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What really killed photo prints

By Jean-Claude Elias - Aug 21,2014 - Last updated at Aug 21,2014

It’s not digital photography that killed photo prints but mobile computing devices.

When digital cameras outsold film cameras a few years ago the media said that it was the end of photo prints and that we would all enjoy be watching pictures on computer screens, without the need to order prints at the lab anymore.

It was gross miscalculation for a computer monitor would not always be available to enjoy the pics or even more importantly to share them with friends and relatives. Moreover, the LCD screen built in the camera was way too small or clear enough to provide any enjoyment and even less sharing.

Because of that printing the photos on paper remained common use. You would either go to the lab and give them a CD or a memory card containing your shots, ordering the prints, or you would try to do the printing yourself on a consumer-grade photo printer. The latter method had always proven unreliable and inexpensive. Indeed to get the right colours you would often have to print each photo more than once, and the cost of quality paper was — and still is — expensive.

Until five or six years ago the main advantage of digital photography was that it saved you the cost of film and allowed you to shoot a myriad of photos if you wanted to and then erase the ones you wouldn’t like, for free.

The widespread usage of web-enabled mobile devices, chiefly tablets and large screen smartphones, along with unprecedented improvement in the quality of the displays, changed it all. Associated with cloud storage, it created an entirely new way to store, to watch and to share digital pictures. The above combination of technologies and devices is what really made printing photos a virtually extinct method.

If the place where you store your digital photos can be accessed anytime, wherever you may be, and if you can display them instantly on any tablet, laptop or smartphone screen in truer-than-life colours and glorious high resolution, why then should you print them at all?

Even TVs now are network-enabled and let you wirelessly “forward” your photos from a smartphone to show them on real big screens.

So perhaps it is in an indirect manner that digital photography contributed to make photo prints obsolete and truly save paper, the trees, ink and the environment, but only with the help of the Internet and countless mobile devices.

The current trend towards 4K display technology is slowly but surely gaining ground, despite the criticism of those who say that we don’t really need it and that the current HD (high definition) standard is enough. Every improvement counts and makes photo sharing easier and more enjoyable.

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Thursday 21 February 2019


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