Digital Picture Frame Vs. Photo Album

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.

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15 comments
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  • cadder
    Are any of these frames battery powered? I would like to have one to carry to family events to pass around.
  • bri-guy
    I've seen the Philips 7ff1cmi, which has a rechargeable battery but I don't think that it lasts for than a few hours.

    BN
  • JohnnyLucky
    Girlfriend received a digital photo frame from her daughter last year. It was pre-loaded with photos of the grandchildren. First few days there was an initial wow factor. After that it just sat there turned off. I don't think my girlfriend has turned it on for an entire year.
  • bri-guy
    I can see that happening. I've had a frame running behind my desk for about a month, cycling through my photos and I kind of like glancing over to it every once in a while. I've been startled by some of the pictures that I haven't seen in decades. It's a nice time machine.
    bn
  • tomate2
    since you mentioned about not taking into account all the environmental impacts of making a photo album i guess who should talk about the environmental impacts of making a digital frame?? like the part of it being made by cheap labor outside of the us... the man work to keep digging up all those materials to START making a digital frame... or the bit extra electricity your using on the digital frame which comes from burning fossil fuels or flooding huge regions to build a dam... i guess you get the idea.. :D
  • bri-guy
    Not justt that, but all the oil and natural gas that goes into the plastics, glass and silicon. Then, there's what to do with it after its ten (hopefully more) year life span is over and it's time to chuck it. There are times I wish I were an economist to untangle these questions. While researching the story I asked several experts in photography, including those who specialize in green photography, and none could even start to answer the question.

    BN
  • wtlloyd
    Just in terms of volume of materials used, it's clear, to me at least, that if every household had an 8x10 digital photo frame, vrs every household owning a dedicated photo printer along with attendant ink cartridges, boxes of inkjet paper...the waste stream is continuous with a photo printer.
    The digital photo frame is clearly the way photo display is moving. Excitement over the IPad in Fine Art photography circles is over it's use as a portfolio. Recent industry pundit articles (Thomas Hogan) discussing "whither cameras" argue that the next development required to restart sales (the market is reaching saturation, and digicams are about to be made obsolete with improved camera phones) will be the communication (digital) between the photo making device and the storage and display devices.
    Finally, referring to professionally printed photos vrs digital photo frames is a false argument...Fine art printing, with color balancing, tonal corrections, localized adjustments, and color managed output, is hardly typical of what you get when you send your snapshots off to Costco or wherever...Better pictures result from becoming a better photographer, not whether output is displayed on paper or screen.
  • DianeJones
    I prefer a scapbook. A traditional photo album just doesn't have the same "wow" factor as flipping through pages of photos and memorabilia attractively displayed in a scapbook. I find that sitting a watching a digital photo frame for 15-30 minutes is very tedious.

    I am currently making a scrapbook for my son's graduation and have decided that when I finish that I will move on to doing other family albums so that I may enjoy the pictures instead of just packing them away in boxes. I do like the idea of a digital photo frame for a desk at work: I may check into that.

    You can get 4x6 prints of digital photos from CVS for 19 cents each. I upload them from my computer and pick them up in the store.
  • Another option is to put your photos in a photo book, a service offered online by many companies. They produce a hardback coffee table book with up to 84 pages holding up to 4 photos per page on photo paper.

    This uses no electricity and can be passed around for viewing unlike a digital frame. A portable DVD plater which is battery powered will usually display jpeg photos form a card or CD.
  • joneb
    Erm theres somethig wrong in this article. if a digital photoframe was used like a photoalbum it wouldnt be on all the time but only when used. If the proper comparison was made what then would be the difference. I agree for photos displayed constantly prints seem definitely more environmentally friendly. But then if you have a laptop or a netbook you dont need the photoframe do you?
  • joneb
    Does Toms ever moderate these forums and delete spam like the last post?
  • scottfm
    How about models (if any) with a motion sensor and hibernate mode?
  • johngraham
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