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.
When I was working with Bob Korn to learn the rudiments of printing, Bob would take some time to show me what he was working on or to talk about some of the work that was on his wall. I was blown away by the photographs of ’60s music icons that Bob had up on the wall. It was work of Rowland Scherman. I like the photos of the Beatles at Shea Stadium but was stunned to recognize and realize that Rowland’s photograph of Bob Dylan was used for the Dylan Greatest hits album.
Chris Szwedo is now working on a documentary of Roland’s work and has a Kickstarter project to help with funding that is now nearing the last few days. Click here to find out more and contribute. Even if you aren’t interested in contributing I hope that you’ll check out a clip from the documentary below.
It’s been crunch time here over the last week as we get into the last two weeks before the opening of the exhibition at the RMSP gallery. While a more sensible person would have outsourced the printing and framing of their work for an exhibition I wanted to do all of it myself so that I would have at least had the experience of doing it at least once. As it turned out I quite enjoyed the process, although it was indeed work.
Frames and mats came from American Frame. The UPS driver that comes to our house is now used to the weird and wonderful things that he has to deliver to us and so the 6 boxes of frames were no big deal.
I went with glass rather than plexi and sourced that from a local glazier. I also ended up having to get a full ink set for the 7900. Fortunately EP Levine is not too far away and all too easy to visit.
I had done a reasonable amount of printing on the 7900 with cut sheets but this was the first time that I had used roll paper in a serious way. For this exhibition I used Breathing Color’s Optica One that I stock piled when it was on sale earlier in the year. It’s a heavier paper and has a more neutral color than Epson Ultrasmooth that I had favored up to this point.
I don’t have a big layout table where I do the printing and so ended up co-opting the dining table for the framing work.
I was quite pleased with how the framed prints came out. I’m looking forward to having a couple of these on the walls here.
I used the same packaging that the frames came in to ship the framed images off to RMSP, although I did use blue painters tape to help reinforce the glass and hopefully hold the pieces together if it breaks. I don’t even want to think about that!
I’ll be posting more about the exhibition in the coming weeks. If you’re going to be in Missoula over the summer please do stop by and check out the exhibit. I’d be interested in your feedback.
‘Not every printer is a great photographer, every great photographer is a great printer’
I came across the quote attributed to Ansel Adams a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t help but wonder whether this is really true today. There have been seismic changes in photography and technology in the last 10 or so years – the shift to digital, decent cameras in most mobile phones, great tablet devices and on and on – that makes me wonder what was true when Ansel Adams made his comment is still true today.
How many people feel the need to print? Sure not people who are stock photographers. They deliver their content to the stock agencies digitally and it is further distributed digitally. Wedding photographers? Again another example of a group that are focused on high quality with high productivity, that would most likely today have some if not all content delivered digitally with the remaining photographs and associated wedding books printed by specialty print services. Editorial photographers, similar story – digital delivery to their editors.
Does this mean that these photographers are not ‘great’? Of course not. The successful photographers in these fields have exacting standards that when coupled with creativity and a capacity for hard work has been the foundation for their success.
So is Ansel’s comment still relevant today? I think so but we should modify it slightly – ‘Every great fine art photographer is a great printer’.
It’s never been easier to print your own photographs. Prices of really good ink jet prints have dropped precipitously and are well within the range of most serious amateurs. There are a huge range of ‘substrates’, papers and other specialty surfaces, available for printing. The standard printer drivers and paper profiles give good results without needing tweaking. Finally there are a tremendous range of resources available to help you along the way – George DeWolfe’s Book ‘George DeWolfe’s Digital Photography Fine Print Workshop‘ is one that I would particularly recommend. It’s quite possible then for us all to make good prints and with a commitment to the craft even some great ones.
There have been so many times when I wished I had a camera with me and regardless of how small the ‘pocket’ camera is I never have a pocket big enough. My iPhone goes everywhere with me.
2. I’m ‘playing’ more than I do with a DSLR.
Along with having the camera with me all the time I’m trying things that I would never have tried with a DLSR such as shooting from unusual angles and trying out different types of processing.
I’d never heard of the Lomo LC-A camera before I started using the Lomo preset in PhotoToaster. Now I’m half seriously thinking about getting one. Until then I’ll keep trying out the Lomo preset on all of my color images.
… and a few things that I don’t
1. Small file size and consequently small prints.
Some of the iPhone photos I’ve taken in the last year I love but I also know that I will struggle to make big prints from them.
2. Apps that dump data and make small files even smaller.
Charles Cramer is a master photographer and printer. I think that his work is just stunning and so I was pleased to come across videos of Charlie describing his exhibition at the Center for Photographic Art: earth, water, light and also describing the dye transfer printing process. The videos are shared below.