Should You Use a Physical Photo Albums or Digital Frame

If you have photos that you would really like to share with others, should you display them in a photo album or a digital frame?

I have the same dilemma recently- I had embarked on a photo album project where I want to showcase sequence leading on to a successful opening of a place. It would consist of a few hundred photos- and at first I thought it would be too bulky to carry around in physical photo albums.

So, the predicament arises: Should these photos be loaded in a digital photo frame or should I develop the photos and put them into a physical album….just like how we had always done in the past before digital photography. Of course Flickr and Facebook made it so easy to share photos.

Physical photo album vs digital photo frame. Which one is best to place photos that would tell a story in an impactful way?

Pro and cons of each:

Advantages of Using a Digital Frame:

    • 1. Save the hassle of developing photo and albums that may gather dusk and turn yellow with age.2. A potential head turner and subject of conversation3. Can display up to hundreds and thousands of photos- the limit is with your SD or memory card. Buy a memory card that is 32GB, and the number of photos are almost limitless.

      4. Easy to carry around- you can bring it along with you to travel if you want to bring and show your overseas friends.

      5. The photos can be left to play in  a slideshow- the frame can be perpectually running

      6. When you want to change the selection of photos, just replace with a new memory card and it would be up and running

      7. Can be mounted to a wall- so instead of seeing a static image, you see ongoing slideshow
      a. people who placed the digital frame at strategic places such as their office desk would end up looking at the photos and then being reminded of some happier memories from a forgotten photo. A reason to go to work…

      b. for some companies like the Kodak Digital frame with Wifi enabled- you can even email photos to a dedicated email address or upload Flickr and the photos that you took can be viewed from the other side of the world almost immediately

      Disadvantages of the Digital Frame:

    • 1. Unlike an album which can be flicked back and forth, it takes some effort (for non savvy user) to locate an older photograph

      2. The normal ones cannot display captions on the photograph

      3. Requires electricity to run the slideshow

      4. There are reports that people quickly run out of interest on the digital frame

      5. Grandma and grandpa may need to struggle to figure out how to operate

      6. It’s hard to personalize the picture and images- unlike in a scrapbook

      7. If you stare too long too much- would it cause discomfort to your eyes like how a computer screen does?

Having mentioned all the points above, in the end, I still decide to develop the photos and put them into a photo album.

Why I choose to showcase the photos in a physical ‘real’ photo albums:


For my project, I would need to include comments on the initiation, before, during and after some events. I asked around- in terms of user experience and effectiveness in conveying the message, a physical photo album have much more profound effects compared to a digital frame.

Physical photos have more profound impact compared to digital photos. That cannot be denied. People would look at it- people would flip albums- and you can see that they can easily flip a physical album back and forth, and forth and back. It’s a great conversation starter. If you buy a photo album with space for memo, you can jot down the significance of the event- from start to finish.

Whereas with a digital frame, you cannot flip the photos without going through the controls menu. If they like a photo and they don’t know how to operate the digital frame, they cannot stop, pause or move backwards.

You may say, well, ‘I have thousands of photos in digital format. It would cause the earth to develop them and storage would be a challenge’.

Well, my answer is, me too. For my project, I had to choose from the few thousand digital pictures that I and a few other people had taken. Few thousand— and I brought it down to 170 photos. Just 170 photos which I could connect the event and tells an impactful story.

We need not select everything. Just like most people’s bedside or office table, there is probably only one framed static photo- but that single photo means more to us that most of the other photos. It is not quantity- but quality. With the digital age, we tend to mindlessly go around snapping at photos-sieve out the meaninful ones from those that meant nothing to you.

Many people upload photos in Facebook or photo sharing sites like Flickr. It is a fact- because when I wanted to look for a reasonable priced place to develop my photos, my friends whom I know love to develop photo ….could not recommend any place. For the simple reason that they have not developed a single photo for a year, or one friend-since 5 years ago.

But in Facebook and Flickr, how many people do go in and appreciate it long after the event is over? You upload photos of your dream wedding and after the initial awww…oohhhs…so pretty….. and all the good wishes, the excitement dies down. No one looked at it anymore.

Yes, I agree it’s the same with a wedding album after a year. But you know the album is there- it sits there- waiting for you and you know where to get it when you want to see it. I prefer that than to click through my Facebook timeline and wait for the page to load.

Really- you would feel different looking at a physical photo than a digital one- that is what at least a lot of people tells me. When I give people a photo that I’ve taken of them, a smile (genuine and spontanous…not fake one)  instantly lit up their face. Some of the people I know also don’t have a Facebook account (yes, these people exist) and without a physical photo, they would depend on their memory.

Anyway, I bought myself a photo album that could fit in 200 photos of 4R size (4″x 6″). Surprisingly, it was small and compact and would not be too much of a burden even if you need to bring it to travel with you:

The album costs me only RM26.90 (good quality- the outsides are velvety). The front size you can put a photo as the album cover- a photo that can encompass what your entire album is trying to say.  The size of the album is about the DVD holder- so it is very portable. Each page can hold 2 photos of 4R size. I got from Jaya Jusco- and you can find a variety of choices from department stores- no need to buy online/internet as it may be expensive and you have no way of seeing before buying. On the left of the picture above are the 170 photos which I’ve developed and they all fit nicely into the album.

By the way, before buying the photo album to document any project or event, it is always good to know how many photos you intend to develop. From there, then only you make your buying decision. And do you intend to put the album at home or take it to travel with you? If you intend to take the physical album to travel with you, then it is better to get a small and more compact album.

Always inspect the photo album before buying. I’ve noticed the ‘made in China’ type to have attractive design but flimsy structure that would not withstand the age of time.  The thing I like about Jusco is that they have an unwrapped album which they used as display- so that I can check first before buying.

Above are the inner pages- section for you to write the message. I’ve mentally created the storyline (you may know by now how long winded I can get…hee hee). When I develop the photos they are properly numbered in sequence that I want to put in the album. The shop gave me the photos in sequence. It took me only few hours to put the entire project together.

Afterwhich, I passed the album over to my family members for inspection. Aside from a frank comment- “er, your handwriting is not nice leh” (yes, I do have ugly handwriting)- it was agreed that the physical album is more meaningful. The event writen on the side gives a clearer explanation compared to the confusion caused by the ads on the Facebook photo albums that was fighting for their attention.

We need not develop all of our photos and travels into a physical photo album or scrapbook project. Select only a few meaningful ones so that you have it handy on your bookshelf- where you can always take and flip through when you are feeling down. Or that you want to bring around to explain on sudden things or show an event from before, during, and after (ie start to finish).

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