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Digital Files - What To Do with Them

by Bonnie Sindelar, from Genesis Photography

digital image to printed product

For better or worse, our world has moved into the digital era. Fewer and fewer families are ordering printed images from their photo sessions. If you're skilled at downloading, backing up, and printing your digital images, you're doing just fine. But for the rest of us, some advice may be appreciated.

Step 1: Download

The first step in handling your digital images is obviously to download them. This seems like an obvious and easy step, but you'd be shocked how often I get emails from clients asking me to re-upload their gallery because they haven't downloaded the photos from a session that was 6+ months ago. So, Step One: Download those images to a computer ASAP.

Step 2: Back Up

Your second step is to back up those images ASAP. By "back up", I mean put those digital files in a location that's not your computer, like an external hard drive. Again, I've had many emails from desperate clients whose computers crashed, and they didn't have their images downloaded anywhere else. If the photographer no longer has a copy of those images, they're gone forever.

Step 3: Print

OK, so you've got your images downloaded and backed up. Now what? Get them printed. Even if it's just some 4x6's or a cheap album, you need to get those photos in physical form NOW. Why? So many reasons.

First off, if you put off this task now, there's a very good chance you won't ever do it. Case in point: my own wedding. Yes, I know, I'm a photographer, so this is especially embarrassing. We absolutely LOVED our wedding photos, but when it came time to order the photos with our photographer, I skipped the album because I knew that I could make one myself. But did I? No. It took me TWO YEARS to finally get around to it. And by then, time had passed and some of the magic had been lost.

Second reason to print your photos: the pure joy of flipping through a photo album or looking at photos on someone's wall. Being able to physically interact with an image is completely different and infinitely better than squinting your eyes to see a tiny photo on someone's phone. Do you really want to sit next to your grandkids and say, "Let's take 30 minutes to weed through 1,000,000,000 images on Grandma's phone to find your baby photos"? No.

Third reason: digital images become corrupted and obsolete. How many of you have VHS tapes that you can't watch because you don't have a VCR anymore? Or a CD of your favorite band that you can't play because you don't have a CD player? Or images on a USB that you can't put on your new computer because it doesn't have a USB port? Technology is becoming obsolete at a faster and faster pace, and if you don't print those photos now, accessing them in 5 years is going to a be pain in the you-know-what. In addition to obsolescence, technology breaks all the time. Dropped your phone in the toilet? Got a virus on your computer? Dog ate your USB? You could lose all those precious memories.

Recommended Products and Printing Labs

While we're on the topic of printing your photos, I've got a few recommendations. My favorite consumer printing lab is Mpix. They're a Midwest-based lab that has great quality control, shipping speeds, and prices. Please avoid using local stores like Walgreens, CVS, or Walmart. They print the photos on-site with inferior equipment and employees who are almost never skilled in that field, so consistent quality is very hard to come by.

As far as which products to order, I've got some favorites:

(You can get these from several other printers, but I've added links to the ones from Mpix.)

Photo tiles are low-profile wall art that you can arrange in whatever shape and pattern that you'd like. We currently have a collage of 21 images on our dining room wall, and everyone who visits stops in their tracks to stare at them. They're a great way to tell many stories in a single space.

Mini accordion books are a fantastic gift, a great little album to keep in your purse, or something to display on your work desk. They hold 8+ images in a compact accordion-style book.

Acrylic photo blocks are free-standing photos, mounted behind thick acrylic. They can sit on a desk, mantle, or bookshelf, and their 3-D quality and shine make them show-stoppers.


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