Digital Picture Frame Vs. Photo Album

Picture This

It’s nearly Mother’s Day and there are two mothers I need to thank: the one who brought me into this world, and Mother Earth. Both have nurtured me and deserve a token of my appreciation. I’m thinking about putting together a photo album with a slew of family memories, but I don’t want it to come at a high environmental price.

Should I put together a traditional physical album with printed photos mounted on heavy paper pages, or should I use a digital picture frame that displays images on an LCD screen? Each method has its advantages and disadvantages when it comes to cost, time, and of course, energy use.

A physical album can be an impressive gift, and is quite portable. Once it’s made, it doesn’t require any energy or technology – other than a light bulb so it can be enjoyed at night. Printing and mounting photos can be tedious and expensive—and it uses plenty of resources--but it’s a rewarding activity.

On the other hand, if I show the images on a digital picture frame, they can be displayed all day long, in various different arrangements with transitions and music. The frame needs to be near an AC outlet, which means it requires a small, constant stream of electricity regardless if anyone is watching. That might add up quickly.

Decisions, decisions. What to do? Let’s get the facts: what are the actual pros and cons of putting together a picture album versus displaying the images digitally? While I can’t examine every last environmental effect of creating professional prints for a physical album (production of inks, paper, frames, and so on), I can measure the home electricity consumed to produce each.

Here’s what it takes to make an album – digital or paper – for Mom.

Brian Nadel

Brian Nadel is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in technology reporting and reviewing. He works out of the suburban New York City area and has covered topics from nuclear power plants and Wi-Fi routers to cars and tablets. The former editor-in-chief of Mobile Computing and Communications, Nadel is the recipient of the TransPacific Writing Award.