• Pam Baumann-What Will You Leave Your Children?

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    April 19, 2017
    What will you leave your children?
    In today’s busy world you can’t escape the tons of digital pictures that folks take to document their most precious memories.  Everyone has a camera, whether it is the phone in your pocket, your point & shoot, your tablet or you may even own a DSLR.   The pictures are documented everywhere so friends and family can all enjoy them online, download them to their computers or even save them to their own smartphone.  It’s hard to escape all the selfies, the FB posts, the Instagram uploads, Flickr, Pinterest and even Snapchat.   Everywhere we turn we are flooded with photographs.  According to sources such as the NY Times and Info Trends, almost one trillion photos were captured in the year 2015 alone.   1,000,000,000,000 photos over a period of 365 days!  For 2017, the estimate is approximately 1.3 trillion pictures that will be taken.  
    That’s a whole lot of pictures and some of the reasons are the new baby, the new puppy, the new house, the parking garage location so we can go back and find where we left our car, the all-star little league game at the end of the season, our child’s first day of school and oh, so many other “memorable” occasions. The unfortunate and truly sad point is that the majority of these pictures will never survive past the point of a year or two.  They may get deleted to make room for more pictures, we may get a new phone or they are so randomly organized (or not) that we can no longer find them.   We are all familiar with “The Greatest Generation”,  the term that describes our parents or grandparents who grew up in the U.S  during the Great Depression, and then went on to fight in World War II, as well as citizens who contributed to the war effort by their actions at home.  As we remember that time in history, it is no doubt due in part to the images captured and preserved by those members of that generation.    The current generation is the most photographed generation of all time and it’s very possible they will have no “pictures” to speak of in 10 years from now.   How can that be?   Less than 1 out of 100,000 photographs taken today actually end up being a printed photograph.  We live in a digital world and we are used to looking at pictures and other things on a computer screen, a phone, a tablet or the like and without those, we are unable to view the images.   Technology changes so fast and many photographs taken 5 or 10 years ago are stored on a type of media that is no longer supported.  Have you tried to show your children photos on a floppy disk or a zip drive?  Can you just pop in that VHS tape? Even today, many computers and laptops being manufactured are no longer sporting DVD or CD drives.   Technology constantly evolves and keeps changing and in the future we probably won’t be able to show images that are stored on a USB drive.  File types as well are going to change and that brings a whole other host of challenges.  Don’t get me wrong, changing technology has created learning opportunities, marketing enhancements, etc. that we could have only wished for 5 -15 years ago. So, where am I going with this you might ask?  In brief, both of my parents were members of the “Greatest Generation” and I grew up in a world of black & white pictures initially and then color pictures – I guess it was the Kodak generation.  I remember sitting at the kitchen table with my Mom going through albums of printed photographs and pointing out aunts, uncles, marriages, cousins, etc. and now I am fortunate to be the keeper of those pieces of history.  This brings me to the point of my discussion - the value of the printed photograph.
    To quote Vint Cerf, a Google Vice President and recognized as an internet pioneer and one of "the fathers of the Internet”:  “Future generations will wonder about us but they will have very great difficulty knowing about us”.  According to Cerf, we digitize things because we believe we will preserve them, however those digital versions may not be any better and sometimes be worse than, the original artifacts.  He discusses the challenges involved with ensuring the digital objects we create will be able to render far into the future. A lot of stuff just disappears and we have to decide if we want our digital lives to fade away as well.  The Internet Pioneer recommends printing out important documents such as treasured family pictures to avoid losing them through outdated operating systems.
    Going back to our discussion of the “digital revolution” that we live in… let me pose a question - where are YOUR photographs?  Stored on a disc somewhere or stored out there in cyberspace someplace, hopefully, perhaps, maybe? Fast forward ten years from now and you are downsizing or maybe just “cleaning house” and you find the DVD that you had in the drawer that you couldn’t remember where.  It was in there with about 3 or 4 retired cell phones, an IPOD or two and some of those “newer” flash drives.   Your current version machine no longer employs DVD players and USB drives have been replaced as well.   The family reunion is in two weeks and as delighted as you were upon your initial “find”, your heart now starts to sink as you were hoping to have some images to show everyone now that there aren’t just the kids that will be there, but also grandkids and great-grand kids.   There’s always the “cloud” service that provided free storage but they’ve been sold or folded or became too expensive to maintain because they started to charge for storage.   I guess that makes you one of the “most photographed generations that doesn’t have a photograph in 10 years”.   Life got busy, work was hectic, it wasn’t that important at the time.  Digital was cheap. Cameras were everywhere. It just didn’t seem that important at the time.  It’s always the memories of our lives that become the thing we search for first.  Lost memories.   As our friend Cerf states, “If there are pictures that you really care about - then creating a physical instance is probably a good idea. Print them out, literally”.
    Prints are fun, prints are tangible, and prints are exciting.  You can touch it, you can appreciate it, and you can spend time with it.  Hanging it on the wall allows you to stop as you pass it in the morning, or study it as you enjoy a cup of tea. Spending this time with your images is a great way to not only preserve our memories but act as a medium to help pass along our history to the next generation.  Enjoying a beautiful 24 x 30 or a 30×40 custom-framed wall portrait properly sized and spaced above the fireplace in your family room and that you’ll walk by every day is fun and exciting. It’s a reminder of the love and appreciation you have for your family. It’s a reminder of the memories that were captured that day at that moment in time.  It’s a breath of fresh air and a reason to stop for even just a moment, and smile, when everything around you is buzzing by at lightning speed. It’s a reminder that even in the busiest of times, all the work is worth it, because you do it for your family. 
