5 Reasons to Print Your Photography

5 Reasons to Print Your Photography

In the digital age, we spend a lot of time in front of screens. Many of us retouch our own work, distribute it digitally, and even only have a digital portfolio. Some sell prints of client work, or fine art prints. And, some get published in magazines. In a past article on reinvigorating your love for the craft, I touched briefly on printing your work, and would like to expand on that today.

When I purchased my Epson 3880 wide-format printer (now replaced by the Epson P800), it raised a lot of eyebrows in the community around me. People were uncertain of the need for such a printer, or the need to even print at all. However, I have found printing, both digital and analog, to be one of my favorite parts of the craft of photography. I hope that I can convince some of you who may not yet print to dip your feet in the water and splash around a little. Here's why I print.

A Print is Tangible

A print is tangible. You can hold it. You can appreciate it. You can spend time with it. Hanging it on the wall allows you to stop as you pass it in the morning, or study it as you enjoy a cup of tea. Spending this time with your images is a great way to not only learn to love the finished product, but to see areas you can improve in.

A Print can be Personal

A print of your work for yourself is a very personal thing. It is not made for Facebook likes, or the satisfaction of the masses. It is for you. This is a powerful thing. When you print an image that you are proud of, hold it in your hands, and appreciate it simply for what it is, you are able to get a clearer sense of who you are and what your image is about.

A Print is Final

Once you hit the print button, you're committed. Sure, there are small touch-ups that can be made to a physical print, but not like being in Photoshop. I find that this makes me examine my images more carefully during the retouching stage. If I know I'm committed to making a final print, I tend to look more carefully. This has given me great insight into how I can improve my compositions and my retouching.

A Print can be Social

Prints can be a great way to share your work. For my recent series on craftsmen in Korea, I printed my work in order to get feedback from trusted friends. This meant that we could sit in the beautiful light of a cafe window, hold the work, and study it closely. There was no barrier between us and the image, no distractions. The conversation stayed on the work, and the focus was on the large prints – the way they were intended to be viewed.

A Large Print is Impressive

Although a print is not necessarily large, printing does enable you to make prints that are larger than a monitor, or other device. This is impressive, and there is great satisfaction in seeing your work large enough to fill your field of view. It is with these large prints that you truly get to appreciate the tonal qualities of your image, and the fine details that you have captured.

I certainly print for clients from time to time. However by and large, my prints are personal. We have a rotating gallery in our home that gets updated or changed depending on what we feel like looking at. Have you printed your work? Why do you print? What do you print? If you haven't printed, would you like to try? What is holding you back? Or, what makes you not want to print?

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Mike Moses's picture

Great Article Dylan. I print my shots as well. Albeit only on 8x10 or less, but just the same I still print. Using different media like the metallic papers, or canvas lets me appreciate the colours and shades that have been captured. I'm building my home studio, and I can't wait for the day when my work is all over the walls. A rotating gallery is what I plan, and I have found myself staring at a particular print some days for hours appreciating the beauty in mother nature, with out the backlit picture on a computer screen.

Dylan Goldby's picture

Yes! We have the rotating gallery going, and it's great! Nothing better to get you in the mood for shooting than seeing prints all over the walls.

Prefers Film's picture

I have a portfolio of 16x20 prints. And I've got that Canon Pro-100 or something like that, still boxed, collecting dust. But I do prefer prints. We've also got those little Canon Selphy printers, so my girls can print from their phones or EOS M cameras any time.

Dylan Goldby's picture

16x20 is a great size. Not so big to be a pain, and big enough to really appreciate.

Prefers Film's picture

It's also the biggest size B&W I could print myself. And I couldn't fit anything bigger in either portfolio case.

But you are correct - 8x10 hardly cuts it these days. 11x14 is nice, but it doesn't make the statement a 16x20 does. If I want to impress someone, my print has to be at least as big as the computer screen they are used to looking at.

ronnie yeoh's picture

I shoot fashion catalogs for clothing manufacturers and magazine ads. These are always models donning the clothes, you know, Fashion Catalogues like those from Dolce & Gabana, Gadia, etc. When I show my work to all clients on iPad or laptop, the comments were good and lots of price discussions but I didn't always get the job. Then I attended a webinar that suggests printing my fashion shoot portfolio on 11' X 14" glossy prints. The webinar was by automotive shooter Michael Lee from MIGS. He's also a personal friend in Hong Kong. Following his advice, I got my stuff printed and used it on my next client call. Right after they turned to the 3rd page, the client just went, "wow!" then called her assistants to come see. They didn't need to look at all the other photos but just said that I got the job. It happened to all the other clients after that. My chances of getting shooting jobs increased 10 fold! It felt like my luck had changed but clients were shown the same photos I've always had! Large printed photos seem to be very effective and convincing. I used iPad just because it's small and convenient, but not any more. I compared the iPad photos to the glossy prints and I thought the iPad had richer colors and looked better, but my clients thought different.

Dylan Goldby's picture

It's almost sad that simply having a printed portfolio would get you work, isn't it? Do you print yourself, or use a third party to make the portfolios for you?

gabe s's picture

I took a photo of my wifes classic car the other day and had it printed as a 20*30. I got home and took one look at it and it was obvious as to why people like prints.

