Inkjet Photos – How long will they last?

The following story in the NYT should be pretty sobering for anyone relying on inkjet photo printers to protect their precious memories:

It Isn’t That Images Fade, It’s That They Can Vanish - New York Times

I've been considering picking up a dye-sublimation printer for printing snapshots, since dye-subs use a sealer layer on top of the color layers to protect the photos from light and other stuff apt to make them fade. Given the article, I might have to think about accelerating that purchase.

The MVP folks had a couple of these at Tech-Ed last week, and were using them to create cool buttons for anyone who stopped by their kiosk. The ones they had were Canons, I think, and were fairly fast and produced very nice prints. They did have an issue with one of them failing, but I suspect that had a lot to do with the volume of printing...I'm pretty sure the units they had weren't made for printing all day long for a week-long conference.

Anyone had experience with specific dye-sub printers that you'd like to recommend?

Comments (3)

  1. I’ve never cared about photo print outs.  I’ve always assumed they’d fade or whatever over time.  That’s what having a digital source is for!  You can always reprint in the future when you need to…  and probably on a better printer as the technology will constantly be improving over time.

    (Now excuse me while I try and remember to actually back my photos up on a DVD!)


  2. Brian says:

    Yeah, I’m with Peter — if you have a digital source, you can always reprint it if necessary.

    Inkjet generally produces the most vibrant colors and at a cheaper price than dye-sub.  And the prices are dropping all the time.  Also, they do make archival inks and UV sprays that really do help — I’ve used these quite a bit back in the 90’s with really good success.  The technology is changing so rapidly I stopped worrying about "lasting forever" and just be smart about where I place images — not in directly sunlight, for example.

  3. DEvHammer says:

    @ Peter:

    Of course, if you have the digital source, you’re OK…but as you point out, this requires that you have good backups. And if you’re going to use DVDs for back up, you should make sure that you’re using archival quality burnable media…see my other post on this subject:

    @ Brian:

    Definitely true that taking good care of inkjet photos will make them last longer. Putting them under glass is a good idea, for example. But the beauty of dye-sub is that in addition to arguably better picture quality, having the printer automatically add a sealer layer is very convenient.

Skip to main content