« Follow-Up: Ronnie's 1,000th | Main | Index Prints »

Tuesday, 12 March 2019


Last year, when I had a few, rare, extra bucks, I considered "upgrading," instead, I finally invested in my first batch of inkjet prints- a decision I do not regret.

Psst. It wasn't a Nikon. It was a Pentax K7.


Thanks for the very thorough discussion of an important topic. My late father in-law left thousands of slides, drives full of scanned images and partially constructed video projects that included many of the images. It's a complete mess. I don't know if anybody will tackle what he left - none of us have any great motivation to do so. The grand kids, it appears, will have no interest in doing that filtering either.

So, quite simply, curate your work or it almost certainly will be effectively gone when you are. And maybe that's best.

In any case, don't delude yourself for a moment that just because somebody in the family liked some of your pictures that they are going to do anything like the weeks/months of work required to make sense of what you left. It would be a (very) rare person to do so.

Hi Mike. Don't let this appear as a comment but just pointing out one minor error. Gordon's lovely picture was taken on a Pentax K-7. https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2009/10/gordon-lewis-print-offer.html
Sorry for being pedantic (and only focussing on the gear)!
Keep up the excellent work.
Mike A

This sounds like very good medicine, thanks Mike... I'm looking forward to your next post on this already.

In practice what you really do is maintain multiple levels of archive. Each level gets smaller as you go. The smallest ones are the ones that will survive. This is how it's always been.

I organize my pictures by the year I took them. I don't do too many different kinds of work, or take that many pictures. So this works out.

I have one Lightroom catalog for every few years of time. In each year I usually shoot a few thousand pictures. I back these up. I imagine no one will care about most of them later on.

Out of this set I usually select a few hundred that are the "good" ones for the year, for whatever reason. These get distributed to various places ... a web site for the parents. Copies on everyone's phone and iPad for carrying around. These have a pretty good chance at sticking around for a long time because they get carried around and shown to people and are on "live" media. The full set is not that big my modern storage standards. It uses around 10% of the storage available on any modern portable computing device.

Over the years I had a service scan all my film, and took all my old selects and added them to the archive of selects. These will hopefully have some staying power too.

I make the occasional print. But I have no motivation to keep prints around or take care of them. I think over time the "workflow of society" as it were will be such that a small archive of a few thousand pictures taking up a few dozen GB of data will be able to survive their maker pretty effectively. Probably more effectively than all those drawers or 4x5 prints, or slide carousels or whatever. As long as it's easy to copy it will stick around.

The important thing, as you say, is to edit well and keep the good and meaningful pictures. Not everything.

This great post arrived as I was writing details on the back of full-frame 6x9 images on Entrada Rag Textured 300 8.5x11 paper. They are mostly just selected images from various family and neighborhood photographs. Posts like this one are my favorite genre on TOP.

I have been doing a Project 365 for almost eight years. Every year I take my year’s worth of photos and make a large Blurb book. It is pretty easy in Lightroom, particularly as you can import the photo titles automatically. This is not an “art book” but more the modern equivalent of a scrapbook. It is however, nice and high quality. I like being able to page through them to see how my photography has matured and changed. It takes just a couple of hours each year and costs less than $100. I also have a 2 x 4 piece of sheet metal hung on the wall above my desk. When I have a shot or two that I want to live with for a while, I print and stick them up with magnets.

What is the best way to write on the reverse of a print to add the information without damaging the archival print and so the printed information won’t fade with time?

Thanks for the thoughtful post, Mike. Now that I'm retired, and my kids are young adults, I've been giving more thought to putting forth the effort to cultivate and "liberate", from their current digital domain, photos that I've taken over the years. My kids aren't currently interested in these artifacts of their lives, but they might be one day. And I only have hundreds of gigabytes of photo files, not terabytes, but I am still a bit daunted by the effort involved. Your post has helped to focus me on the importance (if only to me), of such an endeavor. Thanks, again.

Life is much easier when you aren’t a photo enthusiast. if I have maybe a dozen silver gelatin prints. I may add a few more SGPrints, but I sorta doubt lt.

I have a few advertisement shots saved as 300 dpi PDFs. The rest only exist if the client retains a copy.

Perhaps another factor in helping your work to survive is size: smaller is better. I have quite a few prints in my collection that were made in the century before the last century, and they are all quite small; from about 3”x4” up to about 6”x8”. Storing them is not a problem for me. It may satisfy my ego to print at 13x19 and up, but if I want the prints to survive for future family members, then best not to lumber them with excessive storage requirements. And if the pictures are not worth keeping at 8x10, then what makes us think they will be valued at 16x20?

"maintaining an in-lifetime archive might be one of the best ways to insure that our pictures do not reach posterity"

I think there is a line between keeping family snaps and trying to preserve any other photography. I have some family pictures that I like, and they're fine to keep in a box even if no one looks at them.

As for the rest, I very much enjoy taking and viewing photographs but don't mind having an "in-lifetime archive" that doesn't outlast me, as we have no kids and no one would mistake me for a 'great' photographer. But mostly, I have no desire to expend the time, effort and money it would take to preserve my photography for posterity.

"But a third way of insuring permanence for your pictures is to make finished work. Or at least make edited work—that is, pick out the few pictures you think have value and make your choices easy for others to understand.”

The absolute best vehicle for accomplishing that goal: make books from your work.

Quite simply there is no more powerful way to force you to face your work, to consider its meaning, to force you to make hard editing choices, and to get clumps of your work in front of strangers. And today anyone can make a book of their work thanks to numerous print-on-demand services. Lightroom features an excellent “Book” module that enables you to design a book, especially for Blurb, while seamlessly integrating with your library. No more having to jump between LR and, say BookSmart or BookWright.

So you say that on-demand books are costly? Yes, they are. But I’m confident that nearly any “serious” photographer would get far, far more out of making an earnest effort to build a book of his/her work than buying a new camera or lens, probably for far less cost. But even if you never sent your book to press, the process itself would provide at least 65% of the self-discovery value. You may, in fact, learn that your work has absolutely no cohesion whatsoever. Or you may discover new visual sub-themes that you never recognized.

Perhaps even better: have someone else design a book of your work. Someone you hire, not a personal friend or family member. I have been involved with several book projects over the years, mostly as a supplier of imagery. It’s always been fascinating (and sometimes painful) to watch someone else edit your work. But always enriching.

(I’ve been meaning to write a longer essay on this subject all winter. But, honestly, I’ve been busy putting together two books. Really.)

I was thinking about this today. How does one add comments to a physical print? Do you perhaps copy a 9x6 print into Photoshop, add some comments below and then print on a 10x8 or A4?

I'd be interested to learn how people do this.

I bought Tony Mendoza's book "Pictures With Stories" through his kickstarter campaign. I found the photos and stories interesting enough as an unreleated viewer/reader, but I was motivated to see if it could be used as a model for my own photo books, in the hope of making them more interesting to friends and family. (Short answer: I'd very much like to follow that model, but those photo books are a future endeavor).

Hi Mike,

very true, your considerations about survival of our photographic endeavours. I try to kill two birds with one stone (or as we say in dutch: kill two flies in one slap): each year I make a Blurb-book 'best pictures 2017' or '2018' etc. This works like the looking-back exercises you have written about several times and it results in a physical book. My children and grandchildren can - if they wish to do so before or after my demise - browse through the growing and in time hopefully long row of books. And they could even order more copies through Blurb.

The process of making a book each year is instructive and humbling, not many masterpieces I'm afraid. But then, there's also visible progress over time.

Groeten uit Nederland,
Hans van der Molen

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007