Print Your Work.

Seriously, it’s an important step for the photographer to go that extra step and these days with computers so prevalant photos are being left to view on a screen. And I know, I do it often also, but I’m making a point in 2015 to print more, either digitally on an inkjet or traditionally in the darkroom. But it makes such a difference to be able to hold your prints and look at them. I love looking at a well made darkroom print, to see the texture and tone that comes out of them, and appreciate the time the photographer took to produce this. But that’s just me, but why should you?

Tub For One
One of my early prints, I should go back and revisit these and print the series I shot here

There’s a reason that when Ansel Adams wrote and released his three books on photography they were in order: The Camera, The Negative, and The Print. Printing is really the final step in the photography cycle, to have that physical image in your hands to see it as you want it to be seen. And as I mentioned before, I love seeing prints, inkjet or optical. It helps bring that final vision to life. And it’s a good way to edit your work, that is, to bring your collection down to a handful of good shots that you’re super proud of! Plus with printing it offers so many more ways to be creative about your work. From adjusting everything in Photoshop and then printing it on an inkjet or sending it off to a lab. To making crazy modifications in the darkroom through dodging/burning/toning then even more with alternative processes like VanDyke Brown, Platinum/Palladium, and Lith Printing.

NEOH APUG Meet - May 2013
My favourite print I made from my first trip into the Cuyahoga Valley National Park

But you may say, it’s so much easier to just leave them on a screen and look at them using my smart phone or tablet. And sure that’s great when you’ve gone on vacation and come back with hundreds (or thousands) of images and just need to dump them online, I do that. But what I’d love to see is maybe 20-30 images printed of your favourite photos from the trip, nicely printing in an album or mounted. My friend Melody does that a lot. When she was in university she would often show me her print wall, and be very happy when her latest prints came in. And now that she works, she has some of her work displayed in her office! I do the same thing, and keep a handful of darkroom prints hanging by my desk at work. Often switching them out with the latest out of the darkroom. In fact I always make a couple extra for that very purpose.

City Methodist Church - Gary, IN
Another favourite of mine, City Methodist Church in Gary, Indiana, a different version was given away as part of the Photostock 2014 print exchange

Another good thing about making prints is that they make fantastic gifts! Need a quick house warming gift, or a birthday present, give art, and prints that you’ve produced! At the Photostock event that I love to attend there’s always a print exchange, put in a print, and you get a print! Or even through smaller print exchanges between photographers have yeilded some great images in my growing collection which when I have a place of my own I can’t wait to make a gallery wall!

Collision Bend - The Cafe
From my latest series of prints titled “Collision Bend” from the Cleveland Flats and Industrial Valley.

Now if you’re printing on an inkjet you can skip this part, this is more for those working in the darkroom, but good practice for digital printers/shooters as well. If you are planning on making a print series, it’s important to maintain some level of constancy right from the beginning. Shoot with purpose of printing, make sure you’re exposures are nailed, make sure you’re using the same camera, film stock, and developing methods. Why, because once you get in the darkroom you can have your baseline set with the first print, then maintain it all the way through. Therefore you only really have to worry about dodging and burning or smaller adjustments for individual prints. Also set yourself a realistic goal. I usually go for 50% for my film print collections, so if I shot a total of 24 images, I’ll only print between 10-12 images, that’s a good day’s worth of work in front of me. And print multiples, usually I do 2-3 copies of each image so I have spares. And finally take notes, detailed notes of everything you do (exposure, location of the neg, toning, dodging/burning), so that if someone wants a copy, you can just set it up right away and know exactly what to do.

Tribune Details
A print of some details on the Tribune Tower in Chicago

Hopefully this has inspired you to print! And if you know me personally, I can’t wait to see some of your work!

6 Comments

  1. Another reason to do prints: You can learn so much more about your photos when you can look at them at 300 DPI (without having to zoom in on the screen and pan around). You won’t realize how much detail you were missing out on on a 72 DPI monitor until you actually see them printed, and often you’ll discover things about your photography that you can improve. For a long time I used to shoot everything on manual focus and not really take the time to focus my shots very carefully. They looked totally fine on the screen, and I went years without realizing I had a problem. It wasn’t until I started printing them that I realized how much of my work was just slightly out of focus.

    1. Author

      A Solid Point! I had an example of that with a shot I had gotten in NYC, on the screen it looked great, but when I pulled it out of the tray after printing it, the focus was completely off and the subject was out (ever so slightly) of focus.

  2. Right there with you, Alex. I have just gotten my darkroom back up and running. The spotty amount of printing I have done heretofore was, well, I must be my own worst critic here. It was horrible. It was flat, muddled, not toned, probably not washed properly which would be a blessing. In ten years there may be no proof!

    I know how to make fine prints. It is merely time to do it. It is time to work the contrast until I get it right. The toner I am now using gets the density down there and really makes the prints pop. And now I am printing with purpose. I have a process where I really like the results. And I am going to stick with it. Same film, same chems, same times, same processing. Not only that but I have set a very moderate goal of 20 fine prints this year. It will probably be more. But I have never been focused (pun only partially intended) on an end goal in my photography. And with the myriad of negs I have it should be no problem to put together a body of work that actually fits together. No longer a hodge-podge of images that do not go together due to exposure, format, subject matter. I am aiming to remove visual noise from my work so that when I look through a series of final prints they are just that, a flowing series of photographs that are pleasing to the eye and are easy to follow.

    Love the article and the podcast.

    -CW

    1. Author

      Thank you! Yes, it’s time for me as well, but in the end it’s all about making a point to force yourself to print. And of course the satisfaction of having those prints done. And realizing how much fun it is! best of luck in your printing endeavors!

  3. I totally agree with you! I also love to print some of my photos, both digital and “analog” ones. It’s interesting the fact that in the other comments the fellow photographers say they realized there were flaws in their photos that were not noticeable on screen, but they could find the problems after printing them. Usually the opposite happens to me with B&W photos taken with film: the photo looks terrible when looking at it on my notebook’s screen, but looks amazing when printed!

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