Welcome back to the blog guys!
This is the second episode of Bring your images to life, an ongoing series where I talk about all kinds of topics related to the process of printing.
In the first episode, I talked about my intentions behind this series and also gave you a quick rundown on what gear I use and how my friends over at Canon Deutschland were kind enough to support me in the course of this project.
This time though, I want to talk about my personal thoughts on why I think every photographer should print his work and why this is a relevant topic in today’s world. Maybe even more so than ever before. As I have to say a lot about this, I decided to split this post into two parts, starting with Part 1 here.
So get yourself a nice cup of coffee or whatever you’re down with and let’s dive into this.
The Digital Age
Let’s start with a pretty important topic, which not only affects all of us but also was the main reason why I wanted to start writing about the process of printing in the first place: The Digital Age.
I know, this is a pretty common phrase but I’d like to specifically talk about the digitalisation of photography, especially how we tend to consume photographic content these days.
Personally, I grew up in a time where no smartphones or internet connections at home were existing. During my youth, it was pretty common to find new friends in school or when being out skating in the city. Information about the newest things usually passed from one person to another as we weren’t able to quickly check the web for news. Back then music was a big thing too and when one of our favourite artists released a new LP, people went to the store the same day and bought a copy they listened to for weeks. Neither Spotify nor YouTube, streaming of any kind of content didn’t exist. The whole process of gathering information and experiencing art related things, like for example music or visual content, happened offline.
You might be much younger than me, asking yourself what the hell I’m talking about. But chances are pretty good that you might be my age or even older and know exactly how different these times have been compared to nowadays. And to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. The only reason I mention it is because how different content of any type is valued these days compared to the past.
Think about it for a second: You as a photographer invest a lot of time in creating your art. You spend uncountable hours to bring your vision to life, travelling to far off locations, while constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. All of this is followed by a lot of other steps like post-processing, composing meaningful sets of pieces and searching for ways to be seen and heard by an audience. Not even talking about all the years it took to even get to a level on where you feel confident enough to call yourself “Artist”. I’m pretty sure at least some of this might sound very familiar to you.
And here’s the thing: While the past made it harder to build an audience and to reach out to other like-minded artists around the world, creating meaningful content ultimately transformed into something physical, as almost no digital distribution channels were existing. So people went out to get a physical copy of your image or they ordered your artwork on canvas to hang it up in their homes and admire it for many years. In comparison, all it takes today is one click to get from one of your photos to one of the other countless images being available online. Especially visual content seems to be marked with a pretty short expiration date these days, getting outdated immediately with a single swipe up.
To make it even worse, we as creators tend to treat our hard-earned content in the exact same way. We spent a lot of money on professional gear, which these days gets more and more affordable to the general public of end consumers. Some of these cameras and lenses offer resolutions of around 50 Megapixels or more, delivering high-quality images which could easily be used by campaigns on huge billboards. We put in all the hours and days in perfecting those unique images to then just upload them to the web and immediately go on to the next ones. Part of it might be the pressure that we have to constantly create the next big thing but apart from that, it’s just so easy and comfortable, isn’t it?
A whole new part of your process
I think we all agree that photography is more than just pressing the shutter button, right? In fact, the whole process of taking an image starts much earlier with something like an idea or vision we have in mind. And after capturing the shot itself, most of us run through certain steps of processing their images in post before uploading it to social media, a website or delivering it to a client via a download service. For most of us photographers shooting digital, the overall process is pretty straight forward and fast-paced.
Back in the days though, photographers shooting film had to go through a whole different process. In fact, that’s part of the reason why shooting film gets more popular again. While also starting with something like an idea, they had to choose the right type of film, which could have a major impact on the final result already. Next to this, they had much less shots available on a roll, so each composition had to be considered carefully as well. All of this was followed by a bunch of complicated steps to develop a finished roll of film until a final physical image was created. If you’d screw up on one of them, you’d actually loose all your images taken.
And while most of you might be happy to skip all these time-consuming steps and not worrying about limited amount of pictures on a roll, the old-fashioned way of photography comes with one key advantage: The right appreciation for your own work.
What does this mean?
Well, back then processing an image wasn’t like throwing a Lightroom preset on it and uploading it somewhere. In fact, you had to put in work and you had to take a lot of care to get the final result you were looking for, i. e. by carefully mixing chemicals to develop the negatives. It wasn’t a fast-paced process at all and in the end you got rewarded by a physical copy of your images that you can hold in your hands. You brought them to life and they automatically became something much more valuable to you as a creator. You really created something tactile, which you’d appreciate for a long time.
Here’s the thing though: Printing your images can do all of this for you as well, and maybe even more. Instead of uploading your content to the web or storing it on a drive and moving on to the next stack of shots, you can take the time to carefully choose the right paper, to really correct the colours, to find the perfect frames and finally hold your own work in your hands or hang it on your wall.
All these minor tweaks and options would lead to different results, almost like developing film. It’s a really pleasing, almost forgotten part of photography, which definitely changes your perspective on things and lets you appreciate an image as a piece of art. And instead of only using your professional camera gear, which in fact is capable of creating insanely good results, to just upload low resolution files to a fast-paced online platform, you could start appreciating your very own art in a way it is is meant to be.
Give it a try and I promise you’ll never look back…
Thanks for reading and following along and stay tuned for Part 2 of Why printing your shots is relevant.