When John and I got married 15 years ago, we never had a wedding photographer. That’s right. No photographer at all. We left it entirely up to the guests at our tiny family wedding to take every photo of our special day and it’s something I’ve always regretted.
You’ve got to remember that 15 years ago, people didn’t really own digital cameras. You couldn’t take 2000 photographs and then select the best. You couldn’t blur the background to achieve lovely dreamy shots. Most film cameras took 24 photos and you couldn’t see any of them until you paid to have them developed – which took weeks. Even the biggest rolls of film could only take 36 photographs.
So it was, that our parents and my siblings took as many photos as they could, hoping to get lucky and although they were quite nice, we really, really should have invested in a wedding photographer.
It was a lesson learned too late.
The weather wasn’t great that day for outside shots, the light in our little church was dreadful and the light in the town Corn Exchange where we held our reception, was even worse. It was a beautiful old listed building and with arched doorway and stained-glass windows - we thought it was perfect.
It was only afterwards, looking through the photographs that we realised the downside to old listed buildings – they can be really, rather dark.
Combine dark buildings with old cameras that can’t cope with low light and most of our beloved photos, although sweet, sentimental, and definitely appreciated, weren’t wonderful.
They’re stored away safely in a wedding memories box in the loft and we framed only one.
Of course, over the last 20 years or so, I’ve taken thousands of photos.
Just like those wedding photographs, most of the early ones were taken using film cameras.
Hundreds of laughably terrible shots of us on our first holiday when I was 18, photos from when we lived in shared houses with friends, photos of me with crazy swimming hair, and photos of our first home (ahem, renovation project).
Terrible, terrible photographs that never fail to make me smile.
It doesn’t matter that they’re not perfect. They were us.
Photos have the most incredible ability to transport you back decades to those moments that mattered enough to make you pick up a camera.
Then, after the film camera photographs, we have our first digital shots. Stored away safely on the hard drive of our computer.
These are the photos I have more of a problem with.
See, despite digital photographs often looking better than old film ones (no problematic wonky faces or people looking the wrong way, etc, etc), once you’ve transferred them from your camera, onto the computer and sorted the best ones into files, how many of them ever get looked at again?
Recently, as I was attempting to clear some space from my long-suffering, over-stuffed computer, I came across thousands upon thousands of old photographs, in poorly named files that I’d completely forgotten even existed.
Photographs of the children from when they were tiny. Baby photos, first toddler bikes, first days at school, our new house, cuddles with Grandma, and summer walks through the wheat fields. Precious, precious, irreplaceable memories – that I had almost no recollection of at all.
The life and the family we’d made together. Where on earth had these years gone?
Once I’d backed them all up and stored them in the cloud, I started to go through them a little more carefully – and decided that at least some of them deserved to be printed. To live in the real world, in frames hung on the walls or in annotated journals where they wouldn’t be forgotten again.
So why should you print physical copies of your virtual photographs?
You see, photographs are so much more than just pictures.
They’re high up there on the list of the most valuable things we own.
When asked what they would save in the case of a house fire, after people and pets (obviously), most people say that they would save their photographs and family heirlooms first.
So why do we bury them away, forgotten on dusty hard drives, not glanced at from one decade to the next?
Our photographs evoke such powerful emotions. We look at them and remember details that simply fell out of memories like sieves.
Printed photographs can bring so much joy! They’re one of the most truly personal ways in which we decorate our homes.
Snapshots in space and time that capture us exactly how we were. Bringing memories back to life. Connections to our past.
Pictures of events and occasions that were special enough that we wanted to record them. Permanently. Forever.
Storing photographs in a dusty hard drive or in the cloud might feel a safe and good idea, but they’re not really sharable there. I mean you can show other people photos stored online, but we don’t tend to.
They just stay there.
Is that any way to treat our most precious possessions?
So maybe we don’t have space on our walls for every print and maybe we still do want digital backups – there are some fantastic scrapbooking apps around now and of course, if you’re stuck for space, digital photo frames are a fantastic option.
But for me, in addition to my safe virtual copies, nothing beats having a beautiful photograph to hang on the wall or storing my photographs in beautiful photo albums, coffee table books, gift boxes, or scrapbooks.
There are so many options.
My photographs aren’t just bits of printed paper. They’re a way for me to remember and an easy way for me to share.
Memories deserve to be printed and seen.
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