Kevin Thornsberry's picture

I really agree with you on this one. I'm a total amateur photographer but a few years ago I decided to print my best shots and hang them on my wall. I got my prints from a pretty good printer (not top of the line, but pretty good). I got so much enjoyment from passing through the room where I hang those pictures!

I finally decided I wanted to take it to the next step. I wanted to make my own prints, tweak them, reprint them and really drive for an end result that I owned. I bought the Epson 3880 Stylus Pro--a LOT of money for a hobby when I could order prints over the internet.

I can't express how much higher my satisfaction is over prints that I took from cradle to grave. I planned a shot, I showed up, I took the shot, I optimized the image, I printed the image, I decided what could be better and reprinted. There is something about holding the print in your hand. My walls now contain about as many framed pictures as makes sense. I still make prints for myself. I print them and store them in archival boxes.

When I have someone over who I think will care, I get out the prints and share those.

Buying a really good larger format printer was a big investment (in the same range as a prosumer SLR or lens) but I find that it is brining me as much satisfaction as the camera and lens its price compares to.

There are lots of nice pictures on the internet and it's a great way to put your work in front of a lot of people. But, committing your print to paper seems to take (the good ones anyway) to a completely different level. I have even found that I like to print som e4x6" prints on my 17" format printer. I keep a box of 4x6 glossy photo paper (not even the good stuff) on hand. If I take a picture I like with my phone or want to share some vacation snaps, sometimes I'll just print my own 4x6's with a narrow white border. They're much better (and more consistent) than what I can get from Walgreens

Dylan Goldby's picture

The Epson is a great machine. I love the prints I get from it, as well. You're right about completing the circle with the prints. There's something final about it, right?

Ben Perrin's picture

Also everyone views a print in the same light if it is on your wall. It isn't subject to difference in monitor brightness or colour. I think printing a piece almost transforms it from being just a photo to art.

Dylan Goldby's picture

No angle of view or calibration issues, for sure!

Chris Adval's picture

What makes me not print... $$$$. If I had the cash I'd print my best work for just my home but I have to focus the little I have into investing into samples to show to clients to buy prints.

Dylan Goldby's picture

I used to feel this way as well, but the drive to print work is there now. It's not as expensive as it seems after the initial investment. Even that wasn't too big for me. If you can find someone who still has an Epson 3880, they're selling at an extremely discounted price as they've been replaced by the P800. Once you've got the printer, 12x18 prints will run you between $1~2 with lower grade papers.

Chris Adval's picture

Printing production itself I think I'll leave it to outsources. Cost, time, and overall energy invested into that phase is way too much for me with what I have on my plate already I want and need to focus on like video :)

Mihir Shah's picture

Would love to except for the costs involved. Good quality printers are expensive, inks even more so. Especially with a article i saw few months ago either on this website or on petapixel which showed that the most printers don't even use the inks completely and ask you to replace them before they are completely exhausted. For me thats similar to VW diesel fiasco.

I would love to print at home, but am afraid it will burn my pocket and I won't get the best value of that money spent.

Dylan Goldby's picture

It's a concern, but so far I've not found it to be that expensive. I wanted to print anyway, but using the labs was expensive. So far I've invested about $2000 (including paper, printer, and ink), and I have around 100 prints to show for it (so far). That is already cheaper than making those same prints at the lab.

Just trying to share my love of printing. Hoping I can convert anyone on the fence. ;)

Mark Ruddick's picture

I love making prints. I do a fair number of 24x36's for fighters I shoot. They love the big size.

I did a yearbook of all of my favourite fight pictures last year. It was a cool

Dylan Goldby's picture

I have a couple of 30x45 prints at home, and there's nothing quite like them. My biggest print to date has been 2.5x1.5 metres. That was a sight to be seen!

Christopher Walker's picture

Should I use a TIFF file when printing?

Dylan Goldby's picture

This really depends on who is doing the print, and what the printer is capable of accepting. If you're looking at simple prints from a minilab, JPEG files will be fine. However, with wide-gamut printers like the Epson and Canon fine-art printers, you want to keep your source file as high-quality as you possibly can. If you're doing the print yourself, this may mean printing directly from Lightroom or Photoshop. If you're going to the lab, this could mean making a 16bit ProPhoto RGB TIFF file. By keeping as much data in the file as you possibly can, you are ensuring that the printer driver and paper profile have the most data they can in order to translate a faithful image to print.

Louis Tinsley's picture

Any recommendations on where to get my prints from? I've checked out canvas on demand and they seem pretty good. but I'd like to get other opinions.

Luis M's picture

I really like White House Custom Colour (WHCC) great quality and customer service.

Luis M's picture

I make it a point to print at least 100 of my favorite family photos 4x6 or 5x7, then a select few to 8x10, then a few more of my personal work on 11x14 through 20x24. I just like the physical aspect of holding the images or hanging on a wall.
Edit: Forgot to add I do this every year.

James Canale's picture

Photographs were meant to printed. Also , computer screens aren't the best things for are brains. They can be too stimulating, lead to fatigue and a host of health problems. It's wonderful to be able to hit print and have something that is actually real that you can keep and protect for a lifetime... or toss in the trash. It's just feels right.