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To Print or Not to Print? There Is No Question



New Campaign Seeks to Convince Consumers that Pictures Matter

Digital cameras have found their way into a significant number of households worldwide (54 million in the U.S. alone, according to recent statistics), and the numbers continue to increase. Plus, as the technology becomes more and more mainstream, even those last digital holdouts are finally crossing over so they can capture important family memories.

But what happens to these images after capture? While the number of pictures taken overall has surely increased with digital, it's safe to assume that many of those electronic files never find their way off the media cards or personal computers—not to mention the images that are automatically deleted in-camera at the touch of a button because they weren't "portrait perfect." And even if Dad takes the time to sit down one day and backup all the family's remaining digital images on the hard drive to CDs, meticulously label them, and place them into CD holder "albums," how long will it be before this storage medium goes the way of the floppy disk and becomes obsolete? How many precious pictures will be lost?

Enter the Certified Digital Photo Processors (CDPP), an affiliation of independently owned photo labs and camera stores behind the innovative PicturesMatter campaign and website www.PicturesMatter.com.

The group's mission: to convince consumers to rescue their digital files from the hard-drive black hole and get them printed, as well as to provide a crash course on everything from using a digital camera to finding a photo processor online.

"PicturesMatter was really created to explain why pictures are important in society," explains Steve Lasher, director of the CDPP and PicturesMatter.com. "We're trying to educate people and to preserve their memories."

For photo retailers who have seen their profits drop off as film cameras, and the prints that inevitably go with them, fade into oblivion, efforts to boost printing from digital are vital.

"PicturesMatter's mission is critical to our industry," notes John Albright, owner of Fromex Photo & Digital in Long Beach, CA, and a member of the CDPP.

"Unless the general public recognizes the importance of printing their pictures, very soon a whole generation of photo memories may be lost forever. Most consumers are totally clueless when it comes to understanding how to preserve their images for future generations. Printing them on archival photographic paper is the easiest, simplest, and most economical way to do this."

But what's the big deal, really, if you keep images from little Johnny's birthday party safe on your desktop instead of in a traditional hard-copy format? According to at least one expert, it could have more of an impact on your wee ones than you might think.

"We've retained renowned child psychologist Dr. Kenneth Condrell as our spokesperson, and he's begun a media tour promoting the importance of printing digital images to help promote the importance of self-esteem in children," says Lasher. "The positive comments that are initiated when these pictures are passed around within earshot of Johnny are very important for his self-esteem. Honestly, if parents care enough about their child to carry pictures around and show them to people, that's an illustration to the child of the importance they hold in the family."

Why Digital Files Aren't Enough

The tremendous benefits of digital imaging are undeniable, yet this new form of instant gratification presents a slew of unique shortcomings as well.

"What's really sad is that the delete button has made it so easy for people to get rid of pictures that are anything other than portrait-quality photos—that delete button gets rid of 23 percent of the images right off the top," explains Lasher. "And the reality is that those less-than-perfect photos are the ones that really express the true personalities of your subjects. Many photo processors have experienced a situation where people have come into their shop, taken a look at a photograph, and said, 'This is a wasted photo—there's Uncle Harry looking stupid again.' Those same people may come back a month later and say, 'You know, this is the last picture we have of Uncle Harry, and this is how the guy was. He was goofy and fun.' If that image had been on a digital camera, they may have deleted that picture."

Paul Rentz, president of Rush Hour Photo (Corvallis, OR) agrees. "As a recent article in USA Today states, consumers are throwing away hundreds of images by deleting all but the best," he says. "I've even known a few that have confessed to deleting everything on their memory card by mistake, trying to 'edit' those images down to only the best. The question is: Who determines what images are good and which are bad? All of us have seen pictures of ourselves that we hate, but that other family members love. If we delete those, they're gone forever, and an important memory of someone is gone with it. Consumers aren't aware of how fragile those images may be."

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