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Author Topic: If you don't print, then what do you leave behind?  (Read 15348 times)
dreed
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« on: May 30, 2012, 06:58:49 AM »
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In a local TV show, an old house was being renovated and behind some of the old plaster work, old photos were found that dated back over a century and more recently, in conversation with a professional photographer, they posed the question that if none of the photos that we take are ever printed then what do we leave behind - a pile of hard drives? And who will look at them?

Consider the difference, if you will, of your children or your children's children sitting down after you've passed on and being told one of two things - here's a set of books of photos that you took or here's a set of hard drives with images that you took.

Which do you suppose will receive more interest and be more valued?
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opgr
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« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2012, 07:04:44 AM »
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Which do you suppose will receive more interest and be more valued?

The hard drive ldo. But only if it is still readable, and if it can easily transfer to a smartphone.

Imagine that: after al the bickering over MFDBs vs 35mm they merely skim over great grand pa's photos on an uncalibrated mini VGA display.
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michael
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« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2012, 07:21:49 AM »
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It's silly to equate family snapshots with fine art photography.

But, it's well understood that if one wants true longevity for either (1-2 hundred years at least) then properly made prints are likely the only way to ensure this.

Michael
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #3 on: May 31, 2012, 05:04:40 AM »
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Bravo Michael!

Regards

Tony Jay
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Rob C
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« Reply #4 on: May 31, 2012, 05:52:32 AM »
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On the other hand, could always commission a statue, as long as you remain apolitical, that is.

There used to be a large one at Paisley's Cross, in Renfrewshire, just above the little garden area where the public toilets used to be (I wonder if such establishments are still around in the UK or have been demolished as part of the war on drugs?). It was of a generously proportioned partly-nude lady, and I often, especially in winter, thought that it would be a nice gesture to fit the poor soul with a comfortable bra. However, I didn't know anyone that size, and I certainly wasn't going to stretch altruism to the extent of buying one for her; there are limits, you know. Anyway, as a schoolboy, I certainly couldn't have afforded to finance my generous mind.

Perhaps she shivers to this day. Well, in winter, at any rate.

Rob C
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RSL
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« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2012, 09:42:06 AM »
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Consider the difference, if you will, of your children or your children's children sitting down after you've passed on and being told one of two things - here's a set of books of photos that you took or here's a set of hard drives with images that you took.

Which do you suppose will receive more interest and be more valued?

Good point, Dreed. It's exactly why I print the best of my photographs that survive culling, and comb-bind them into collections as I go along. I've been doing that for a little more than a decade and I have something like six feet of comb-bound books on a shelf in my studio. That collection includes scans from negatives and transparencies going back as far as 1953. My grandkids love these books and it won't be long before my great-grands are old enough to enjoy them too.

But there's another reason to print: An LCD display has more color and tone range, but it lacks the fine detail that's rendered in a good print. My walls are hung with my favorites. I can walk up to one of them and read details that put me back there with the camera in my hand.
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langier
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« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2012, 11:14:14 AM »
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Printed photographs don't suffer from the effects of "digital rot." Can you still retrieve files from your 8-floppy, 5-inch floppy or even your 3.5-in floppy? What about your Syquest or Zip carts? 3.5 MO anybody?

A *printed* photograph takes no technology to view. Your eyes work fine (usually!) to see the image!
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louoates
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« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2012, 04:31:34 PM »
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Quite correct that digital files will not fare well for descendant use. Printed work will endure as long as anyone gives a damn. But I suspect that the third generation will not recognize us or care what we did. I think that the best idea is to print and frame our best work. And in that frame under the print have a typed paper that tells a bit about yourself and your work. Most of our printed work will end up in flea markets and antique stores. Our digital DVD's, hard drives, and thumb drives will end up in a landfill. Much like ourselves.
The good thing about all this is that nobody will care much if we saved images as raw files or srgb.
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dreed
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« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2012, 10:13:54 PM »
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Printed photographs don't suffer from the effects of "digital rot." Can you still retrieve files from your 8-floppy, 5-inch floppy or even your 3.5-in floppy? What about your Syquest or Zip carts? 3.5 MO anybody?

