The cost of maintaining a photo collection

I often hear people say “I don’t want to upgrade and pay more for my iCloud, Google, etc”. People are often concerned about the cost (and I get that) when looking to maintain their photo collection. Memories maintenance has a price, especially if you hire a professional (like Lisa at HOPE Organizing), purchasing a good hard drive, monthly fees for photo storage services, and the cost of computers and devices that display images (just to name a few).. 

I understand that photo maintenance isn’t free, but I want to highlight how cost-effective memory keeping has become. Before digital photography and the smartphone, you would need to purchase a camera, buy film, pay to develop your photos, and then purchase a photo album to store them in. Here is a breakdown of these costs to identify how you save money by digitally storing your photos. 

We are looking at the 1990s for our comparison (since that is when Lisa was in high school and college)! If you really want to dig into this subject here is a video from the UK going through camera prices and trends from the 1970s-1990s. 



Before buying anything else, you had to have a film camera. A good quality professional film camera, like the Nikon 28Ti, ran about $1,200 in the 90s. A mid-range camera, like the Konica AiBORG, ran $510 in 1991. Some of the starter cameras like the KODAK Star 435 were $49.95 and the KODAK S Series S500AF was $189.95. 



The first step in capturing a photo was to buy a roll of film. The price of film varied depending on the type of film, the number of exposures, and the brand. A roll of 36-exposure color film typically costs around $7-$9 for 100-200 speed print film and $12-$14 for slide film.


Processing & Printing

Once the film was exposed, it had to be processed to create negatives. The cost of processing varied depending on the lab and the type of film. A basic color processing job typically costs around $10, while black and white processing is usually a few dollars less. 

Once the negatives were processed, they could be printed into photographs. The cost of printing also varied depending on the lab and the size of the prints. A 4×6 print typically costs around $0.25, while an 8×10 print costs around $0.50. In the 1990s we often did double prints or even triple prints so that we could share. 


Total Cost

The total cost of capturing and developing photos on film in the 1990s could add up quickly. A photographer who shot a roll of 36-exposure color film and had it processed and printed into 4×6 prints would spend around $15-20. This was a significant expense, especially for photographers or families who took a lot of pictures. 

Try calculating the cost of the photos in your camera roll! How much would it cost you to take and develop all those images?

On a recent trip to South Carolina, I took 931 photos. Let’s assume that I took fewer photos and take that number down by more than half and use the 432 which is equal to 12 rolls of fill. Let’s use the low figure of $15 and I would spend $180 just to see those photos. (and that’s just one trip) Not to mention the 60 videos that I took which would have required a separate camera back in the day and and tapes and converters. Today, many people have no way of looking back on those tapes (contact us if you need help with that).

(note: after one pass to cull my memories I got it down to 420 photos and 40 videos which were 2.65 GB and I will delete even more eventually)


Let’s do a comparison in today’s digital backup:

My entire Memories Hub is about 600 GB and my collection is bigger than average but smaller than some. If you look at the chart above, I could spend less than $180 (that I spent on my South Carolina trip photos above) on almost any of the services above for 1 year and it would hold my ENTIRE memories hub and then some. 

Now, I am not saying that you should keep paying for multiple online services but I do think almost everyone should be paying for at least one or two to make sure they can backup and sync their memories easily. If you are an iPhone user, pay for iCloud and if you are an Andriod user, pay for Google One. Beyond that, check my guide to 10 Ways to Back up and Sync your photos

Save your memories and don’t let them stress you out! 


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