Printing your images is a great way to share your digital photography and add a special element to your workflow
In an increasingly digital age, many photographers exclusively share their work online. Whether it’s a personal website, a photo sharing site or Instagram, for many photographers, the only way their work is displayed is on a computer monitor or a smartphone.
A powerful medium
There’s nothing wrong with sharing work online, of course, but I believe there’s an important part of the photographic process that is lost when one does not print their work. Further, a photograph viewed on Instagram does not carry the same weight as the same photo viewed as a well-crafted print. Seeing your work come to life in a matted and framed presentation is more powerful.
That is not to say that digital photography solely consumed digitally is without merit. It’s incredibly easy and affordable (often free) to share images online. There is also value to the instantaneous nature of the internet. Whether you’re looking for feedback on your work or are building your business online, being able to quickly publish many images is great.
These same advantages are not as readily felt when considering printing your images, especially at home. It takes time, for one thing, but a larger deterrent for many is the cost of printing photos. Paper and ink are not cheap, especially when making large prints on quality paper. A wide-format photo printer is also quite an expense. You can, of course, use a local printer or an online photo lab to print your work, but you lose a level of control over the process and the service can be expensive.
With most photographers working exclusively in the digital realm, you lose the hands-on element of photography, which was critical when film dominated the industry. By incorporating printing into your digital photography workflow, you reintroduce a very hands-on element to your digital photography. You select your paper, load your printer and after a few minutes, you’ve transformed your digital file into a photo you can hold in your hands.
Control how your work is viewed
Another excellent reason to print your work for display is that you have complete control over how your work is viewed. When you send a digital file out into the world to be viewed, people will see it under different conditions, with disparate monitor settings and at varied sizes. When making a print, you get to control the size of the print and how it is seen by others, whether it is framed or shown only in certain light.
Further, you get to pick the type of paper you use, which can have a dramatic impact on how a photograph looks. Glossy paper may be better suited for vibrant, high-contrast images, whereas a matte paper or even a textured paper may well work in other situations and deliver a very different tone and feel.
As mentioned earlier, cost is a factor when considering printing your work. There’s a real monetary cost up front and there’s a time cost associated with the printing process. Creating a consistent workflow is the best way to limit costs. By utilizing color management and understanding your printer, you can ensure that you waste very few sheets of paper and minimal ink. With respect to the largest cost, the cost of a printer, identifying your needs and selecting the right printer ensures the best bang for your buck. It’s all too easy to buy a printer that is too big for your typical needs, so be realistic with your printing plans.
At the end of the day, I believe that the cost is well worth it. I’ve been printing my own work at home for nearly as long as I’ve been a photographer. Being able to control the creation of a photograph from capture all the way through to the final product is fun and satisfying. I’ve gotten to experiment with many different paper types and ways of displaying my work, which has helped keep photography exciting.
As far as I’m concerned, there is no electronic substitute available for a high-quality photo print. They make excellent gifts, they offer customers a beautiful product and they keep digital photography rooted in the realm of the tangible.