I have been involved in Professional Photography since the sixties. I started out hand developing film and making contact prints in trays when I was in grade school. My first Color Prints were Agfacolor, I made them by hand in trays, I can't even remember how many different chemicals, and trays were required. Back then Archiving was simple, you filed the negatives in glassine sleeves, put the prints in a frame, or album, and that was that!
Fast forward to Digital Photography, a real game changer. How long will my prints last? How do I save my files? How do I frame my prints? What does Archival mean?
To ensure the survival of a Digital Print you must first use quality pigmented ink on an Archival media, the finished image must be properly dried, mounted matted and framed under glass, an Acid Free matt will keep the print from touching the glass and sticking should humidity and temperature change become an issue.
This process is labor intensive and expensive, is it worth while?
First of all you must have an image that is worthy of the expense and effort! I have some samples of what I consider worthwhile images on my web page at http://www.artistic-photo.com/. I use Speedotron Studio Lights http://www.speedotron.com/ in my studio. My Cameras are by Olympus the E Series www.olympuscanada.com/index.asp, my light meters, incident and spot are by Minolta www.konicaminolta.com/sensingusa/products/Light-Measurement . To obtain the best color from my camera's sensor I use a color profiling system from X-Rite, their web site is www.xrite.com/home.aspx .
The absolute best Image Editing Software I have ever found is from Adobe their Creative Suite http://www.adobe.com/ . I use a Spyder from DataColor to profile my monitor, and their printer profiling system as well, http://www.datacolor.com/ .
My personal Printer Preference is the Epson Pro Series of wide format printers http://www.epson.com/, I also use their Ultrachrome Inkset and Archival Media. The Wilhelm Institute publishes the projected lifetime of many ink and paper combinations their site is at www.wilhelm-research.com/ .
When it comes time to matt mount and frame your prints a visit to the ArtCare website will show you what materials to use www.art-care.com/ .
These days a lot of operators are advertising "Shoot to Burn", they will provide you with a disk, or flash card of images and expect you to do the printing and archiving on your own. They are not at all invested in the final product its quality of life expectancy, it is perhaps less expensive upfront, but in the long run.. Quality Photographs are the longest lasting purchase that you are likely to ever make! It is indeed expensive to be a Photographer, and to do quality work. The Cost of Doing Business Calculator at www.nppa.org/professional_development/business_practices/cdb/cdbcalc.cfm will give you some idea of the costs involved.