Can I Just Buy the Disc? I’ll Make My Own Prints . . .


I found this article some time ago and recently ran across it again when I was moving information from our old blog into our new site.  I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it….why??? Because this is totally our generation. Most of us are putting all our images on disc or worse yet leaving them on the computer. What happens when the disc gets lost or damaged or worse, you have a computer crash and all the photos of your special moments are gone forever?  

An update since this article was originally published is that most of the new computers are coming without disc drives — some don’t even have USB ports anymore!  Things have really changed in four years!

Well, last week — it happened to me — my working 3 TB drive crashed — fortunately, all of my client work, images and important information related to the business is backed up daily to an external site; unfortunately, I didn’t set up the same process for our personal photographs, documents and other items that were on the drive.  My heart just sank when the drive was no longer recognized by my computer; and worst of all, there had been absolutely NO WARNING that the drive was going bad.

Off to the local computer geeks to see if there was any chance of recovering any of the files — NOPE — they said.  The hard drive wouldn’t spin and they called it a catastrophic failure.  To send it to a “clean room, data recovery” company I would have been looking at a cost of between $2,500 – $5,000 U.S.  

So, please, please. please, back up your important documents, photographs and anything else that is on your computers, tablets and phones!

Without further ado — here is the repeat of the article from 2011.

Author: Fred Molesworth, Salem, Oregon

I’m willing to bet your grandchildren will be upset with you. Here’s why. Imagine, 50 years from now, as your grandchildren or great grandchildren are going through the boxes in the attic. They are enthralled with the treasures and keepsakes they find and how they tie into the story of your life.

Amongst all the old items, they find a number of round silver objects. Some have writing on them, some are blank, but they resemble some kind of a small platter about 4″ across, with a hole in the middle.

Puzzled, they take them to their parents. “What are these, Mom?” they ask. “Oh, I think those are all of grandma’s photographs. Yep, here’s one labeled ‘My Wedding’. Here’s some more labeled ‘Family Photos,’ and some more labeled ‘Vacations’.”

“How do we look at them?” they ask.

“Well, I’m not sure we can. First of all, no one has the device that reads these anymore. Besides that, I doubt after all these years that they’re any good anymore. Being stored in the attic, the heat and cold probably ruined them.”

The kids are very disappointed. Nowhere amongst all the treasures are any actual prints. All that history is lost. Their connection with the past and all the wonderful stories that might have gone along with all those photographs are gone as well.

Along with all the wonders of our digital age come some significant problems that most people have never thought of.

Did you know that over 90% of all images taken on today’s digital cameras are NEVER PRINTED? I’m guilty of that myself. I have gigabytes of personal photographs that have never been seen other than on a computer screen.

In the old days, film went to the lab and everything that was printable was printed. Even if it was a bad photograph, it still was a hard copy, a part of your family history and it had permanence. Even if they never went in an album, they at least went into a box, to be discovered as treasures years later.

The same problem exists in professional portrait studios today. Many people are simply asking for the images on CD. “I’ll print them later” or “I’ll design my own wedding album” are common phrases. Usually this is done with the thought that they’ll save some money by doing it themselves.

But you know what? Most never make it into any kind of an album. Life gets busy and 20 years later they’ll be looking for some way to read those disks.

I bring this up only to point out the importance of what we, as a professional studio do. Our job is not just to create the images, to create wonderful story telling photographs about the people in front of our camera; it’s to create a final product, whether it be a professionally retouched and printed single image, a family heirloom wall portrait, or an incredible storybook album using a collection of the images that were created.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a wedding, a newborn baby, a senior or a family. Having the final product created for you is important. To do less is to leave the job half done and to short change the customer.

So, if you’re asked for a disk with all the images “so I can print them later”, that’s fine, just make sure your customers understand that if not printed, the conversation their grandchildren will want to have about their family history may never be able to happen.

A Bit About Fred Molesworth:

In addition to running a full time portrait studio in Salem Oregon, Fred Molesworth is a small business teacher and advisor, and the author of the Portrait Studio Marketing blog ( He’s also a nationally known business and marketing speaker in the portrait industry, and past president of the Professional Photographers of Oregon.

I know when I was a kid there were albums of photographs in my grandmother’s attic as well as a large box of old black & white and sepia pictures. Pictures were important because it was very expensive to have them taken and produced so they were cherished. Those albums are some of my most cherished possessions because they show our family history.

I have been guilty of not printing a lot of our personal family photos because I’ve been thinking (like many of our clients), I’ll do them later and guess what, later never comes. One of my personal goals for 2010 is to go through all of my on-computer photos and make sure that they make it into albums for our family history!

And something else, make sure that you document who is in the photo on the back because in 50 years, there may be no-one around who knows who the people are and that would be a shame.

Please DO “print your pictures!” and BACKUP your computers, tablets, and phones — some of the moments you’ve captured will never be repeated.



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