In the last year, I connected up both Zip and Jaz drives just to ensure that there was nothing of value being left behind :*)

I was actually somewhat surprised that I was able to do this.

All of my 3.5-in floppies have been imaged and are in a hard drive directory. I've yet to decide what to do with the somewhat ancient 5.25 inch floppy archive that I have as finding a way to connect a drive is challenging in itself!

In comparison, holiday snaps from 15 or 20 years ago are all in little pouches and can be viewed any day or night providing there is light Smiley
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ckimmerle
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« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2012, 10:36:36 PM »
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It's silly to equate family snapshots with fine art photography.

Actually, THAT is silly statement. To the average family, their "snapshots" are far more valuable than any art photos we may make.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2012, 10:46:57 PM by ckimmerle » Logged

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jule
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« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2012, 04:11:33 AM »
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I don't think that we need to look that far ahead to wonder about digital storage versus print when even now when a hard drive crashes in the home of Mr and Mrs Average non-backuppers; and then they realise that all their family history and memories of their children who are just 5-10 years old - have gone. They were going to get some of them printed "one day".... and that day didn't ever happen and all visual record and memories don't exist any more...not only for the parents, but as a record for their children as well.   
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Chris Pollock
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« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2012, 05:15:08 AM »
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Properly made and cared for fine art prints may last a long time, but I suspect that most of the prints from one hour photo labs will fade away before too many generations pass. Even good quality colour prints will no doubt slowly degrade as the years go by.

Obviously no digital medium can be relied on to last indefinitely, but the beauty of digital is that you can make as many copies as you want with no loss of quality. (Admittedly data corruption is a possibility, but there are countermeasures.) The media may be mortal, but as long as someone cares for it, the data can, in principal, be immortal. I also have no doubt that more reliable and robust data storage mechanisms will become available in the future.

No doubt screen and printer technology will continue to improve in coming decades. If they have our digital files, our descendents should be able to produce prints that are superior to anything that we can make today. On the other hand, with the ultra high resolution, wide gamut, super high contrast screens that will probably be available in 50 years, I wouldn't be surprised if hardly anyone bothers to make prints anymore.

I imagine that my great-great-grandson would be far more interested in pristine digital copies of my life's work than he would be in some faded prints of my favourite shots.
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Chris Pollock
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« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2012, 05:42:59 AM »
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A *printed* photograph takes no technology to view. Your eyes work fine (usually!) to see the image!
That's a good point. If resource depletion causes civilization to collapse, our digital files will soon be useless, but we'll still be able to enjoy our prints. On the other hand, when the fossil fuels run out people may well have to burn the prints to keep warm.Sad
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Justan
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« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2012, 08:45:33 AM »
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Printed photographs don't suffer from the effects of "digital rot." Can you still retrieve files from your 8-floppy, 5-inch floppy or even your 3.5-in floppy? What about your Syquest or Zip carts? 3.5 MO anybody?


Often yes.

I remember reading that digital media off of floppy disks was only stable for about 3-5 years. This is incorrect.

I recently did a project to recover content from a bunch of old floppy disks, many of which dated to early 1980s. The disk format was both CP/M and MS-DOS. I did tests on about 30 randomly selected ones, and all but one worked. The client did the other 4,000+ disks and almost all held all the content they originally had. This is in the high humidity NW of the USA. In dryer areas the longevity is probably much greater.

The more difficult part of the task was to find computers which will accommodate 5.25” disks. The current generation computers don’t accommodate the 5.25” drives in the BIOS. I had to go to a local computer recycler to find a couple with a 5.25” drives.

For the original point, I agree that few look to old digital images. As example, a couple of cases I did were to recover content from the computer drives of some folks who’d died. To my amazement no one in the families was interested in any of the digital images on the drives. They effectively died with the computer owner.
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2012, 10:18:03 AM »
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Often yes.
 The current generation computers don’t accommodate the 5.25” drives in the BIOS. I had to go to a local computer recycler to find a couple with a 5.25” drives.

Software changes present similar problems.  My 10-year-old, hundred-dollar copy of the complete National Geographic is now useless.  The original media (CD-ROM) is intact but current OSs won't read the discs.

