The century of lost images - blog post by sue kennedy photography

Are we living in the century of lost images?


I heard this phrase “the century of lost images” at a trade show I attended recently — and I fear it may become true.

Most images we take nowadays are not printed. They’re not stored anywhere else other than the device they were taken on. So when the technology breaks or expires, those images may be gone forever.

I find that my clients generally want something finished like a framed print for their wall or an album. But I know very few people who take the time to actually print their photos. And I suspect a huge raft of social history will be lost in the process.

siblings interacting - kissing baby's toes - black and white photograph

Why Printed Photographs Are Better than Digital

Printed photographs, when preserved properly, will stand the test of time.

Digital files of photographs, experts warn, simply will not.  

American Internet pioneer, Vint Cerf, claims that huge amounts of digital information may soon be lost in a “dark age”. This happens because the technology used to produce it soon becomes obsolete – the computer of tomorrow may not be able to read the photos of today.  

Or you get a particularly nasty virus or bit of malware and your computer cannot be salvaged.  

That’s not something that will happen to those snapshots in your nan’s shoebox or the photo albums on your shelf. Those photos will still be there in years to come as a historical record of your family.

Digital cameras have always offered the opportunity to have these images printed. But due to their nature and our busy lives, printing these images is often something that we overlook.

We’ve all been guilty of uploading our latest holiday snaps to the computer or Facebook, only to do nothing more with them. We don’t print them to arrange in a photo album, or frame on the wall. Eventually, we forget about them altogether.

Printed Photographs Aren’t Just For Now — They’re Forever

In defence of digital photography, we have entered an age that allows us to have quality rather than quantity.

We no longer have to print out absolutely all the photos we have taken (including the blurry ones). And we can select the best ones to share with friends.  

Which means that for the photographs we do choose to print, we can give them the best treatment – new technologies allow us to produce higher quality prints.

The best reason for printing a beautiful picture of a loved one is emotional. After all, nothing beats seeing that framed photo of your child that hangs in the lounge every day. Each time you pass it, you have a little smile as you relive the memory.

Framed portraits above a sofa with orange cushions

Your Children’s Photos Shouldn’t Stay Hidden on a Digital File

And that brings me to what it means to our children.

It seems to me that children love photographs, and the time spent together with family looking at them. That in itself can build amazing memories.

But by seeing photographs of themselves with their families, children get an understanding of their value in that unit, of knowing that they are loved and that they have a connection to a shared past. According to research that can have a massively positive impact on self esteem, and who doesn’t want that for their children?

If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past 13+ years it’s this: don’t watch your kids grow up through your phone and keep them hidden on a hard drive.

Have someone capture those timeless moments for you. Print the memories out. Frame them for all to see. Your family’s story deserves to be documented.

Alternatively, book a professional photo session for your family.

If you enjoyed reading this blog ‘Are we living in the century of lost images?’ please consider sharing it with your friends.

On my Photographs in a Shoebox Podcast, I have recorded an episode The Lost Century of Images, which you can listen to here as an update to this post.

About the photographer: Sue is a professional portrait photographer based in Harlow, Essex and she specialises in baby and child portraiture. Being a parent, she understands just how special your child is to you and her aim is to produce a collection of images that are natural and meaningful to your family. No two moments are ever the same and she wants to perfectly capture those early precious memories and the natural character of your child. For more information please call 01279 433392, visit the Sue Kennedy Photography website and follow Sue on Facebook or Instagram.

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