If your work never leaves the confines of a computer screen then you are seriously missing out. Some people might think printing is an indulgence, but seeing your photography in this way will actually benefit your career on many levels.
There really is something magical about getting your photography printed out. That tactile experience of holding a print still beats looking at a screen any day. I'm sure that's the reason why most people still prefer to thumb through an actual book rather than repetitively swipe the display of an e-reader.
Any form of printing is better than no printing at all, but the major benefits will come from printing large format. So without further ado, here are the benefits of seeing your photography in print:
1. Printing Your Images Big Will Help to Make You a Better Retoucher
Having the ability to look at what you have made in print form will actually help you to take a step back from what you have created and see what is in front of you with fresh eyes. It's really easy to get too close to something you have been working on for many hours or days. Print is a very different medium to a computer screen so even if you only try printing once, I think it will help you to see how your particular retouching techniques hold up. If you're the kind of retoucher who edits individual pixels then creating a giant print will make you realize that most of your efforts are not even noticeable. This should give you the confidence to spend significantly less time on each piece which can only be a good thing for productivity.
On the other hand, if you're the kind of retoucher who is less than accurate with the pen tool, or maybe you haven't quite mastered dodge and burn techniques then seeing your images on a large scale will highlight what you can and can't get away with. Some of those things might be fine viewed on social media, but those bad methods need nipping in the bud if you are serious about your photography.
2. Making Large Prints Will Help Quench Your Thirst for More Kit (Hopefully!)
We all love new kit but do we really need that new camera body? The great thing about printing a photo considerably larger than you normally would in the real world is that you will start to notice that the camera you already own can make exceptional prints. I recently made an A1 print from an old 20 MP image and it looked just as good as some of my more recent stuff. The point I'm trying to make is that without pushing the limits I would have never known what was possible with my existing kit. So before you take out the credit card push your existing equipment above and beyond what you think it is capable of. You might be surprised at the results and save yourself a few thousand dollars in the process.
3. Large Prints Will Make You A Better Photographer
Seeing your pictures at that size will help you to see all the details which you sometimes miss during the heat of a shoot. Obviously, you can zoom right in to see parts of an image on a screen, but having the ability to see the whole image at the same time will give you a better understanding of how the composition, subtle changes in light and also how the subjects featured are all working together. Once printing becomes part of your workflow it will actually motivate you to create more as you will be eager to see how the next piece will come out printed. This increase in output will accelerate the learning process and ultimately help you grow as a photographer. Printing also gives you a form of closure which helps you move onto the next project and frees up much-needed head space which is crucial for new ideas.
4. Clients Love to See It
As most people consume media on a smartphone these days it can be hard to get across to the viewer how much quality there physically is in your images. Taking a picture of yourself holding a large print really helps to get that point across. The fact you are holding your work helps to show the scale of it and more importantly, it conveys the message that you are proud of what you do as you quite literally stand by it. I find that it's a great conversation piece with potential clients as a lot of photographers these days no longer do it. As a result, it always goes down well on social media.
If you have read this far then hopefully you are considering the idea of creating prints. Printing doesn't have to break the bank either, even standard poster prints these days contain superior detail thanks to advancements in printing technology. The giant image I'm holding above cost no more than $30 and although it's no fine art print it still looks great. More importantly, it serves the purpose of allowing me to inspect my work in the flesh. I'm sure a quick Google will point you towards places where you can get prints done, but one top tip I wanted to share was that most colleges have these kinds of facilities on site. Don't worry if you're not a student as a lot of these places are usually open to the general public and as they are predominantly catering for the student population the prices are normally a lot lower.
I hope these points have helped to sell the concept of large format printing as a tool to improve as a photographer. I have personally found that I am actually saving a lot of time in Photoshop as I no longer feel the need to edit so much, a realization I don't think I would have come to without seeing my work in print. I have also been able to hold off buying a new camera body as I know the file sizes are more than big enough for what I currently need. It really is a win-win situation when you think about all the time and money I am saving as well as the benefits in personal development I am seeing, all thanks to the occasional print.