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.
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.
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