Quick – where’s your essays from 1th grade?

Well, if you’re young enough to have typed them on a computer, then perhaps there’s saved… somewhere? Well, you knew where they were at the time, but then you got a new desktop computer, and then a new laptop for college, and now you just use an iPad and your phone, mostly.

Maybe they’re saved in an old format that won’t work anymore. Maybe they’re lost, or deleted. But that’s okay, because they’re from years ago, and who wants to look through that old stuff?

This is a kind of dangerous problem for digital photography.

People who like photography take lots of pictures. Digital photography make pictures available instantly, easily, and most importantly, for free. You may have thousands of pictures from your vacation two years ago; a hundred or so may have ended up on Facebook. Or was it MySpace? Google Plus? But you backed them up on a hard drive, some time – which hard drive?

It’s easy for digital pictures to get lost in a digital graveyard.

Digital files are put someplace and then ignored for long periods of time. But a lot of the joy with photos is looking at the past – ever remember cracking open a dusty photo album with your grandparents? That was cool. And let’s not kid ourselves – making art is great, but photographers also like to take silly selfies and remember the events of daily life just like everyone else.

But now these memories can get lost. You can’t accidentally delete a shoebox full of 4x6s. You don’t buy a new attic anywhere near as often as you buy a new computer/laptop/tablet/phone/camera. There’s plenty of opportunities for digital files to get lost in the place of technology – or even for the programs or systems we use to become outdated or obsolete.

Get prints made of the pictures you like. It’s not that expensive – heck, it’s pretty cheap – and it’s cool to see and share. Did a friend “like” your picture? Print it out and give it to them as a gift. Cheesy, yes, but kind of cool.

When I started doing film photography (fall of 2013, so kind of late to the party), I got the film developed and scanned – no prints. After the second roll, it was developed and printed – no scans. And now, I don’t have pictures – I have things, actual, physical prints. They look great and they’re fun to see; I grabbed a couple nice albums and put my favorites together. I’m never going to misplace those; no upgrade will make them obsolete, and any of my friends are welcome to see them.

That’s not to say that technology is amazing and enables all kinds of new enjoyment. I wouldn’t be making this website if I didn’t think that there are great things about the way we can edit, share, and enjoy modern digital photography. But remember that even the “easy” solutions have gotchas. Upload everything to Facebook? Make sure you read the fine print about rights issues. Cloud storage? Isn’t free for what high-rest RAW files need.

Personally, I do everything – I scan, and edit, and share, and upload, and then… I print.

Remember – you might still have the art project from grade school. The mug you made in ceramics class might be used for decades, but the paper you wrote in high school might end up in the digital graveyard.