending on your resolution and your camera’s quality settings. The lower the quality setting, the smaller the file, but the loss of data due to merging happens too. Also the number of pixels per inch is reduced in lower quality settings. A “print quality” image will have 300 DPI’s and a ‘web image” usually only 72 DPI’s. This is why when you print some web images, they turn out really bad.

So now you have all this technogeek stuff that has perhaps totally confused you, now what?

First, when you plan your wedding photography, plan for the disaster that COULD happen with your final prints. You say you can only afford a DVD? Then you are that disaster waiting to happen and here is why. A DVD is nothing more than a thin layer of metal sandwiched between two layer of plastic. The laser burns the data onto that metal and then can read that data and produce a photo though the software in your computer. A few short years back, “floppy disks” were the only storage media for larger files and backup. So when is the last time you saw a new computer with a floppy drive installed? Imagine the millions of photos that are stored on floppy disks that the owner can’t even view.

Now, with a DVD, you are also facing a dilemma in that the metal CAN AND WILL deteriorate over time. The life of the average, aluminum based DVD is only 5-7 years. Ever thrown in an OLD CD and tried to play it and nothing? No scratches, nothing appears wrong, but what happened? The metal has lost its data due to atmosphere, labels, printing or any number or reasons. Sooner or later, it will fail. Add to it, that in a few short years, the DVD will be like the floppy disk and obsolete. So in 20 years, when you have that virtual computer on your wall or in a holograph, where will you put your DVD so you can see your wedding photos? I actually envision a day when photos will be stored on a media so tiny and be accessible without plugging it in anything and reading that data from a huge storage chip inside.

Today, there is really only ONE WAY to truly archive and preserve your wedding day memories and that is PRINTS, or even better, in a professional produced album. And not all prints are created “equal”. Most of your “1 hour” photos do NOT use archival inks that can and do fade and discolor over time. If you photographer is a true professional, he or she will use Professional Lads and album printers to assure you have 100 year photos that WILL last you a lifetime and probably your kids lifetime as well. Sure, they are more expensive, but the simple fact is, you want to preserve these forever and that little extra is worth every penny in 20 years.

Stay tuned for more next issue for “All about Color” and why Professional Labs and Photographers ALWAYS get it right.


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