Why It’s Important to Do at Least Some of Your Own Printing

Making prints on my Epson 13 x 19 printer. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Making prints on my Epson 13 x 19 printer. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

I was printing this weekend, testing out some new paper sent to me by Red River Papers for evaluation. This was a lucky coincidence since I had several things I’ve wanted to see but hadn’t gotten around to putting into a ‘hard copy’ format. This got me thinking about why I believe it’s essential that each of us do at least some of our own printing.

I know printing is a pain in the butt. You have to have the paper, enough ink…doesn’t it always seem like as soon as you’re ready to print, you discover that you’re low on one of your essential inks? This is an expensive aspect of photography due to all of the consumables involved.

But I think it’s really important for your development as a photographer to do some of your own printing. Why? For a couple of essential reasons.

Sometimes through the process of making test prints, I discover that some images work better in black and white. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

Sometimes through the process of making test prints, I discover that some images work better in black and white. (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

The Creative Process.

As in your creative process. Things happen when you start making prints. I don’t know how else to state it: images that you thought you were done with—edited, processed through Photoshop, waiting in a folder on your computer called ‘To Be Printed’ – change sometimes when you go to print them. You discover, once you’re holding the print, that you don’t quite like the crop. It should have been tighter. Why didn’t you see that on the computer screen? Simply because the screen is not a print in your hand.  Or you decide that the image needs more contrast. (A contrast change is a very common issue.) It’s also a factor of the size of your print: as you print larger and larger, you may discover that some images need to be darker and contrastier. You won’t know this unless you’re printing things yourself.

Why didn’t you see that on the computer screen? Simply because the screen is not a print in your hand.

A new image from just last week, in 'hard copy' format for the first time. Always an exciting moment! (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

A new image from just last week, in 'hard copy' format for the first time. Always an exciting moment! (Copyright 2010 / Andrew Boyd)

The Creative Process II

I think this next issue is the crux of the matter for me. Much like a painter that is working through the creation of an image, watching the idea he or she started with change right before their eyes as they work with their materials, the photogapher making prints will work things out intuitively during the printing process. Yes, I know, a LOT of this happens when editing and toning in Photoshop. But not all of it. Some of these things are issues you’ll only discover once you start printing. That print will send you back to Photoshop to retone, to resharpen, to do any number of things that you discover you need to do once you’re holding a print.

It’s just part of becoming a photographic artist. Part of the journey. We used to do this in a darkroom Now we do it with Photoshop and a printer.

So even though it’s expensive and sometimes a pain, printing is important. It’s part of our process as photographers. And doing it occasionally will make you a better photographer.

Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Related Articles on the Web:

Choosing the Best Printer for Your Needs at Digital Photography School

Your Guide to Making Fine Art Prints at Epic Edits

Hands On With the Epson Stylus Photo R2880 Inkjet Printer at YourPhotoTips



Posted in: How To

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

12 Comments on "Why It’s Important to Do at Least Some of Your Own Printing"

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  1. David Joachim says:

    Andrew,
    Some of my digital buddies wonder why I bother making prints of some of my photos. I recall how expensive photo paper was becoming when I stopped doing my own darkroom work decades ago. I consider digital printing to be cost effective by comparison, and excellent insurance against the evanescent nature of electronic images that can be vaporized by a few keystrokes. I love a good electronic image, but I feel more at home with a tangible print. And experimenting with different printing media (something I’m currently doing) adds a new dimension to the discovery found in exploring new ways of photo presentation.
    David

  2. Daniele says:

    So true. I don’t print out my photos enough and when I do I learn so much from them. I definately need to print more out.

  3. Great comments, folks. I find that making a print is somehow a ‘commitment’ to that photo in a way that simply toning it up is not. It’s certainly more tangible and real, once you’ve got it in your hand…

  4. Andrew, I just started with printing of a few of my digital photos on my own photo printer and really only now I think I can follow your article. As I am just at the beginning of that journey, I feel there’s a lot to explore and I also see, as David Joachim, printing as a backup strategy.
    As well, it is indeed very, very nice to have the photos in my hands. 🙂
    I am a happy man!

    Bernd

  5. David says:

    Really, I think tangible prints affect you in a different way, than just seeing it in photoshop. You brought this out nicely.

    And I love black and whites, so you can print off different ones so much faster than processing your own in a darkroom, which I used to do.

  6. Yes, David, you’re right. Holding it in your hands is very different from simply gazing upon an LCD screen. Matting and framing presents another reality as well.

  7. Janelle Bailey says:

    I’m glad I have encountered Zimbio with your post. As a starter in backlinks, I learned a lot from this post. Great!

  8. Macy says:

    This is soooo cool!! once i put my hand on the cpier and it copied my hand i love the leaves and the flower creative !!!

    🙂

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