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WhyIPrintPhotos - SLR Lounge-2 Insights & Thoughts

The 3 Reasons I Print Personal Work & Why You Should Consider It, Too

By Michael Henson on February 26th 2015

Photographers of the world, let’s face it! Printed photographs have entered a state of declining interest. The vast majority of my photographic viewing is done on my computer, tablet, or smartphone. Advertisement mediums previously monopolized by various types of printed photographs are quickly being set aside for the digital wave of the future. Billboards along the road are being digitized, magazines are switching to an online format, advertisements in restaurants, sidewalks, and bus stops around the world are changing to a digital, updated format. While I don’t necessarily believe that the printed photo will ever disappear (at least not in my lifetime), I see its value and purpose being swept aside to make room for its screen based counterpart, the digital file.

[REWIND: INTERNET FOUNDER SHARES CONCERN ABOUT DIGITAL DARK AGE | PRINT YOUR PHOTOS]

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There are a lot of benefits to the technological advancements we’re seeing. Easier storage, unbelievable retouching and editing potential, fantastic levels of resolution, convenience, portability, etc., and the impact that digitally sharing photos via online and social media is undeniable. Yet, despite these improvements and benefits, I still choose to print my favorites from my personal projects. I know that most often paid assignments still end up printed for clients, brides, portraits, etc. I’m not talking about printing as a result of a client request. I’m talking about printing for myself. If I’m the only that ever sees my prints, I’m okay with that! I don’t print everything, but when I feel the urge to see what something would look like in an 11×14 or 16×20, I don’t fight that feeling, I embrace it! Here are three of my primary motivations for printing my work and why I think you should consider printing yours as well.

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1. Checking Quality

I know, you don’t want to be printing things strictly to check quality all the time. You need to get your editing sorted on the computer and know what you are going to get out of the printer once you send it to the lab or print it. Sometimes, however, I like to have a favorite new image printed at a larger than usual size or with a new lab just to check things out. Is it still acceptably sharp at larger print sizes? Did my processing translate well to print? Do my colors look right? Does anything not look like right? Printing is the acid test of image quality, in my humble opinion. In this world of misleading screen resolution, it is nice to have an photo printed and it turn out exactly as expected.

2. To Share

I like to share my photos with friends and family. Whether I’m printing up smaller batches of photos from a recent trip or larger prints of some of my favorites, there is something very rewarding and special to giving a high quality, great looking print to someone and enjoying their enjoyment of the gift. Physical prints are fairly uncommon, especially good physical prints, so this gesture is something that most people really appreciate. If they don’t appreciate it, feel free to retaliate. Some options include tantrums, the cold stare + walk away, or snatching the photo from their hands with a snort of derision thrown in for good measure. Personally, I’m a non-confrontational guy so I just add them to my list and they can enjoy not receiving something from me in the future.

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3. It’s Tangible

I’ve hinted around at it earlier, but there is something incredibly rewarding about physically holding a print that you created or hanging a canvas made from one of your favorite photos. It’s not just a one time experience either. Each and every time I pull out my portfolio and flip through it or walk by the canvas wrap of my wife and daughter, I smile. I’m reminded of why I enjoy photography in the first place. It’s not really about the opportunity to write for a great online magazine like SLR Lounge. It’s not about getting to meet new people, play with cool gear, or even make an enjoyable hobby a profitable venture. It’s about creating something by capturing a split second in time and then having the ability to share it with the world in a (now) unique format, however small the world you choose to share it with may be.

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How About You?

Those are my reasons, what are yours? Do you still print your work off or do you prefer to maintain a strictly digital library of images? I’m not convinced that there’s a “proper” answer to these questions, but I would encourage you, if you are new to the field of photography and have dealt mostly with digital devices for viewing your photos, take the time to check out a quality photo lab and have some of your favorites printed. You may find that it’s not for you and you get just as much satisfaction out of viewing your images on a screen. Or, you may find that it lights an intangible fire in you to create more, to create differently, or change your approach to your current process. Either way…

Don’t Forget…

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CREDITS : Photographs by Michael  have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

Michael Henson is a St. Louis based photographer obsessed with everything creative. His photography interests span genres from still life to sports. When he’s not running around with his face to the camera or behind a keyboard writing, you can typically find a guitar in his hands or catch him out enjoying life with his family and friends.

