In a digital world, should you still get a wedding album?
In the olden days (and by olden days, I mean up until about 20 years ago), there were no online galleries or images that you could instantly share on Instagram or message with your family and friends.
Before digital photography, the only way to relive your memories was to print them on paper (a crazy thought, I know!) and store them in shoeboxes or albums.
Instead of receiving all of the images from their wedding, couples would make an appointment with their photographer to browse through very small prints, called proofs.
They would use these proofs to select the ones they loved and discard the rest.
From there, the photographer would go back to the darkroom and physically print each of those images. They would then be placed in an album for safekeeping.
The photographs in this album (as well as a few other smaller prints for family and friends, and possibly a few larger prints for display) were typically the only photographs that were kept from their wedding.
This was the way it was done for decades, up until digital cameras became more prominent in the late 2000s. It’s most likely the process your parents went through for their own wedding!
With digital photography today, we have the ability to save thousands of images on tiny hard drives. And, of course, it’s easier than ever to share them.
With that in mind, since we have access to all of our memories digitally, why would someone need a wedding album anymore?
Before I was a wedding photographer, I worked at an Apple store as a “Genius” (yes, that was really the job title!).
My day-to-day work was to help people with their computers, iPad & iPhones.
In my time there, by far the most common issue I would see was called a hard-drive failure.
Without getting too technical, all computers (including your phone) contain a component called a hard drive.
This is where all of your data is stored, including your photos (and your future wedding photographs!).
As the device ages, the hard drive naturally wears. A good analogy is tires on a car—over time, the asphalt wears away at the rubber and you need to get them replaced.
This is similar to what happens to every hard drive
Generally speaking, when a hard drive stops working, it’s catastrophic. This means that whatever information is on that drive is gone forever.
On older hard drives you could sometimes recover data (a process that is often very expensive), newer hard drives (now called solid state) make this process far more difficult (and even more expensive).
Multiple times per day, I would see people come into the Apple store because their device stopped working.
In most of cases, the hard drive was the culprit.
Many of these people did not have a backup of their information (even if you do, though, you might not be safe—we’ll get to that in a second). The result was a total loss of everything that was on their device.
In my time at Apple, I witnessed people lose all of their memories countless times.
Photographs of a deceased loved one.
Images of a son or daughter’s childhood years.
And yes, even someone’s wedding photographs!
Having to tell people that their photographs were gone and that they couldn’t be recovered was heartbreaking and my least favorite part of the job.
Backing up your information means having it on at least two separate devices.
That way, if something happens to the first device, you’ll still have the second copy.
Before we go any further, if you take anything away from this post, I hope it’s this—make sure your photographs are always backed up at least one (preferably two) other devices!
Today, with systems like Google Drive, iCloud and Dropbox it’s easier than ever for us to back up our information.
However, is it really future-proof, especially in the long-term?
Technology moves rapidly. No one can accurately predict the direction it will take.
25 years ago, we were told to back up our information on floppy disks. Now those are irrelevant.
15 years ago, we were told to use CDs. Most computers don’t even have CD drives anymore.
10 years ago, we started using external hard drives. Many new devices no longer support the connections required for those drives.
And just a few years ago, we began to use the cloud. The cloud is only sound if the company that provides the storage remains in business.
And this is only within a 25 year period! Imagine over a lifetime?
It’s impossible to know what will be next, and unless you’re on top of it, you’ll get left behind.
Luckily, there’s another way to back up your photographs (especially your wedding photographs). A physical album.
Not only are albums beautiful keepsake items, they also have the added benefit of archivability.
The physical albums I deliver to the couples I work with are meant to last for hundreds of years, and keep your memories in tact.
Because, at the end of the day, even if you’re on top of it and continue to back up your photographs throughout your life, your hard drives and computers won’t get passed down to future generations. Your prints and albums will!
What about the images themselves? The photos from your wedding deserve so much more than to just sit on a computer hard drive!
Your wedding is most likely going to be a significant investment.
It will be one of the few times in your life where all of the people closest to you are in one place, celebrating together.
It almost feels like a disservice to go through all of that planning and spend all of that money, just to get your photographs back as digital files, look at them once and then never look at them again.
Having a physical album is the best way for you to relive your wedding. It is the final piece of your wedding photography experience.
A great photographer will work with you to design an album that’s more than just a collection of images. It’s a storybook.
As you flip through the pages, you’ll see images that’ll bring you back to what it felt like in that moment.
You’ll see the scenes unfold with the people you love and care about the most.
It will become a family heirloom.
Some of the couples I’ve worked with in the past make a ritual out of taking their album out and putting it on their coffee table each year around their anniversary.
They make some time to sit down with their family (some with their new children!) to relive those special moments.
As someone who tries their best to be a minimalist, I’m all about keeping the clutter out of our lives.
I do believe, however, there are certain things in life that should be kept and passed down to future generations.
A wedding album is one of those things.
When my grandparents passed away, my parents inherited their wedding album.
Occasionally I’ll look through their album (as well as my parents’ wedding album) to see what those moments were like for them.
It’s pretty amazing to see my grandmother and my grandfather when they were my age—and to imagine what it would have been like to meet them then.
I wouldn’t be able to do this if they decided to get the digital files (if they were an option back then).
A wedding album is something you get not just for yourself, but for your kids, and even for your grandkids.
At this point, you might be thinking, “Ok, that makes sense. But I don’t need anything fancy. I’ll just create my own album after my wedding.”
And you could do that.
Many consumer book publishing companies have a very different look and feel from that of a professional album though.
Essentially, they aren’t designed with paper and materials that are meant to withstand the test of time the way true wedding albums are.
Also, creating an album takes time and the reality is, life gets busy.
You might be busy right now planning a wedding and things are going to continue getting busier after that.
Do you really have the time to sit down and design a beautiful album, especially if you’ve never done it before?
Your photographer will take the time to arrange your album in a way that beautifully tells your story.
Once you’ve seen the album preview, each photograph is printed onto light-resistant, fade-resistant paper that is specifically designed to last hundreds of years.
Heirlooms like wedding albums are the things that will transcend us—they prove that we were here.
A hundred years from now, when all of our hard drives and our computers are no longer working, all of those digital memories will be gone. The prints and albums will remain.
There’s no better way to really celebrate and preserve your wedding memory than to have a physical album that represents it!
P.S. I hope you enjoyed this article. Here are more free tips and resources on all things wedding planning, from whether to have a first look to how to create the perfect wedding timeline for you and more.
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We're wedding photographers who believe how you feel on your wedding day is just as important as taking incredible pictures.
As a wedding photographer & filmmaker based in both New York City & Southern California, Tom has captured close to 200 weddings. Together, we love to celebrate with you and your friends on one of the most exciting days of your lives. It brings us such joy to capture your wedding in an artistic way, not only telling your wedding story, but also making sure to bring warmth and friendliness (and a few laughs!) to the day.