print them or lose them

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My very first DSLR was the Canon 350D, which I still use.  I decided to upgrade from a Nikon Coolpix 775 because my sister was getting married, and I needed to get better photos of the event - not as the official photographer of course, but as the guy grabbing all the candid shots of the family and friends.  I did just that and got amazing photos of the day which everyone appreciated.  Back then, disk space was quite a premium, so I’d archive photos away in CDs.

About a decade later I was feeling nostalgic and decided to have a look at some of those photos.  I found the CDs exactly where I left them in storage, hurried to my computer, oh wait, I couldn’t.  I had a macbook that no longer included a CD/DVD drive.  Ok, fine.  I obtained an external drive, hooked it up via the USB port and inserted one of the CDs.  A few klinks and klanks later, my mac announced its inability to read the CD and the drive spat it out like a baby would a slice of lemon.  The mac was able to read a music CD and scanned photos I recently got back from a lab but it refused to read any of my photo CDs from the wedding.  They had no scratches or scuffs anywhere.  It appeared they had simply decayed over time.  Had I not made multiple copies and printouts of the photos, they’d have been lost for ever.  Just like that.  Gone!

One of the fathers of the Internet, Vince Cerf, warned of a ‘lost century’ in his address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science; “We are nonchalantly throwing all of our data into what could become an information black hole.”  Indeed sir, indeed.  He called for a ‘digital vellum’ to be created to preserve old software and hardware so that our data could stay readable as we speed into the technological future.  I for one am not optimistic, so I have been taking as much into my own hands as possible.

I find it ironic that when I developed the film I found in the Zenit-E my dad passed to me, there came out a magnificent photograph of grandpa who's been dead for over 3 decades.  It’s yet another reason why I will keep shooting film for as long as I can - for the negatives.

I do the following;

Music:  I do nothing as I am not a musician and don’t make my own music.  As for music I’ve purchased, well, the Internet is doing a stellar job preserving it.  It’s in their financial interest.

Audio Recordings:  I have the most important audio recordings (words) transcribed and printed out.  This is very rare and seemingly pointless, but hey.

Videos:  The same as Music.  The Internet is doing great at preserving this.  My own video recordings however I believe are doomed to fate as I can’t think of any analogue way of preserving them.

Photos:  This is the one we can all do something about.  Every year I pick the ‘best of’ photos and have a large, high quality photo book created from them.  I also do this every time I get back from a great holiday.  Rather than just having photos, I also write textual content about the photos while the info is still fresh in my head.  It really brings the holiday back to life when I go back and read my old photo books.

For instance, I recently spent an amazing week on Lanzarote, a Spanish Island of unique beauty in the Atlantic, off the coast of North-West Africa.  It was one of the most intriguing places I’ve ever been.  Naturally I came back with many, many photos, but the story behind each photo was something I really wanted to preserve.  When the the photos came back from the lab, I picked the best ones and rescanned them at the highest possible resolution on my Epson V550 so I could print them as large as possible.

I sometimes us Apple’s iPhoto to make my photo books, but when I need higher quality prints and more artistic control of the book, I chose Blurb all the time.  Graphic designers can use basically whatever they want - like Adobe InDesign - to design their books for infinite design flexibility.  I have no such skills, so I simply use the free BookWright software Blurb provides.    I always chose the largest possible option because I want my photos printed in the highest quality, but there are smaller format options in both Landscape and Portrait orientations. 

I found BookWright a little confusing the first time I used it, but like anything, after playing with it a little, it became the extremely straight forward click-drag-drop-stretch tool it is.  I used to just download a template from the Internet to use with BookWright, but nowadays I just do everything freestyle for total control of what the book looks like.  I also love the way I can place text almost anywhere I want - in its own text box, or on the actual images.  So I could have a full-page image and place the text on the image without an annoying rectangle around the text.

Another plus of Blurb’s service, apart from the flexibility and quality things, is how fast they are in getting the product to you.  I had my latest book ‘Lanzarote 2015’ on my coffee table in less than a week.  It was protectively, yet minimally packaged  and couriered to my door.

As always, my photo books are a bit of a hit with friends and family mainly because they can go through them on their own and read the accompanying text without me standing over their shoulder yakking away with every turning page. 

If I was every interested in selling my photo books, there is an option to publish with Blurb BookWright, send the book to Amazon, or I could grab the PDF for sale on my own website.  That’s not something I’d be doing anytime soon, but never say never eh?

So unless we’re hit by a giant  extraterrestrial projectile, or the house burns down, my memories will be hopefully preserved well into the future, either in negatives, or in print (I print digital photos too), digital black hole or not.


  1. Good call Ade. I've just looked around Blurb's website and it looks fantastic.

    1. Indeed. The book making software could be a bit of a pain, but once you figure it out, it's easy to use. I used to use Apple's service via iPhoto, but found it limited.


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