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31 Comments

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  1. Thomas Horton

    Since moving to digital, I can’t remember the last time I had something printed.

    Sure back in the film days I printed almost everything… back then it was about the only way you could see the picture. :)

    But with the advent of digital and the ease in storing, retrieving, and displaying the image on a computer, it makes printing less a requirement.

    Also I have a terrible time choosing which picture to print. I look at my photographs and ask myself

    Is this a good photograph? Yeah.. well good for me anyway.
    Good enough to pay to have it printed? Hmm probably not :)

    The very permanence of printing discourages me from printing. Which of my photographs do I really want on my wall for years? Nah, I am not one to spend a lot of time looking at my own photographs. I take em, process em, look at em and then archive em. :)

    Anyone else finding it harder in the digital age to choose which photograph to spend the money on to get printed? and then choosing none?

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  2. Graham Curran

    So many people just keep pictures on their smartphone or tablet, printing on a large format printer just adds WOW.

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  3. Vince Arredondo

    I think personal work is where we grow as photographers.

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  4. Richard Hammer

    Other than gear (yes, I suffer from GAS – Gear Acquisition Syndrome), I fantasize about making PRINTS. Lots and lots of prints. Most of my budget would probably go to making prints if I didn’t have other responsibilities to attend to first. There are few better feelings in photography than hanging an original print on the wall, or handing someone a physical book of your photographs.

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  5. Joram J

    Totally agree, seeing you own photo’s on a big print is just awesome. Makes me enjoy it even more.
    Also once a year i make a photo yearbook of my best/precious photo’s. Always nice to look into and show around.

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    • Michael Henson

      The yearly album is something I would like to start doing… What size do you typically do and what’s your favorite printer for albums? I’ve been happy with Artisan State.

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    • Joram J

      I live in the EU/NL, but i’m using Profotonet and print mostly on 20x30xm (classic/landscape).
      During the year i already create a collection in Lightroom and work from there on.

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  6. robert garfinkle

    I stated above that certain images print / frame well and there is a different feeling to them when printed – I stand by that, yet –

    I’d like to see a company like Wacom come out with a calibrated wall hangable monitor, thin, maybe 4k resolution which can display images, say a 4ft x 3ft or a 3ft x 2ft… it would also have the feature of changing aspect from portrait to landscape and back again via a motorized mount – I would design it to warehouse a 1TB drive and have peer to peer or local network wireless connectivity providing a means to either push images to fill the onboard HDD or have the capability to wirelessly browse a device such as a an iPad, phone, pc, mac etc…

    There are some images which just look better when displayed on a monitor; in my opinion, lightning shots, astronomy images, or any other night time or in some cases under exposed images where backlighting it gives it enough pop…

    what’d be a great additional feature, is if you could push a set of images to the device along with a lightroom catalog which essentially holds the adjustments / settings / profiles and the monitor is smart enough to apply the adjustments to those images; essentially calibrated for display on that monitor.

    what’d be nice, if there were giant tablets which had the same specs as the monitor I describe above, to either act as a mobile portfolio or could in fact be used in a studio / gallery itself. it’d be better than showing your work on an iPad or PC / macbook etc..

    maybe call the device a smArt Gallery etc… sm stands for simply mobile

    thoughts –

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    • Michael Henson

      Sounds like you have an excellent idea for a product! I think there would be a lot of demand for both items you mentioned, the “digital print display” and the smART gallery!

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    • robert garfinkle

      Thank you Michael –

      The idea has been in my head for a few years. What makes sense is, if we can print with color accuracy, why not have a large format digital display which has color accuracy and / or has the ability to be calibrated, on top of which has the technology (software and hardware) to really play well with artists (includes photographers :) ); enabling them to “show” in a gallery setting and on the go…

      forget iPad, Kindle HDx, Samsung or typical digital picture frames for that matter – to be nice, they just don’t cut it, however I finally came to accept I should not expect that behavior from any of those units… they were not meant to be professional… period.

