Where Does the Printed Photo Belong in the World of Instagram?

Does the printed photo really still matter in an age where most photos just stay on everyone’s mobile phones, social media, and hard drives?

When was the last time you had any of your photos printed? Or even bought or received a printed photo? For those who can’t recall, it may be difficult to answer the premise of this article. For those who had an answer straight away, printed photos could still have a place in their home, work space, or office. But for the most part, printing out photos has become more exception than the norm as of late. Hence the question, where does the printed photo belong today, especially considering the generation whose photos immediately end up on social media?

The quick answer is, basically anywhere you want to showcase or appreciate a real, tangible printed photo in all its glorious details. It can be personal spaces, work spaces, public spots, and private collections, to name a few. Keeping photo albums may not be as prevalent as they used to be, and even the print media has been constantly challenged by the convenience and innovation of their digital counterparts. But still, nothing compares to seeing a photo in print — it’s an art form in itself, looks consistent, and with the right care, can last a lifetime. These are some of the reasons why the printed photo still prevails, and below are some of the answers to where it belongs at this day and age.

Home and Personal Spaces

Every home has a printed photo or a bunch of them on display; I find it hard to believe otherwise. Baby photos, graduation photos, pet photos, wacky everyday snaps, vacation photos, wedding photos — all of them still have their dedicated spaces around the house. That fact hasn’t changed, even if it’s no longer common to have a photo album lying around, ready to be flipped open (sometimes to someone’s embarrassment). Printed photos are memories made tangible, so I’m sure everyone still wants to have a handful of the most unforgettable moments printed out professionally, framed with care, and displayed in dedicated spaces around the house.

Offices, Studios, and Work Spaces

Whether you’re hustling as a corporate slave, bringing ideas to life as an artist, or winging the freelance life, let’s face it: your work space needs to be one of the most inspiring, creative, and motivating spaces you’ll find yourself in. This is most likely why we all feel compelled to decorate our cubicles, desks, and studios with stuff that inspire us: a big print or two of the best photos we’ve taken; snapshots of family and friends tacked on the corkboard; torn magazine pages with photos we find inspiring or hope to recreate one day; or a framed print by an artist or photographer we truly admire. Hell, even the most sterile and humdrum of offices (think intimidating corporate spaces) have big prints and artworks (often of the most iconic personalities) hung up to enliven the spaces a little bit.

Your Favorite Gallery

If you really want to see exceptional photography by exceptional minds, you won’t get the best experience swiping away at online galleries on your phone or tablet. No, not even with that Retina Display. Instead, go to your favorite gallery and check out any (and all) photography exhibitions they’re currently running. Artists and photographers work with galleries in meticulous detail to ensure that their work is presented in the best way possible — a fine art print, as it’s called in the art world. So when you’re in a gallery, you’re looking at everything in the way they are meant to be seen and appreciated. In the case of photographers, they also work with different printing methods and materials to find the most fitting representation of their final printed photo. This is why many photographers still strongly believe that it’s not a photograph unless it’s printed.

Photo Books

Many photographers are also avid photo book collectors. Sometimes, it’s a lot easier and more fulfilling (especially if you’re a very tactile person) to browse through these books from cover to cover instead of scrolling through online material. This why I believe that even if printed magazines will eventually be scarce, photo books will continue to thrive. Consider a photo book as one of the pinnacles of a photographer’s career, and there will always be admirers of their work who will want to make that a part of their collection. Aside from personal collections, libraries and photography schools will always stock on photo books featuring both iconic and contemporary photographers.

Zines and other Self-Published Materials

Zines have been around for many years, but we’ve been seeing a strong resurgence across the globe, especially among photographers keen on getting the word out on their work. While zines may not have the same quality as publisher-made photo books, they’ve been perfect platforms for young and upcoming photographers to gain exposure (and some compensation) for their work. We can say that the charm of zines lies in each copy being personal from start to finish, and self-publishing itself can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. So if you’re thinking of jumping into printing your photos, this would be one of the easiest ways to experiment with.

Bonus: Anywhere you keep your Instax and/or Polaroid Snaps

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we’re not being snobby here and we’d like to cover all our bases. Instant photos are still printed photos, and it’s interesting how crazy popular they are among the younger generations today. In fact, Instax products are still among Fujifilm’s bestselling products, and Polaroid has also become popular again with its rebirth through the Impossible Project. So, if you’re still shooting with an Instax or Polaroid camera (or even printing your smartphone photos through the Instax Mini Printer), you’re most likely keeping you prints somewhere — in scrapbooks, journals, frames, and even tacked along with other photos on your work space.

So, there you have it. These are all the ways that the printed photo isn’t dead yet, and most likely, how it will prevail in the years to come. If you haven’t printed any of your photos in a long time, why not do it now for your home, work space, or even gift it to someone? It might lead you and your friends and loved ones to have a renewed and better appreciation for your work and the memories that come with it.