Cutting corners on your wedding prints? You’ll pay later!

Image Courtesy of Victoria Cooper+Doug Spowart Blog PHOTOGRAPHER’S NIGHTMARE: Client returns faded wedding album after nearly 40 years!! 

Liz here! In past blogs, we illustrated the differences in quality between using a professional wedding photographer versus enlisting “Uncle Bill” for help (Why Pay? Uncle Bill Has a Camera!Reserve Uncle Bill a Seat! Bring in a Professional). While the differences are great and many, it doesn’t just end with photography. Printed incarnations of those photos are next and they are, and always will be, the physical documentation of your memories!

Before I start, let me briefly go into a little background about myself. Back in my “crazy” college years I paid the bills by working for an art and framing store where I had the opportunity to learn all about the world of framing and preservation. The chain I worked for even had a formal training program, in which you had to test to become what they called a “certified framer” and again to become a “design specialist.” So as you continue reading, know you’re getting information from someone with a background in this stuff!

Picture this…

You just got married (yay!) and have returned from your awesome honeymoon. You’re ready to see your beautiful photograph proofs, and your photos are amazing! They’re just how you remembered your day, and you know just the photos you want to pick. Now it’s time to decide how you would like to enjoy your finished prints. This is no easy process, I assure you. With so many choices, it can become overwhelming. You also know you have just finished spending a lot of money your perfect day (and honeymoon), and now you have to spend more!

Your first thought may be to take that photo CD (included in every one of our wedding packages), pop it into your local superstore or drugstore photo printer, click “select all” and hit “print”. You figure this is the easiest, most economical solution to your overwhelming decision. Once you pick up your prints from the counter, you grab an album off the shelf, and head home to fill and proudly display it on your bookshelf. As far as you can tell, your album looks perfect…for now.

Ten years from your anniversary date, you and your spouse decide to spend a nice evening reminiscing over those good times, so you pull your wedding album out to re-live those wonderful moments. As far as you can tell, your prints look the same as they did when you first slid each picture into the page sleeves.

Now, let’s fast-forward (a VCR reference? Really?!) another forty years to your golden wedding anniversary with friends and family. Your adult children have really planned a special party, and have asked to display your wedding album for guests to go through and re-live that wonderful day. You take down that album you’ve had sitting upon your bookshelf (for what seems like a blink of an eye) only to find: Your pictures have changed a little. The colors don’t seem near as bright and vibrant as they once did. You also remember the paper being much more flexible, however, now you fear any bending of those photos might crack the paper! Your guests enjoy seeing those old pictures and the album fulfills its purpose at the celebration, however, there is no hiding the noticeably aged appearance of the portraits.

You think to yourself: “I’ll just take out my old CD and have new prints made.” But the unfortunate reality is, with our ever-changing technology, DVD drives are no longer used (see our blog about this very topic: How much is your yearbook worth? Rise of the forgotten generation). And, even if you can find one, computers will likely no longer recognize JPG files anymore! You are now, sadly, stuck with those prints you got from that big box store so long ago.

Now, let’s go beyond your years a little: One hundred years from now, your children and grandchildren have inherited your most beloved possessions. As they look over their heirlooms, they come across your wedding album. As they turn the pages, they are very delicate, as each page has become very fragile and brittle. The pictures are faded and yellowed (much like the “retro” effects you can currently use in Instagram). Those memories of that all important day are a fading moment in time. Soon, there will be nothing left of that day.

Now, you say “Liz! Your crazy! I’ve seen wedding portraits of people that were at least a hundred years old and they look both retro and great!” Well, I’ve got some bad news for you. What you are likely seeing are portraits taken using silver grain emulsion negatives and prints. Since metals have a much longer life, many of those images will be retained for some decades (if not centuries) to come. However, when the bigger film companies decided to go cheap for color printing in more recent decades, their mainstream choice of dyes in lieu of silver grain or pigment has resulted in a lot of faded and fading photos. But that is a topic for another blog…

Now, the above scenario describes the aging process of wedding prints, however, it can also be used to illustrate all forms of photography (i.e. family and senior portraits, etc). The reason I’ve chosen to discuss wedding photography prints, is the importance of this family milestone that carries through generations.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog continuation titled: “Investing in your photos, investing in the future” In there, I will discuss the benefits of going through a professional photo lab vs. taking the gamble on big box stores no matter what kinds of promises they make.

Hope to see you then!

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