      But no one has it, to my knowledge – and I think you are right, it’d be a big enough market across the board.

      Tis interesting, as I bash Apple, Samsung, Google, Kindle, I up and purchased a Dell XPS 18 – which only comes close, as it is an 18 inch diagonal tablet, thin, windows OS, has enough space in it to carry just about any photographic collection, is a regular computer more or less w / wireless keyboard and mouse if I do not want to use touch screen, and has an optional stand (similar to a docking station), perfect in every aspect except, is not color accurate –

      although I am not a professional – I’d love the option to be able to carry around a color accurate portfolio (to show my bad images) and have the option to send my images to the wall into a color accurate frame…

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    • Barry Cunningham

      How about wireless electronic wall paper?
      Wouldn’t need any motorized mount then.

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    • Barry Cunningham

      I also enjoy printing in ways that do not reproduce well on a screen, e.g., alternative processes, prints on multiple layers of transparency film.

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    • Michael Henson

      Robert, your new tablet sounds pretty cool! Too bad there’s not a way to ensure its color accuracy. I would imagine that doing something like that would be pretty groundbreaking. Have you tried calibrating it with a color calibrator made to work on tablets?

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    • robert garfinkle

      I have not actually – I will look…

      It’s a great tablet, yet it’s a Dell, and not too sturdy – I’ve had problems with it.. it’s secondary power receptacle collapse 360 days in, dell replaced, yet it collapsed again – unable to charge the battery, and the warranty ran out, they don’t, as a rule, warranty the replacement parts, yet in a month long discussion / plead – they finally gave in… and re-replaced (that’s a new word right?) the part again – yeah, it was the motherboard…

      But, I honestly feel that the collapse was due to a new phone I own, which implements a fast charge circuit, which I think overloaded the circuit, causing it’s collapse – drew too much power / current across… and I end up with a lame tablet that can’t go anywhere… btw – to be clear, I did not realize this until after the 2nd repair… So, it’s not really Dell’s fault – if that was the problem…

      The phone: Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – btw – excellent phone, does not use up too much power, seriously 3 times to 4 times longer lasting than the Note 3, and charges completely (not connected to the PC) within 1.5 hours or so, from almost empty – just the bomb… great phone…

      Oh yeah, back to the topic –

      Yup, the tablet is a good one, I will look into calibration – If I could do that…

      Notably, the I7 version of this tablet, with 8GB ram is about $1150.00 without the stand. I replaced the 500GB regular HDD with a 480GB intel SSD (fast, fast, fast, fast…) and I replaced the 24GB cache drive with a 240GB intel SSD (also fast etc…) for a total of 720GB space – not bad Sir Galahad…

      If it can be calibrated, I will report back, and would highly recommend it not only as a portfolio type unit, but a great great portable all around…

      and so it goes…

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  7. Dave Haynie

    I agree… where practical. The one thing I haven’t quite figured out yet: how to print composites/panoramas. Ok, some I do are composited in two dimensions and might fit a typical print aspect ratio with some cropping. But I have some weird dimensions, like 10,021 x 4241, 14,226 x 3740, etc. I have tried roll paper with some success, but then there’s the issue of displaying it, etc. Just wondering of other folks are compositing and printing.

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    • Barry Cunningham

      I’ve been doing panos on roll paper on my Epson R3000 up to about 13″x44″, up to 80+ megapixels. Mounting them will get costly. Frames and glazing at that size are obviously expensive. Even going for cheap with just mats and mounting to foam core without a frame, cutting everything yourself will add up. Not to mention paper and ink.
      Still, I’d rather print it myself because of the better control it gives me; probably cheaper and less stressful in the long run.

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    • Michael Henson

      I’ve not looked into this at all but I’d imagine there are printing labs that you could contact and send your final file and have them print it for you? Or have you looked into this and found that it’s not feasible?

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    • Barry Cunningham

      Michael,
      Plenty of labs will print any size you want, e.g., Bay Photo and Mpix.
      Being a control freak, I just prefer to do it myself if I can so that I can control all the variables. If I need to make adjustments to the image for printing, I can go through several proofs in an hour or two, something I wouldn’t be able to do with a lab.

