I realise I probably go on about this a lot, but I am such a huge believer that you should print your photographs!
Here's a cautionary tale as to why you should...
About 10 years ago, my husband went on the trip of a lifetime, to Egypt, with his family. He loved it - he still talks about it today. I'm a teensy bit jealous that he got to go to such an awe-inspiring country before it became just a bit too unsafe to do so! I can only imagine the incredible architecture he witnessed, the stories of fearsomely mad pharaohs he heard and the culture and food he experienced in what must have been a magical place.
But that's the problem... he can only imagine it now, too. You see, a few years ago, he was given a CD filled with images - MEMORIES - of his time in Egypt. It had probably laid in a drawer for a good many years and in between him and his sister moving in and out of home and university and then a couple more house moves after that, the CD got forgotten. Left in a drawer, abandoned.
When it resurfaced, it was the perfect opportunity for him to relive his most memorable holiday and also, for me to get a glimpse of this special country and the person my husband was at that point in his life.
But, when he put the CD into his disc reader (I mean, our Mac computer doesn't even have a built in CD slot anymore...) the files on it were corrupt. Gone: Erased: Vanished.
The problem, as many people are now experiencing more and more, is that software grows and develops. Computers become smarter, yet the formats that we store our images on stay the same. So, when you load a disc in to your computer from several years ago, the computer is already too smart for it and can no longer read the files stored on the disc., effectively rendering your images useless.
(If you still own anything that can read a floppy disc with all your MSN chat conversations and GCSE revision on, I salute you! Remember when we all thought mini-discs were the future!? Yeah...)
It's also important to remember that these images stored in digital form, whether on a disc, in The Cloud or elsewhere, are just bytes of data. Tiny bits of information that mean absolutely nothing on their own. They only become your precious memories when they're read by the correct software.
According to Google boss, Vint Cerf, we could be heading towards another Dark Ages. 'An age where so much information is lost, that it's almost as if it didn't exist.' To be honest, that is terrifying.
So, whether you buy beautiful, archival prints from your photographer, download and print from Facebook, or dig out that thumb drive that's been in your drawer for a while and go to a high street printers, I urge you to get real, hard copies of your images. Even if they then go back to hiding in the drawer, you will all least have something tangible to bring out and flick though, to leave your children and to treasure forever. Prints are always a wise investment.
I've started to make it a tradition to get a load of photos printed, around this time of year, from the year passed and put them all in a photo album, with annotations and notes on the back of the prints.
TOP TIP: Write names, places and dates IN PENCIL on the back of photographs. That way, if they ever get separated from their album, you still know who, when and were it was taken. Writing in pencil is less corrosive than pen. A pen's oils can, over time, degrade the quality of the print.
We are currently looking in to retrieving at least some files on the Egypt CD so, fingers crossed!