Last week, I stepped out of the genealogical world and attended a photo show in New York City. Since the show was geared toward professional photographers, I wasn’t sure anything there would appeal to the average consumer. But a colleague encouraged me to attend—and I’m really glad he did! Attending the show gave me a chance to ask questions about preservation products and camera options. Plus, I got to talk at length with Henry Wilhelm, one of the leaders in the field of photo preservation. Wilhelm is co-author of The Permanence and Care of Color Photographs: Traditional and Digital Color Prints, Color Negatives, Slides, and Motion Pictures (Preservation Publishing). He credits genealogists and scrapbook enthusiasts with creating a demand for preservation-quality products. These hobbyists gave “an incentive to the photographic industry to improve their offerings,” he said. Here are a few photography lessons I learned from the show.
Digital photography has all but replaced film in the professional market, and is fast becoming the medium of choice for genealogists. Wilhelm stresses that “genealogists need to be concerned with not just the choice of printer but the paper and ink, as well.” If you use quality photo paper and ink, prints can last more than a hundred years on display. Prints stored in the dark or in acid- and lignin-free albums last as long as 200 years! But if you select a cheap ink or cheap paper, the images won’t last.
Wilhelm has tested numerous printers, papers and inks, and you can read reviews on his Web site. See also Rick Crume’s article “Lasting Impressions” in the September 2003 Preserving Your Memories, a Family Tree Magazine special issue. After years of telling people not to frame and display their photographs, it’s now possible to do so if you print images using these inks and papers. Don’t display your original heritage photos. We recommend scanning them and printing display copies.
I often use self-service photo kiosks to make copies of family images, but I’ve always worried about the prints’ durability. When I asked Wilhelm about traditional film processing and those self-service kiosks, he suggested finding a photo studio that uses Fuji paper and processing because it lasts the longest. Both Walmart and Walgreens offer Fuji processing in my area. You can search online for Fuji photo studios in your neighborhood.
Many digital-camera users never print their pictures. They leave them on their computers and let family gather around the screen to see the latest images. Now, you can take those photos with you, using Epson‘s P-1000, a digital photo album with a 10GB hard disk drive.
I also saw a fairly pricey digital picture frame called a PhotoVu. The PhotoVu displays digital images on a 19-inch LCD (liquid crystal display) screen that you can hang on your wall.
It’s going to take weeks for me to sort through all the materials I received during my one-day visit to the show. It was time well spent.