The Real Reason Printing Photos Matters

We take hundreds of pictures with our digital devices, but do we ever print any of them?

Don’t let your kids grow up to be jpegs”. I don’t know who said that initially, but it was when my extremely talented photographer friend CL Buchanan said it to me that I really took notice. There are thousands of photos on my phone alone, forget all the hundreds of thousands living on hard drives around my house. There are memories of my marriage, our first home, being pregnant with our daughter, her birth, our son’s birth, all those firsts… digital footprints are also all we’ve got of the baby we lost. But for many years, we had so very few of them on our walls.

So why don't we print out photos anymore?

We forget, I suppose. It’s so convenient to snap a picture and let it live on in digital space. We’re not forced to head to the photo shop to print them anymore. Remember that feeling? You’d drop off a roll in a place that had a comforting chemical smell and return to pick up a white envelope with photographic surprises. Who knew how the pictures would turn out when taken on film—would they be blurry? Overexposed? Underexposed?

Now, we can curate absolutely everything about our photos—nope, that one makes me look funny, delete-delete-delete—until our lives are perfect. But once they’ve graced Facebook and Instagram accounts, they’re forgotten. All that time spent making a perfect image that’ll be mostly forgotten by tomorrow. Isn’t that unfortunate?

I’ve learned the hard way about backing up these memories, too. It’s easy for technology to fail, and suddenly, every special memory is gone without a trace. Take it from me—backing up your photos is imperative! But it’s not just for that reason that printing photos is so important.

When we see our memories on our walls and around our homes, they come rushing back to us. We remember the loved ones lost, or trips taken, or feelings when the photos were snapped. We see ourselves captured by our spouse’s eye, or through the eyes of our kids.

That daily reminder is important. The pictures don’t have to be perfect—in fact, there’s something so amazing about imperfect moments captured like that—to grace your walls. They just have to be there. It’s that personal connection that makes a house a home.

A family member once gave us a print of a photo they took of my husband and I on our wedding day, and it sat on a shelf for years. It was a candid shot, and probably not the best of the day. My husband hated the photo—he felt that because he wasn’t wearing his glasses in the picture, he didn’t look like himself.

Every time I walked by the picture, it made my heart swell. I’d laugh remembering how much he hated the photo (and how I refused to take it off display), and marvel at how young we were, how handsome he looked and how lucky I felt that day. It was like everything in our relationship came rushing back to me: fun dates, his incredibly unique proposal, our wedding, everything. The memories that one photo prompted got me through some pretty bleak times.

A photo sitting on your desk at work reminds you why you’re there. Are you working for your family? Saving up for a vacation? Your photos signal importance to others, too. Look at my kids! Here’s my spouse! Isn’t my pet adorable? These printed photos are tangible evidence of intangible things like feelings and goals.

We’ve got a photo wall now, and I’m slowly making sure all the important people in our lives are represented on it. I want to see them when I walk by every day. The images representing our connected lives are important to me.

I’m realizing as we get older that moments are fleeting, but the warm memories can be called upon any time from something as simple as a printed photo.

Alex Durrell is a freelance writer, blogger, speaker and entrepreneur. She does in fact blog at I Don't Blog and she covers everything allergy-related at Irritated By Allergies.

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