Thursday, May 31, 2012

To Shoot Perchance to Print

I was talking with a friend of mine the other day when the subject turned to making some great prints. "They don't print nowadays," she said to me. Of course, she was right. Many photographers just don't print anymore. As is typically the case, this got me thinking.

In the early days, back when wild film roamed the earth, a photograph didn't really exist unless you printed it. Heck, a photograph *was* a print-they were virtually an identical word, with nothing separating the two. An image had to exist in some kind of print form for you to even see it. Looking at a photo? Why, it had to be a print.

Then digital came along. Then the megapixel wars and the entire digital output revolution. Inkjet printers ruled the earth and you could make great prints from images you shot digitally. In these times, many of the best photographers (this is still probably the case) were making the best prints. Photography is (and possibly always will be) ruled by the print. Or, to put it another way, there is nothing quite like a hand-crafted, hand-made, one of a kind photographic print on paper. They just look all that good, really they do.

Along comes the iPhone. Yes, it's true now that camera phones are everywhere and there are many, very many, too many in fact, people who have gobs of images on their phones and don't really know what to do with them. The printing solutions haven't really kept up (all that much) with the iPhone-ery. I'm sorry to say but, as far as printers go, it's still difficult to make a connection and lots of printers still do not have an easy way to spit out iPhone pictures.

Combine that with the fact that many people don't want prints. Many people like having images on their phone, only on their phones, and avoiding the prints entirely. That's all well and good too, I mean, people are people and they do what they do, right?

The problem is that there is now an entirely new crop of photographers who have never printed. When I say never, I mean like not now, not ever, not even once. They have never seen their work in printed form. As a former print (only) photographer, that's kind of distressing to me. I can't imagine not holding a print of my work. I can't imagine not being able to see my work in that format, not being able to show my work to somebody else in the form of a print. There's still nothing quite like a great print and you really owe it to yourself and your work to make one. Really. Try it sometime.

Night images like this one you see here look entirely different when printed and can actually be quite difficult to learn how to print. It's also a little (maybe not so little actually) known secret that shooting for print usually means you wind up taking better shots. The best photographers (and, yes, this is still true, still the case even in the new iPhone age) sort of "line themselves up" so that they can get a great negative (or digital negative, as the case may be) from their exposures in camera and, in turn, produce the best negatives (again, or digital negatives) in order to make the best prints. It's an end-to-end process and that means you're actually missing a step or two if you don't bother to see it through all the way until the end. If you don't get that print as an end result, you're really missing more than just, well, than just the print.

Fortunately, there are a bunch of agencies and services now that can help you. If you don't want to go the route I did (or even if you do) in terms of purchasing your own printer, there are things you can do, and options you can explore. You can sign-up for services that will print your work for you. These agencies can provide a fantastic service for you. They handle color management and allow you to get the most out of your printing experience, without, well without shelling out the big bucks of an investment in full printing capabilities. No need for rooms of servers or even racks of giant inkjet printers. No fighting with the Gods of Epson, no more sacrificing small woodland creatures to TWAIN drivers. No, all of that is gone. Now you can just upload and get it in the mail a few days later. All of that and they make great prints, really they do.

If it helps, think of it as a giant iPhone made out of paper. You know, one that you can hold in your hands and showoff to all of your friends. One that you can even frame and hang on the wall, if you are so-inclined.

So, if you are one of those photographers who has never printed, not once, not anything of your own, I'd have to ask, "what are you waiting for?" Go on, get out there and do it already!

Until next time...

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