I’m sure every digital photographer has seen his/her inkjet prints fade. What can you do about this? The “obvious” solution is, of course, to buy better material. But as always the devil is in the details, because it’s not all that obvious what material really is better. If you go to Wilhelm Imaging Research, you’ll find a lot of information about just that. There are some very interesting “general interest” articles in that middle column (“How long inkjet-printed photos last depends on who you ask, experts say.” - pdf file), and right next to that column you can find even more
nerdy technical information for those obsessed with logevity of digital photography.
Lest film friends rub their hands gleefully, here’s a little snippet of information that I found in German photo magazine Photonews (I don’t think the article is online so I’m just giving a very quick and incomplete summary). A German photographer decided to test how a high-quality inkjet print would compare with a high-quality analog (lambda) print. Working with a gallery, he printed the same photo using these two technologies, sealed the photos underneath UV protection and put them on the roof of the gallery, to be exposed to sunlight for a year. As it turns out the lambda print was completely faded whereas the digital print only showed some minor shift towards yellow. Obviously, nobody stores or displays his/her photos on the roof, but this is an interesting test - so film snobs beware! Digital technology is breathing right down your neck!
I personally am actually not all that interested in this debate (so please don’t email about this), but I know there are lots of people out there who read this blog and who do care about it. Also, given the steady shift of technology towards digital this topic is somewhat relevant, especially with regard to how much to ask for a photo. Some photographers told me in the past that analog prints would always fetch more from collectors because they can’t be mass-produced - given that it now seems digital prints might last much longer I am tempted to think the photo market is up for a little change of mind.