By Jason Snell
February 29, 2020 9:04 AM PT
Off the phone, on the walls
I bought my first digital camera a month before my daughter was born. That was 2001, and my daughter is now a freshman at the University of Oregon. Her entire life has been captured by digital cameras. As I write this, my iPhoto library has nearly 90,000 photos in it. We all carry spectacularly good cameras in our pockets at all times.
And yet it struck me recently: We don’t look at pictures as much as we used to. I sometimes will print a photo book, and they’re a nice replacement for photo albums, but if I’m being honest, I don’t look at our photo books very much. What I do is look at photos in frames around my house. And so in the last few months I’ve endeavored to be more aware of when I’m appreciating photos around my house—and create the ability to do it more often.
For years we’ve had three large picture frames hanging on the wall in our living room, each of which features a 16×20 print (metric: 40cmx50cm) of our kids. This year, at Christmas, I refreshed all three. They cost me less than $11 each to print at Shutterfly—a bargain given how prominent they are in our home. I should probably update them every year or two, and I’m considering ordering more of them.
I’ve also got a few Fractures around the house, mostly favorite photos of the kids. (Disclosure: I think Fracture sponsored a podcast of mine once or twice, but it was a long time ago.) Buying some small frames and ordering paper prints would be a little cheaper, but either way—more favorite images are on my walls where I can see them without having to make a conscious decision to take a trip down memory lane. Our cat died recently, and I decided to honor his memory by picking out a favorite picture of him and ordering a glass print from Fracture.
For years now we’ve built custom calendars—first from Apple’s built-in tools in iPhoto and Photos, and now via the Motif plugin for Photos—for ourselves and some of our closest relatives. Each month features images from the same month the previous year. It’s another easy way to get more of our memories out of our phones and into the real world. And my daughter has made a habit of keeping all the old calendars and looking through them or even putting them up on her walls, so clearly they’ve made an impact on her.
Last week I was visiting my mother in Arizona. Out there, the air is really dry—and she’s gone through a series of inkjet printers over the years because the ink gets clogged really easily in the dry climate, unless you’re printing a lot. What’s interesting is that my mom used to print photos all the time, and her walls and bulletin board are now frozen in time. (She’s still got a picture up of our previous dog and cat, who have been gone for quite a while now.)
This year I had the bright idea of buying her a cheap color laser printer, figuring it won’t have the same issues with ink in terms of drying out. Within moments we were generating new images for her to put up. Yes, they’re laser prints on letter paper, but you know what? They still look pretty good. And while seeing a nice picture of your kids or grandkids on her iPad is great, there’s nothing like printing it out and putting it up so she can see it every time she goes into the kitchen.
I am a tireless advocate for the march of technology. But if you’re not getting your digital photos off of your devices, you might want to give it some consideration. You might find that all those great iPhone photos look even better when they’re blown up and hanging on a wall.