Future Proof Technology?

I was shouted at this morning.

The advert (in this week’s Amateur Photographer) screamed “moments in time captured digitally, that are not printed, are at risk of being lost forever“.

Of course, we might expect Peak Imaging to argue that I/they must print every image I capture “with prices from just 25p per print”.

But it made me think. A couple of weeks ago our daughter wanted to view some old VHS tapes with video footoage of our grandsons’ first steps. We couldn’t – the tapes are just 12 years old but the technology is already defunct. Nobody we know has a VHS recorder to link to a computer. Happily a local firm called Dejavu Video did an excellent job of transferring the tapes to DVD for £10 per tape.

But these examples raise questions. Might present digital photo technology disappear as fast as VHS tape? Is a photo that isn’t printed risking the scrap heap?

I have (a very few) images that I view every day. These are framed prints hanging on walls. I have many thousands of images that I never view (ie. have never looked at for years). These are negatives, transparencies, as well as prints, spanning 50 years. They lie in boxes which remain unopened because its so difficult to retrieve and view anything.

I also have many thousands of digital images, those originally captured digitally and many which I have scanned, stored on a computer hard drive. Using the Lightroom library, I can access and view these images fairly easily, viewed at their best quality on my computer screen.

From this latter group, I have made “albums” of favourites/selections/themes which I have put on the iPad. I frequently look at these; it’s very easy to do, the screen quality is excellent and the experience is much better than viewing prints. This is my preferred method of viewing.

But this technology is bound to move on soon. Already in the brief timeframe of digital photography, we have seen CDs become defunct as a storage medium with DVD discs now following the same route. My many slideshows on DVDs may soon be left without hardware to play them.

So, perhaps subconciously as a precaution, I have made some of these iPad albums into traditional printed books – high quality printing and easy to access and view.

We are now being encouraged to store our data and images in a “Cloud” and view them by streaming to tablet/laptop or other mobile device. There are clear signs that movie rental and music storage are taking this route. If this “catches on” with photographers, hopefully it could mean that “Cloud” providers will take more responsibility for long term sustainable access, than did the manufacturers of video recorders.

We shall no doubt find out before long. In the meantime, we should ask ourselves how we can ensure convenient viewing and access, in say ten years time, of the images that we have spent so much time creating.                 Gary

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