Print Your Work!

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I’ve been involved in a couple of conversations recently about the value of printing your work. With most of us now using digital in one form or another there’s an overwhelming temptation to let your photographs sit on the computer, or on the web in one place or another and not be printed.

There are a number of reasons that we could debate for printing – prints have historically been the archival record – when the house is burning down you’re not going to run in and save your server, network attached storage or desktop computer in the way that you might have saved the family photo album. I’m sure everyone has their work backed up both in the cloud and physical drives at a secure distant location so this is less of a concern.

I would argue that printing does make you a better photographer though, whether your intended output is for the web or not. Prints are less forgiving than web and so you have to get it right, sharp where sharp is needed and appropriate and a file that is large enough to support the print size which forces you to ‘get it right in camera’

Even though the cost of ink jet printers has dropped substantially and the resources for obtaining a good print increased in equal fashion, making it quite possible to make good prints yourself at home, there are a number of companies that will make the prints for you. I was experimenting with the print service from Artifact Uprising while I was in Japan recently.

As I mentioned previously I’ve been using my iPhone camera as a tool to help me break out of the rut that I’ve felt that I’m in. I thought that If I could take 250 images that I like over the course of the year it ought to be possible to cull those to make a 50 image book as a record of the year. I’d heard good things about Artifact Uprising and wanted to try them out before I got to the book stage.

One morning while I was in Japan recently I had a few moments to kill and so I uploaded 5 or so images that I’d posted to instagram to the artifact uprising site using their mobile app and ordered a pack of prints. The whole operation took less than five minutes. When I got home from Japan I had a stack of amazing prints (5×5) on really heavy paper stock that I could handout to friends and family and to have as a record of the trip.

Not big prints for sure but a fun way to get my images off my phone and for me to start to look at them and really think about how they work as images. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.

10 thoughts on “Print Your Work!

  1. Some photographers emphasize: the future of the photo is to be printed. In classical times, the photographer, in part of composing and exposing his shot, would include a thought about the media (type of paper) that this shot will be developed onto. This was an essential part. I didn’t try classical (film) photography myself, but I think the idea is still the same. To my humble experience, not all photos are adequate for canvas, and not all adequate for glossy papers, and not all adequate for aluminum thermal printing.
    Another thing here is that prints of photos are the real deal. Along the line of ergonomics, you won’t be hanging a large TV with changing images like a screensaver, and neither you’re going to do that when you do an exhibition of your own art. Storing and displaying on the web (servers and all) does not exceed the limit of being digitally available or simply used digitally (like for websites building). Just like paintings hanging on a wall, we might not be looking at them all the time, but their existence to keep a flow in a murky atmosphere in the office, room, or anywhere, is something essential – hence printing is a must and it is the real end of a photo.

    • I heartily agree!

      One of the fun decisions to make is to match the substrate to the image, we have such a bewildering number of choices now how to pick? Do you have a strategy? I generally print my landscape images on smooth watercolor like papers – Breathing Color Optica One for instance or Epson Ultrasmooth Fine Art. If I were to shoot glossy objects – fancy cars for instance I would probably print them on a glossy paper.

      • To me, I usually print my photos on canvas and then apply some glossy treatment (spray varnish); I think this is a 50-50 solution, as it gives some vibrancy and also the medium is durable, and the contrast is slightly increased. For other purpose where usually I work with my group, the group is the one to decide and usually it is glossy materials they pick. However, I warned them many times that glossy materials (be it paper or aluminum as we did one time) will increase the contrast thus not every image would be better with it. It happened one time that a member of the group made a night scene shot: one monitor, there are some details of boats and water ripples, but when printed on glossy aluminum, it was but a piece of black block! In fact the thing has turned almost like a mirror! The glossy aluminum style specifically is harsh in terms of contrast, my advice would be: if your image does not contain much of vibrant colors but some abundance in dark tones instead (technically speaking under the gamma level or the medium gray level that is) – then it would be a jeopardy to print it on glossy aluminum. Yet, the best one can do is, is to calibrate the printer; but for that you must print your own work. If the printing shop has its own calibration profiles (some of them do offer them online), then problem is solved. This way you can judge the tones in Photoshop by recalling that profile in Photoshop (tones out of scale would appear gray), given that your monitor is calibrated of course. Alas, this is not the situation with me here. It’s like I’m the only one who knows what is “color calibration” in the whole country!

  2. I spent the entire day yesterday enlarging colour negatives. It’s not something one can do every day, because the chemicals are a bit of a pain, but every now and then… I regularly enlarge black and white negatives.Prints from digital are not quite as good as optical prints, but they likely soon will be. And while not all photos are necessarily works of art or even significant, they may become meaningful in the future. It’ll almost always be easier to find a photo in a pile of prints than on a hard drive (especially if you don’t use tags).

    • Oh don’t get me started on the subject of key wording. How anyone found anything when they were dealing with slides is beyond me!

      There’s nothing like having the physical object and for me the print is the ultimate realization of the photographic process. I’m impressed that you’re working with color negatives. I’ve never done that myself but understand how challenging it is.

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