Photographers taking advantage of the latest quality printers and printing their work themselves have an advantage over those who aren’t. Here’s why…
Digital is easier than film
Before digital cameras came along, printing your photographs was the only way to see your work. Digital cameras allow you to constantly check your shots or and then make adjustments to your settings. You don’t really need to know what you’re doing, you just have to twiddle the dials and push buttons until the picture on the back of your camera looks ok.
When you had to print your work, the price of not knowing what you’re doing was costly in terms of time and money. Before the advent of digital most people couldn’t afford to be a bad photographer. Never printing your pictures gets around that cost, and in some ways fails to challenge your skills and your knowledge.
Screens enhance your images
Most people who take pictures don’t view their images on professional or calibrated monitors. Screens typically have profiles that will enhance colours, brightness and overall clarity. Resolution is also an issue. Zooming into your images and pixel peeping may give you an idea of sharpness and noise, but unless you have a projector and a large wall or an ultra-high resolution screen, you’ll rarely see an entire image in a large format that tests its resolution.
If your images are only ever displayed on social media the small compressed file size will often hide potential issues like camera shake, focus and detail.
On the other hand, printing your images on large fine paper exposes the quality of your images because they’re no longer low res, or backlit and enhanced through a screen’s picture profile. It’s hard to get a genuine idea of what your photos look like until you print them.
Shooting for print
Knowing my images are going to be printed encouraged me to aim for top quality more consistently and also to be more selective about what I’m shooting. In some ways this is an effect that carries over from film photography. Because there’s a cost tied to printing it’s important not to waste shots, it matters to me that what I’m capturing is actually worth printing. Shooting for print can give you a better sense of purpose and in my experience it’s made me take a more considered approach to each and every frame I’ve shot.
Hard drive burial ground
How many images do you have right now that are sitting on a hard drive waiting for you to go through and process? How many of those images will you leave there to gather digital dust while you head back out and take hundreds more photos that you’re not going to print?
Apart from the fact that it’s a waste, a bigger issue is that the media storing your digital files will degrade over time and will eventually be destroyed. There are a number of my favourite shoots from when I started shooting digital that seem to have vanished completely. I suspect they may have been lost to hard drive failure or perhaps they didn’t make it during a data migration, these things can happen. But the point is, the digital files were the only copies I had and even constantly copying them degrades them, so that’s not a long term solution either.
Expanding on the issue of putting all of your eggs in the digital basket, think of all the millions of people whose entire family photo albums and portfolios exist solely in places like Facebook and Instagram. The likelihood of those sites’ servers suffering a complete meltdown is minimal. But in the event that they did, a great way to avoid losing them forever is to print those special images on paper as well; even better if you use a quality printer like the Epson SureColor P600. A top spec printer can create archival-grade prints when using fine art media.
Not printing is lazy
Never printing your images allows you to be lazy. Everything that I’ve discussed in this post comes back to one central point. Digital with all of the benefits it brings, hides your weaknesses, hindering you from capturing images that look great in print as well as perfect on screen. I believe that creating hundreds and thousands of digital image files and cutting ourselves off from the physical results of our labour, is robbing us of something special. Handing someone a print or having someone refer to something you’ve printed large on a wall is so much more rewarding than a heart icon or thumbs up on social media.
It’s easy to take a photo but it often takes real skill to make a photo that shines when printed. Not printing your photos is depriving you of a challenge that will ultimately make you a better photographer.