I’m firm believer in printing your photographs. If you follow me on Instagram you’ll see I often post with the hashtag “existinprint”. But what does #existinprint really mean?

You could say that I'm a bit "old school" when it comes to photography. I came into the industry with a Fine Art background. At University I learnt to shoot on film and processed my own photographs, both black and white and colour. The darkroom was my second home. Photography has always been something tangible for me.

When I moved back home to Johannesburg and started working in a portrait studio, digital cameras were the new standard. Even so, the studio where I was based didn't sell any digital images. You had the option of purchasing albums, framed prints, canvasses or blockmounts. There was no "all your images on a CD”. What we promoted was "wall art": beautiful portraits elegantly framed and ready for display.

That was circa 2009 - not all that long ago! Somewhere in the last nine years the wall portraits started dropping away, to be replaced by those "images on a CD". There seemed to be the misconception that digital photography was cheaper, but from my experience as someone who has worked with both formats, the money you spent on film and processing didn't go into your back pocket when you started shooting digital.

Technology advanced (and advances!) so quickly that any money you saved on "traditional" products fast got used up on camera upgrades, software licenses, software updates, a new computer, backup storage, a new monitor, editing peripherals like Wacom tablets...the list goes on!

As a professional photographer I only shoot in RAW format. And, just like a film negative, a RAW image still requires processing. Instead of sending our rolls of film to a lab to be processed, or spending hours in the darkroom ourselves, us photographers now sit behind our computers. We adjust the images to give them our own style. Not as simple as just adding an Instagram filter. We do additional editing as required - softening lines and wrinkles, removing non-permanent blemishes, colour correction...and of course there is more advanced retouching. Asking your photographer to supply you with unedited or RAW files is like asking a chef to give you the raw ingredients instead of the meal.

Of course, that's only the first part of the story. Once you receive your images, what do you do with them? In the "old days" we'd have frames around the house for our favourite prints, and those albums with the sleeves to show off the rest.

Hands up those who now have CDs, DVDs, USBs lying in a drawer, with the thought of “I’ll get round to printing these one day...”. Oh believe me, I’m guilty of it too! We’ve all been there. But here’s the thing: with the advances in technology, how many digital image delivery methods are near on obsolete? I have an iMac that doesn’t have a CD/DVD reader. So even my family has discs of images that can no longer be viewed.

My Dad and Aunty Dot in the bottom photograph - looking very formal in uniform!

What I do have though, is a box of treasured photographs. Black and whites of my dad and his sister where they were kids, my mom in her 20s, even a print of my grandma as a toddler on a Scottish beach. And it makes me wonder - what will my grandchildren have of me?

Many parents are hesitant to step in front of the camera. Or it's only mom in the photos, or dad.

"I need to lose weight"

"If I just colour my hair"

"Oh I never look good in photographs"

Do any of those sound familiar? The truth is, when your children and children's children are looking through that treasured box of memories, they don't notice the grey hair or the extra kilograms - they just see YOU.

That is why I believe in #existinprint. It’s not just about printing your photographs. It really is about EXISTING in the photograph. It’s about leaving a lasting legacy for your loved ones. It’s about that box of memories that you’ll add to, pass down to your children, and that they’ll pass down to theirs. Your printed images have the power to outlive the pixels on your hard-drive.

My Mom is on the far right, with my Granny Clare next to her.

My Aunty Jen (Mom's sister) third from left is holding my cousin Mark.

Of course, existing in print isn't just for families or those with children. It may seem narcissistic to do a photo session just for yourself - but "just for yourself" is exactly the reason you should.

Clients come to me for a variety of reasons other than weddings and family portraits - a successful weight-loss journey, a confidence booster after getting divorced, starting a new business, a 21st, 30th, 80th birthday...why NOT celebrate every milestone with a beautiful artwork that becomes a timeline of your history?

This is who I was, and this is who I've become.

After all, the value of the printed image isn't the value of the paper it's printed on. The value lies in the moment captured and the memories you recall each time you see it on the wall or hold it in your hand.

My Grandma Nan - mid 1930's

Leigh Benson Photography specialises in a portrait experience that is as individual as you are. How do you dream of being photographed?

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