Obsolescence is another pitfall that eventually affects every adopter of the latest and greatest imaging technology. "I've personally lost two hard drives in a 24-month period, and I've had innumerable 5-1/4-inch floppies that I've thrown away because I can't read them and have no idea what's on them," says Lasher. "Even if we save today's files onto a CD, unless we continue to keep those CDs up with current technology, those images have a very high probability of being totally lost."
"People may be leaving all their images on their computers—until the day their hard drive 'fries' and all those memories are gone," says Rentz. "The photographic print still has value, and that piece of 'software' will never be outdated or unviewable as new technologies emerge. Plus, it's hard to pack a computer in a wallet or purse, like you would a small photo album, to share images with co-workers or friends."
PicturesMatter.com to the Rescue
The CDPP has stepped in to boost image permanence through an intensive educational campaign and accompanying website. "We estimate that only 13 percent of digital images are actually being captured and put on paper," says Lasher. "Contrast that with film, which was probably 98 percent. Once images are on paper, the chances of them surviving are great—people just don't throw out pictures. So our focus is to get people to go to a lab that can print their photos, make the color and density corrections, and fix the file so they can produce as good an image as possible."
The website is a hands-on tutorial, featuring sections on camera and accessory selection, composition and portrait techniques, archiving solutions, and putting together a photo album. An online lab locator helps consumers locate a photo processor in their area that can help them with their photographic needs, which drives traffic to local labs. "We want consumers to be comfortable about using their cameras and truly preserving these images as prints," says Lasher. "The PicturesMatter.com lab locator can hopefully direct them to labs that we know will consistently give them a very good product and help them improve their picture-taking." "It's amazing to me that I still meet people almost daily that don't know photo labs can make prints from digital cameras," says Rentz. "We're still fighting for the customers' prints, but right now they need hand-holding and education."
"We're up against the millions of advertising dollars being spent by the HPs and Epsons of the world who are trying to convince the public to print their photos at home," adds Albright. "Their home-printed inkjet prints may be lucky to last a few years without fading. Once they're educated, however, the consumer soon realizes that it is faster, more convenient, better quality and less expensive to print those digital images at a professional photo lab. We have everything in our favor—we just have to get the message out."
Getting the message out includes a major media blitz for the CDPP as a whole (including Dr. Condrell's satellite media tour and article placement in major consumer and trade publications), as well as individual efforts by the individual members of the photo processing group. Rentz created a Certified Digital Photo Program at Rush Hour Photo and teaches digital imaging classes to educate consumers. "The holidays were a great time for us to promote PicturesMatter," he says. "With a $5-off coupon funded by the program, we promoted photo calendars, greeting cards, and general processing, and we used an insert in our local newspaper that directed customers to our website for information on these products and services. We also provided a link to PicturesMatter.com so they could locate both our lab and the coupon. The insert also featured information on Dr. Condrell's articles about the importance of prints to families and especially to children."
Albright's efforts at Fromex have included all forms of customer education, including instructional classes, television ad campaigns, in-store displays, and the store's affiliation with CDPP and PicturesMatter.com. "We're very hopeful that the PicturesMatter.com website will grow to become a major contributing factor in the growth of digital camera printing," he says.
So consumers shouldn't shun technology—they just have to learn to harness its powers and get those pictures printed. "The digital camera is a wonderful device," says Lasher. "We've had such a great opportunity to take pictures and preserve our history and our family memories. Let's not throw those away just because we can hit the delete button or because obsolescence takes its toll."