The end of printing: Will our holiday photos stay on our phones forever?

52% of all holiday pictures from summer 2021 are stored on devices rather than printed off
52% of all holiday pictures from summer 2021 are stored on devices rather than printed off Copyright Unsplash
Copyright Unsplash
By Sarah Palmer
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We take a look at why fewer people are printing their holiday photos.


UK residents alone have taken 10 billion holiday photos during summer 2021. Celebrating the return to travel, reuniting with family and friends and wanting to document our newfound freedom has led to an influx of photographic reminders.

However, research from PastBook claims that 52 per cent of these images solely exist in the cloud - the information storage servers used by companies like Apple. This means less than half of our holiday memories are preserved in a physical form, with the majority left on our devices.

Why are more people leaving their holiday photos in the cloud?

With platforms like Instagram and Facebook being a modern, mainstream way to share holiday updates and memories, physically printing photos is becoming increasingly rare. Modern technology means now, we can take as many pictures as we want - long gone are the days of disposable film cameras and limited data.

Where printing takes time and money, for the 21st century lifestyle it’s simply easier to scroll back through a camera roll or social media profile.

There’s also the environmental impact of having photos printed. As we move into a new age of sustainable choices, posting - as opposed to printing - feels like a no brainer.

More people are documenting their photographs on social media rather than in print formUnsplash

Do social media ‘likes’ change the way we feel about our memories?

But validating your holiday experience in the form of social media ‘likes’ has become a huge part of modern value systems - which further explains the move away from printed photos. According to research conducted by sociologists at the University of York, the number of likes a post receives does impact how we feel towards our memories.

In the study, participants gave feedback on how a lack of likes affects their feelings towards an event which they have documented on social media.

“The association is the fact that I’ve only had three likes on this post, not like this was an awesome day you know,” one of the participants says. “I think it’s negatively impacting memory, because you’re changing the association with it.”

This is, of course, one of the most damaging downsides to our digital age - especially for younger generations for whom social media has become such an integral part of day-to-day life.

So should we be printing our holiday photos instead of posting them online?

According to Daniel Scheijen, CMO of PastBook, there is a lot of value in printed pictures.

"Over the last year, where we have faced social distancing, self-isolation and lockdown, our social media accounts have been flooded with images of banana bread, masks and socially distanced walks.

“With the nation capturing their summer holiday highlights on their smartphones, we will all have a digital photo album of our most monumental summer. But by printing pictures, we create image-based memoirs that can be preserved forever.”

After all, digital photos come with the risk of loss due to technical faults, in some cases hacking or issues with storage.

According to Scheijen, now is the time to rediscover the nostalgia a physical photo can bring - without the pressure of validating our memories online.

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