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    • Michael Henson

      Barry, that makes sense.

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  8. John Cavan

    I have always commented that the reason that I prefer photography over videography is that I can hang a photo on my wall. So, I do that. I used to buy art and other people’s photos, but now I print my own on my Pixma Pro 9000, frame them, and then hang them on my walls or give as gifts. When I want bigger than 13×19, I take it into a dedicated shop to have done.

    It’s always a great feeling to watch someone stop and take a longer look at something you have created and placed on your wall.

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    • Michael Henson

      That’s a great point! Gotta love having something tangible to show for your efforts!

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  9. Ralph Hightower

    In 2012, I shot a bunch of film, over 60 rolls of B&W film. To save on expenses, I decided to just develop and have the film scanned to CD. For C-41 film developed locally, the develop and scan process cost about $10 per roll. For traditional B&W, I sent the film to a B&W only lab and that cost about $25-30 per roll.

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    • Michael Henson

      Therein lies the convenience technology provides… So do you still shoot a lot of film or have you transitioned to digital? Digital is definitely much more affordable due to not having to have everything printed. I think I’d constantly be broke if I had to pay to have all my images developed…I’m glad that I entered the “game” with digital. The learning curve and the expense of starting off on film probably would have frustrated me enough to have me quit. With digital, I was able to see my results immediately and make adjustments as I went. I think that made the learning process progress much quicker.

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  10. robert garfinkle

    there have been a few images of mine printed, yet some do not have the same impact as being displayed on the screen. for example, when an astroshot is displayed in a monitor, to me, it looks better that way vs. printed…

    Don’t get me wrong, there is something “more real” about a printed / framed image – 1. to me, it is no longer an image, it is a “picture” ( on a wall, on a desk, wallet… ), and 2. it’s more memorable, more sentimental…

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    • Michael Henson

      Robert, I’ve had the same experience with astrophotography. That’s not a genre I’ve gotten into yet but I had a photographer acquaintance give me an 8×10 of an image that looked phenomenal on the computer but lost some of it’s “pop” when printed.

      I think that’s another valid reason for printing, to verify that the image translates well from screen to print.

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    • Stephen Jennings

      I’ve had images printed where I thought the color/editing effects looked amazing on screen and then not so much on paper. But for the most part seeing your images printed, well, I don’t think there’s anything better than that. Especially if you go all out and get metal prints, which are my favorite.. absolutely stunning, every time I see a sale I get a few printed at 11×14 or larger.

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  11. Daniel Thullen

    Fantastic article Micheal. I’ve only taken my digital photography seriously for the last few years. (I shot 35mm film in the late 70’s and 80’s, then life got in the way for about 25 years.) Since I primarily shot freelance sports for the local paper everything has been digital. Recently I decided to enter a couple of my favorites in the county fair so I had them printed (8×10). Gradually I’ve included the larger size prints, as well. I too am planning to fill my home with pictures of family, friends, and my favorites.

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  12. Peter McWade

    The printed photograph brings the image to life. Its alive and you can touch it. Move it and just look at it anytime you wish. Hang it on the wall, mantle or with a magnet on the fridge.

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  13. Ben Perrin

    Great article Michael. I find that the sole reason for my photography at this stage is the goal I have of filling my house with my own prints. The second part of that goal is that I want to be proud of those prints. But what started it all was when the printing company I use did a march madness sale where the cost of printing a 20×30 inch print was about half price. The colours and tones weren’t 100% first time around due to lack of calibrating my monitor but there was something amazing about holding my own work in my hands. That work is still displayed where I work and there is always some sense of satisfaction that I get from looking at them.

    The other benefit that I really enjoy is that I get to see them a lot more often than I do when they are only online or on my hdd. Others that I know get to see them more often as well. I feel like I’m about to become obsessed with printing. It just makes the whole photographic process more satisfying.

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    • Michael Henson

      I agree, Ben. My first time printing one of my photos up larger than normal (8×10, 5×7, etc) was due to a huge sale on large prints. It’s an amazing feeling to hold something like that that you’ve created.

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