    Remember, it’s the future that looks back for the memories and I hope I have provided a few reasons for printing and preserving our memories… for the future.  
    Another question often asked is: “Why should I hire a professional photographer?”
     If you are reading this article, then I am betting you are a professional in your own field, whether that is as an operator or an owner.  You are a professional based upon the endless hours of training you have pursued and continue to pursue as you extend your professional development.  As a professional, you are valued for your ethical behavior and sound judgement in your field of technical expertise.  You have a common body of knowledge and possess the skillsets and tools necessary to do your job.  You are the ‘resident expert’ in your field. 
    Because you're a professional in your field as well, you probably want to get the best images possible--which are almost never the cheapest images possible.  As we have all experienced, the advent of digital photography has led your Uncle Jim, your roommate, your next door neighbor and a lot more people into thinking they are photographers.  But, you say – today’s digital cameras are smart and so advanced.   This is true and the same can be said of a lot of today’s technologies.  Just because you give me a TurboChef Speedcook Oven doesn’t mean you’re going to like the cake I try to bake for you.  The comment -  this cake is awesome, you must have a heck of an oven is right alongside the comment – wow, great pic – you must have one heck of a camera!
    As with any profession, you want to hire someone who understands not only how to capture light - because photography is all about the light, but how to use it in a variety of situations.  You want to hire someone to be able to put you at ease and who has a vested interest in ensuring you (and your family) look your very best.   Some other factors to consider when sourcing a professional photographer:
    • Back in the day, we used chemical baths and darkrooms to process our images & while we no longer use fixers, wetting agents and other chemicals - the images still need to be processed.  The same sets of tools are required however we have transitioned to a variety of sophisticated software tools for editing / developing images.  Photographers commonly shoot and capture their images in a RAW format which allows them to record ALL the data from the camera sensor allowing the highest quality files to be captured.  This RAW image can only be viewed with very specific software.  When you take a picture with your point and shoot or your phone or your tablet, you are looking at a picture that has already been compressed and developed based on what someone else (aka algorithms) decided might look best. These images are commonly referred to as JPGs and can be viewed on pretty much any device.  Here’s a question...in your business, are you willing to rely on what someone else thinks might work out best?
    • Photoshop is not the only software out there but I bring it up because it is one name that is tossed about randomly and what consumers hear about the most.  For me personally, Photoshop is the LEAST used editing tool in my toolbox. There are hundreds of editing products available based on the subject material such as a portrait session, a real estate or architectural shoot, a headshot image for social media or a nature or landscape image?  That all comes into play and as with most things in life, there is more than one resource employed and you have to be willing to trust the professionals to employ the right tool for the right job.
    • A question that often comes up with consumers is: Why won’t my photographer just give me the ‘digital’ images and let me print them myself?   When you hire a professional photographer you are hiring someone for their creativity and expertise and this extends from the initial meeting through to the creation and printing of the final product. Not all printers are the same. Not all 8×10’s are created equal.  Some of you gasp at the cost of prints by a custom photographer.  You know Walmart charges $2 for an 8×10, so how in the world can ABC Photography charge $60?!   While the purpose of this writing is not to inform the consumer about the extreme expense that goes into running a legitimate tax-paying business while offering personalized service to you, or the amount of time that goes into creating your images, far beyond the one hour you see the photographer shooting.  There’s a lot more that goes into it than you see during your shoot.   But the answer to that question is quite simply: QUALITY. 
    Professional photographers use professional print labs.  I don’t mean the camera store at the mall with pricier prints than the drugstore.  I am speaking of the professional who takes the time and invests the tools to ensure their multiple monitors or other viewing tools are calibrated to the professional print lab they have chosen.  I am speaking about the ICC profiles that are utilized when editing the imagery.  I am speaking about the high quality photo paper, higher quality inks, and special coatings that ensure your images are resistant to finger prints, dust, and fading. I am speaking about the professional who has opted to ensure their lenses and cameras are calibrated very specifically & adjusted as needed to ensure the very best focus points.  Most folks including a lot of photographers are not aware that every lens bought from their manufacturer isn't always perfect right out of the box.  Again, time, energy and knowledge coupled with the desire to achieve the very best product are what ensure the best match between lens and camera body.  But back to the original question… there are a lot of photographers out there (including your Uncle Jim) and some of them might rather just shoot your session, do some minor editing and then burn them to a disc and hand them over – this practice is commonly referred to as “shoot and burn”.  It’s fast, it’s easy, and a lot of clients are thrilled to have the freedom to do whatever they want with those images, all for the bargain price of $100.  For the consummate professional, once those digital images are in the client’s hands, the photographer no longer has Quality Control over prints of those images. They no longer are responsible for the off-colors that you so carefully chose to wear for your session.  They are no longer responsible for the fact that your 8 x10 image returned from the printer with the heads cut off or the abbreviated image that comes from incorrect aspect ratio cropping.  Maybe they don’t care. Maybe they don’t know.  Maybe the builder you chose to build your house didn’t quite understand the architect’s sketching or how those would interplay with the specific type of doorway or windows you envisioned and authorized the builder to purchase.
    In short, physical prints give you heirlooms to pass down as you move on in your life. Often you are not capturing a moment and preserving the moment for today, but instead for tomorrow, for your children and your children’s children.  Passing down a box of hard drives doesn’t exactly have the same appeal, does it?
    Pam Baumann
    pam@pambaumann.com, (610) 842-3016