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Photo Albums

I have a quandary. (Or am I *in* a quandary? Is there a difference)? I'm trying to figure out what to do with all my photos, in terms of presentation. The traditional solution would be to put them in a photo album, and I've done some of that over the years. (In fact, I have a lot of half-finished photo albums, which is really quite annoying, but let's ignore that for now). I've always sort of thought that a physical album that you can hold in your hands, and sit on the couch to flip through the pages, is the best. The trouble is, I don't really want to do the sort of scrapbooking those albums require. (Which is part of the reason I've got all those half-finished albums haunting me). It's a lot of work (fun, yes! And loads of opportunities for creativity, but it takes a lot of time, and space to lay out the work). In any case, I'm at the tail end of the process of getting rid of all my scrapbooking supplies, so I don't intend to do albums that way anymore.

The other option for physical albums is to format pages on the computer, and have them printed professionally. On the surface, this seems to be the best solution. I've done a few books this way, and liked the results - but didn't *love* the results. Some of the photos which looked fine on the computer screen turned out too dark when printed, when I used Blurb.com to print the books. I've looked at other options, a bit, but haven't found one that seems really great yet. They're either too limited in terms of layouts, or don't have the variety of sizes I'd like. Or, in the case of Apple, the prices are WAY more than I'm willing to pay.

A few days ago, another thought occurred to me. What about just having all my photos in digital presentations, instead of physical books? In the past, that seemed really lame for some reason. I just like the idea of books. But maybe I'm ready to rethink that. Sure, it's nice to sit on the couch and look through an album with a couple of friends or family. But . . . maybe it could be just as nice to sit in front of a computer or television, and watch digital albums with friends and family. My current monitor actually allows me to display photos at a much larger size than I could on paper. And more people could view simultaneously. Plus, the perfect digital solution would allow me to put my albums on discs that could be viewed on any computer. (I have a program that will do that, in fact - here's an album made with Shutterbug). In theory, it sounds nice. I'm not sure yet, though, if I'd like the idea in practice. I think I still have a bit of a love-affair with books that I can hold in my hands.

So, I thought I'd put the question to the lovely folks on my f-list, with a poll. (Because who doesn't love filling out a poll, right)? So, are paper albums superior, or am I a dinosaur for resisting the digital age?

Poll #1146855 Photo Albums

How do you best like to view photos?

Paper albums, with pages that actually turn.
I prefer to view photos on the computer
I don't really have a preference; either is good
OMG who wants to look at photos of someone else's vacation, anyway? Neither sounds good to me
What about a bit of both? Mostly digital, but a few paper albums of the important events, or maybe one per year as a summary
Photos? Huh?
Um, haven't you heard of a shoebox? Everyone knows that the best way to store and view photos
Ticky BOX!!!!!!

What do you do with your photos?

I like scrapbooking them into paper albums
I do everything digitally
I don't really take a lot of photos, so I don't have a system
Mine are all in shoeboxes, or envelopes from the processing place
Photos? Huh?
I don't really have a system. I hope your friends will have some good advice that I can use, too!
I do a bit of both. Paper and digital.

Please share any suggestions you have about viewing photos:

Please comment with any additional thoughts. I need a good solution, and the sooner the better. :) I've got a LOT of photos, and it's lame having them unavailable for viewing. That's not the point of taking pictures, after all.


Mar. 1st, 2008 05:58 pm (UTC)
Two cents. (Maybe more, with inflation. ;-) )
I love having my pictures on the computer. It's totally awesome being able to manage my stuff that way. It also takes up a heck of a lot less space than shelf after shelf of print albums and picture-boxes. From an organizational standpoint, being digital can't be beat.

That said, sitting in front of a computer screen to view photos, especially more than, say, ten at a time, inevitably sucks the living soul out of me. It's sort of like having to watch Powerpoint slides, only (usually) without any of the corny transition effects and (too frequently) with any text accompanying the pictures being sized all kinds of wrong, forcing your eyes to work back and forth between focusing on 10-point Arial and a four-megapixel image. This is especially true on the web, but even offline, on the best Apple Cinema displays, the resolution and the unavoidable fact of backlighting has a wearying effect on the eyes after a little while.

There's a good reason Wired.com and other websites limit the size of the image galleries accompanying their stories. The mind just goes numb, or at best trancelike in a bovine sort of way, when faced with large albums, even if the story they tell is an interesting one.

Nothing's worse than getting a "friendly link" to somebody's photo stream of their latest trip to the coral reef or to visit Aunt Matilda... and discovering that what they've done is dumped a hundred or more pics of everything on you, with no "best of" or "highlights" subset you can opt to check out instead. Even with a fast web connection, flipping through all those pics, one by one, is like being faced with an unhealthy llama's hindquarters, compared with being able to turn pages in a paper album, skim half a dozen pics at a time, and flip to the next section.

The other great thing about a book format over Flickr or Photobucket is being able to see multiple photos, laid out exactly how you want, so that the whole page can tell a story. I'm a book-layout and typesetting nerd, but I think pretty much everybody appreciates the coffeetable book as a potential art form. Held in your lap, an album--if well-done--has a concave, inviting form that's more immersive and warmer than current electronic displays can be.

The best (and currently unavailable) solution I can imagine is laying out an album digitally, and then exporting it to a device that's a.) comfortable to sit down with or pass around and look at, and b.) higher resolution than a laptop or tablet display, and c.) isn't backlit, so your eyes can really relax into the image and the page. What I *really* have in mind is a device using multiple (say, half a dozen) sheets of flexible electronic-ink paper, each of which can display any of the pages in your album.

With a setup like that, you could still flip through the presentation as with a traditional paper album, skimming a whole page in a moment and skipping ahead if you're thrilled by the forest but not by those particular trees. But you would have the option, too, of zooming in on an image, or moving two pages across from each other to compare images from different parts of the same album (or from two different albums, if one bound e-volume has access to multiple albums), without messing up the original album. Traditional paper just can't beat this.

Flexible, color displays like this have been demonstrated (I think Panasonic debuted theirs in January) but they won't be commercially available, or cheap, for a couple of years.

While it's not reasonable to say, "Just wait for what's coming," for all of your album ideas, maybe it's worth holding off on certain paper album projects. If you're keeping track of all your files on your computer anyway, the job of creating those e-paper albums in the near future should be a snap.

But for now, yeah, I voted for a mix of both bound-paper and electronic displays. Being able to share pictures online, or the occasional "slide show" at home on a big display, is always going to be a nice option to have. And there simply is no better way to manage a photo collection than to have it all tagged and tweaked in a good digital library. But until the electronics matches paper in terms of convenience, flexibility and warmth, some things will be best presented in hard copy.
Mar. 1st, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Two cents. (Maybe more, with inflation. ;-) )
Yeah, I know what you mean about photostreams. When I post things to Flickr, it's always JUST the highlights. Actually, I try to do that even in my albums (paper or digital), too - too many photos is a worse crime than too few, I think.

And darn it. I'd hoped everyone would say WOW WE LOVE LOOKING AT PHOTOS ON THE COMPUTER. Because that would have been easier for me. :D Darn all of you for being honest about preferences! ;)

Oh, and you have a really good point about layout. I do love doing layouts, which is the downside of the "slideshow" format. Yeah. This gives me some things to think about, for sure. :)
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