5 reasons why you should print your images

Last time I looked, I had 44,593 images stored on hard drives.

Forty-four thousand, five hundred and ninety-three images.

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‘Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst’ – Henri Cartier-Bresson

And that’s just the photos I’ve taken with a digital camera.

Last year InfoTrends estimated that 1.2 trillion images would be created by the end of 2017, an increase of 100 billion on 2016.

That’s an awful lot of awful photos.

Maths has never been one of my strengths, but let’s say I spent a 30 seconds looking at each of my 44,493 images and nothing else. It would still take over a fortnight to get through them all.

I reckon at least 99% of them are awful. On second thoughts, maybe 99.99%.

So why am I keeping all those photos?

And what am I doing with the 0.01% that are actually worth keeping?

What good are they trapped on a hard drive?

Here’s a few reasons why printing is the best way to release those images.

It’s a way of collecting and organising your images.

Going back through your images and picking out a selection to print is a great way of seeing images together. It could be images from a single day, or from a particular location, (say a holiday, or a favourite place) it doesn’t matter really. By organising them, you start to see the story-telling potential of your images. The order you put them in, how they complement or contrast with each other affects the nature of the story you’re telling. You may also want to reject some of them as superfluous or repetitive. But actually handling them as physical objects as opposed to slides on a screen makes that process more tangible.

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It’s an opportunity for reflection

It’s very easy to accumulate hundreds of thousands of images without actually reflecting on your progress. Or lack of it. By printing a selection of images it becomes easier to do this and it can become an opportunity to make a decision about continuing with a topic or bringing it to a close.

A way of drawing a line under a project

Printing is the final part of the photography process, so collecting images together under a common theme can encourage you to move on to something else.

Proofing prints from an urban project. Note the difference between the top 2 versions of the same image. How something looks on screen is v different to how it looks in print.

It’s physical not just pixels

Printing creates a physical object – something tangible. You can hold it in your hands and say “I made this!”

It requires no electricity or wifi connection to view it.

No operating system update or software upgrade will render it obsolete.

Printed on the right paper, it will last for decades.

It’s a gift to yourself

You set the alarm, climbed that hill, set up that studio, carried that equipment, saved up for the lens that would do your vision justice. What have you got to show for it? Trillions of zeroes and ones? Or a physical record of something you created? I know what I’d prefer.

Completed prints. I proofed these at home then sent them to my local photo lab, Digitalab in Newcastle for final printing.

It’s the logical conclusion to your photography

Think about all the effort and time you’ve invested in your photography. The new skills you’ve learned. The bleary hours trying to work out how in the heck to use layers in Photoshop. For what? For an anonymous file on your hard drive? A couple of megabytes of zeroes and ones? A few likes on the social media channel of your choice?

You have created something. Now make it real.

How do I print?

If you want to do your own printing, there are many kinds of inkjet photo paper available and part of the fun (or challenge) of printing is working out what type of paper suits your style of photography.

Proofing your work to get the results you want is also part of that challenge, because it’s unlikely clicking ‘print’ will give you the results you want. It’s highly likely your prints will appear too dark when you print them.

This is because of the way our eyes perceive images on a screen compared to images on paper.

Screens emit light, whereas printed ink absorbs it, so when printing an image, you have to compensate for this difference when you prepare an image for printing.

The type of paper you use can also affect the end result. I tend to use matte or lustre finishes as these work best for landscape and portraits.

Companies like Fotospeed offer paper samplers which are a good way to work out what type of paper you prefer.

 I printed this at home on my ancient Epson inkjet printer using Fotospeed’s Square Platinum Etching paper.

Alternatively you could use a professional printing lab who should be able to advise you as to what would work best for your images. My local lab is Digitalab in Newcastle.

There’s a book in all of us, even if we don’t like writing.

Online publishers such as Blurb can provide you with the tools to edit, format and publish your work in book form in a range of different formats – from square formats for your phone shots to lay-flat portfolios.

Alternatively, you could make your own book. Buy a sketch book and cut & paste (literally for a change) your prints into it, or buy craft paper and teach yourself simple binding techniques to create something unique to you.

A book of your own work is quite something. Much easier to store than dusty wallets of prints that you’ll get round to putting in an album ‘when you have time’.

Yeah, right…

You know what to do… 😉


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