Long gone are the days when being able to see what you photographed clearly was only possible by running film through chemicals, and then projecting or printing the results. Now we can review images as we make them on the back of the camera and again instantly once we get them onto a computer. They can be manipulated to the nth degree or even turned into part of a piece of digital art. However, there are still plenty of good reasons to print your photographs.
Let’s be honest: with our Fujifilm cameras, we’re pretty spoiled! Exposing well, framing, focusing accurately and getting good colour has never been easier. But there is so much more to photography than these technical aspects, and I believe that printing your work can definitely help you to work on the less technical aspects of your photography. Let’s take a look at those.
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Not so long ago, I picked up a second-hand slide-projector from a garage sale and pulled out the boxes of mounted slide film my father had shot all those years ago. We got the family together and clicked through the images, laughing at all the moments we remembered and enjoying the stories we did not. This, I would say, is a great reason to print your photographs: shared experience.
Huddling around a computer monitor is one thing but it does not have the feeling of flicking through printed materials with others. This could be family photos, large prints for critique or a portfolio. These are all better viewed as finished products on paper when it comes to sharing an experience.
Another great thing about prints is that they can be given as gifts. Whether it is a person you photograph while traveling, a friend who gave up their time to model for you, or a beautiful landscape you took at the beach near your mother’s house, all of these make great gifts for people and can make photography special for all those involved.
There is a theory in psychology called the ‘four stages of competence’. This relates to the process of learning a particular task and eventually mastering it. The second stage of this is essentially recognising that you have holes in your knowledge and can see the advantage of fixing them. One of the major benefits of printing your work and printing it large is being able to do this.
The first faults you might see could be in colour, retouching or balance. Maybe the colours you chose look cool on Instagram, but utterly awful when printed large and viewed with other images together. Then when you look a little deeper, you see your retouching mistakes. That clone job wasn’t as flawless as it first seemed. Then you also notice that, at this size, the image feels unbalanced. All of this comes from being able to see the image in another medium.
Monitors are great, especially high-end ones. However, they make it very easy for us to retouch, export, upload, and forget about our images. With a monitor, we can flick through many images very quickly. However, by printing our work, we can slow down and appreciate the images we create. By hanging them on the wall and observing them for a few days or weeks, we can learn a lot about our work. We can spot faults, trends, or even learn to love a particular image more.
Cost is also a factor in printing. Digital photography has become almost free after a certain initial outlay but printing costs money. With that cost comes a responsibility towards your images. You can make 20 edits of the same image and upload to the internet for feedback, but doing the same with prints could end up costing a lot of money. So, printing forces you to be more deliberate and more careful with your post-processing.
One final healthy change you may come across is that you’ll stop focusing so much on the technical aspects of photography. Absolute sharpness and megapixels will fade away and you’ll be more interested in the emotion of viewing a finished photograph. This alone is a good enough reason to print! You have a wonderful Fujifilm camera that feels great to shoot and, by printing, you’ll find a great way to appreciate those images. The photo below was shot on the Fujifilm X-T10. Do you think anyone ever asked about sharpness or resolution?
Before I began printing my work, I used to spend a lot of time working on interesting colours and trying to make every image stand out in its own unique way. One thing that came from beginning to print for me was the desire to create sets of images. These images would have a similar tone or style, and fit together. For me, it wasn’t until I started seeing them printed and displayed together that it really sunk in how important this was.
The other benefit of printing for me was that I started to retouch less. I found that subtle adjustments looked better in prints. My shooting became tighter, my post-processing time was significantly reduced, and I was overall happier with my images.
Printing can help you share your images with others, get feedback, reflect on your progress, and even develop yourself further as an artist. Aside from cost, there is really no reason not to print work that you are proud of.
For those of you who print regularly, why do you do it? What benefits have you seen in your work from printing it?
For those of you who do not print, have you dabbled in it? Why do you know print now?
If you’re interested in getting started printing at home, I have a video on how and why I do it using my Epson 3880. You can check it out below.