I agree with Michael. The only viable long-term backup is a print.
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ckimmerle
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« Reply #15 on: June 01, 2012, 12:40:36 PM »
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Many of you speak as though technology changes so quickly and without notice that there's a serious risk you won't be able to access your image files tomorrow. Whether or not data was stored on floppies, Syquests, Zips, CDs, DVDs or HDs, their respective obsolescence, past or future, is far from immediate. We have years before any technology becomes useless, thus have more than enough time to transfer data to newer technologies.

This is something we should be doing as a matter of course, anyway.
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Isaac
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« Reply #16 on: June 01, 2012, 12:42:45 PM »
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I don't think that we need to look that far ahead to wonder about digital storage versus print when even now when a hard drive crashes in the home of Mr and Mrs Average non-backuppers; and then they realise that all their family history and memories of their children who are just 5-10 years old - have gone. They were going to get some of them printed "one day".... and that day didn't ever happen and all visual record and memories don't exist any more...not only for the parents, but as a record for their children as well.

Isn't their local digital storage auto-magically replicated in the cloud?
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Chris Pollock
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« Reply #17 on: June 01, 2012, 06:08:59 PM »
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Software changes present similar problems.  My 10-year-old, hundred-dollar copy of the complete National Geographic is now useless.  The original media (CD-ROM) is intact but current OSs won't read the discs.
Are you sure that your operating system can't read the discs? I can understand you not being able to find software that understands the files, but from what I know the standards for CD-ROM are well defined. I'd be surprised if you can't at least copy the files to a modern machine, unless National Geographic used some sort of prorietary, non-standard disc format. For that matter, if the National Geographic software is only 10 years old I'm surprised that you can't run it on a modern machine.

In general I think the problem of file format obsolescence is exaggerated, at least for widely used, open formats. I can still open files that I produced 20 years ago on the long-dead Amiga platform. With trillions of digital photos in existence, I'm sure that software producers will have a strong incentive to continue supporting common formats like TIFF, JPEG, PNG, and (hopefully) DNG for many years to come. Proprietary raw formats, especially from less popular cameras, are probably a different story, as Michael has pointed out.

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Justan
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« Reply #18 on: June 02, 2012, 08:18:43 AM »
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Many of you speak as though technology changes so quickly and without notice that there's a serious risk you won't be able to access your image files tomorrow. Whether or not data was stored on floppies, Syquests, Zips, CDs, DVDs or HDs, their respective obsolescence, past or future, is far from immediate. We have years before any technology becomes useless, thus have more than enough time to transfer data to newer technologies.

This is something we should be doing as a matter of course, anyway.

The key term there is "should be...."

The way the problem typically comes to me is when a company exec says “we have all these old …. that have been sitting for-ever. We want to keep them. What do you suggest?” And she’s talking thousands of floppy disks and/or backup tapes.

If data can make it to a hard drive it becomes a trivial task to maintain it. The issue is that for data made in the 1980s to the mid 1990s there was a lot of content that was placed on floppy drives and other relatively low capacity media storage, and then promptly forgotten.

And then, for a while, Magneto Optical was the chit for large capacity storage. Problem is that most of the MO drives have disappeared from the market and there were so few made that they are now hard to track down replacements.....

Of course, there are a number of ways to retrieve these by way of data recovery specialists, but that’s a very pricy way to do it….
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #19 on: June 02, 2012, 05:35:23 PM »
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There is probably a business opportunity in creating a "universal image file format converter" that recognizes any proprietary image format and converts it to a more universal image format (TIFF, JPEG, DNG etc).
It would require reverse engineering file formats that are already orphaned.
This issue will ony grow larger with time.

Additionally, until consensus across the industry is reached with regard to a universal RAW format this whole issue is going to remain a minefield.
Add in the ephemeral nature of digital storage solutions currently and one can see that it will remain a major challenge to preserve image files into the future.

Perhaps, ultimately, printing may be a better long-term solution still.

Regards

Tony Jay
« Last Edit: June 02, 2012, 05:45:08 PM by Tony Jay » Logged
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