The Lesson from Costco’s Photo Lab

I received a letter from Costco that the location I frequent for my 8 pounds of ground beef and jumbo bottle of vodka is closing their photo department. Why? Because in spite of more pictures being taken now than in any time in the history of photography, people are simply not printing their snapshots and, because of this rapid decline in printing volume, it makes no financial sense to keep the photo department open.

And after reading this letter, I have one thing to say: People… WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

Listen, I’ve tried being nice. I have. I’ve tried the cute graphics and the thought-provoking posts, but now, I am going to sit you down to have a come to Jesus moment regarding your memories.

Folks, you are ‘effing losing them. Daily. By the second, even.

Now, I’m not even talking about professional photos; no, I’m talking about all the day-to-day memories you take courtesy of your mobile device. The thousands of photos you have on your phone right now, people.

The ballet recital. The trip to the park. The vacation. The ordinary, run-of-the-mill wonderful events that make up a life, events that you whip out your phone to remember. Events that the minute your phone crashes or falls into the toilet, you will no longer have.

“But I back up to the cloud,” you say. “My pictures are safe,” you say.

People, repeat after me: “There is no cloud.” You are simply backing photos up to another computer somewhere. And while you may have access to them, will your kids? Or their kids? Or their kids?

Let me answer that for you. NO. No, they won’t, which means all of those precious day-to-day images will be lost for future generations because you didn’t take an hour to send them off to be printed onto paper.

Again… WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? Are these images not important enough to print? Are they throw-away memories?

I tell you truly from the bottom of my heart, the snapshots you have today will be MORE important later. But, later, well, you won’t have them. 30 years from now, when you are searching for that photo of your dad at his birthday or your daughter in her kindergarten play, you won’t have it.

And when you are gone and your kids are searching for family pictures, what will they find? A link to an online gallery? An obsolete hard drive? Or boxes and albums full of wonderful printed photos, photos they will hold in their hands and pass around the table and treasure more than gold.

If you think photos are important now, wait until they are all you have left. ‘Cause the true value of a photo is only understood years after it is taken.

So upload them, back them up, but more than anything… PRINT WHAT YOU WANT TO PRESERVE. Don’t let your memories die when your phone does.

About the author: Missy Mwac is a photography satirist, a lover of bacon, a drinker of vodka, a lover of sparkle, and a guide through the murky waters of professional photography. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can connect with her on her website, Tumblr, and Facebook. This article was also published here.

Image credits: Header photos by Elvert Barnes and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0