“The print is the photograph’s rightful inheritance.”– Charlie Waite
It’s easy to forget that not all that long ago the only way to enjoy your photography (or anyone else’s) was to see it printed. When I started my photography hobby over three decades ago, it was a somewhat costly and laborious process to take a handful of rolls of B&W film and end up with a print or two from my (bathroom) darkroom. Today I can shoot unrestrained by film costs and share my work widely online. The ease of access afforded by digital cameras, digital ‘darkrooms’, and social media is a big reason why I’ve started taking photography seriously again after being away for many years. Digital just makes it so much easier, but I still feel compelled to print my work whenever I can.
What are the benefits in printing our photos?
Printing is transformative, nothing looks quite like a print. The paper, the ink, even the space and lighting you view it in, all have an effect on the look and feel of the image. If your eyes have been trained to see photos on screen most of the time, seeing them printed is suddenly new. And that feeling of seeing something for the first time tends to slow us down as we view it. Printing an image also changes our relationship to it. Seeing a high quality print elevates its status in our subconscious and invites a different kind of evaluation. Slower and more deliberate.
Having your best work printed and on your walls is a great way to enjoy and share what you’re most proud of. But printing our work is also incredibly instructive. The more time you spend with an image, the more you’ll learn about your own craft. What works and what needs to change.
The difficulty comes from the fact that we only have so much space on our walls (or cash in our wallets) for large framed prints. One solution I’ve found to getting more prints for less money and no wall space is to print high quality photo books. About once a year I compile a set of a couple dozen of my favorite images from the past season. Images that I really like but that may not be ones I want full size and framed. What you end up with is a lot more of your work to thumb through in physical form than if you relied on full size prints alone. And honestly, I spend more time looking at my photo books than I do my framed prints.
There are a number of different options for print on demand books, but you’ll be happiest with a photo book that uses high quality paper. These are not the typical family photo albums available from the drug store. You want your book to feel like a collection of frame worthy photography, without the frames! I’ve had great success using Blurb photo books. They have easy to use design tools and a great selection of papers to choose from. I prefer the look of heavy mat paper for my BW images. I’m not stumping for Blurb here, I have no affiliation with them, and you may be able to find something else that works better for you. If you do, I’d love to hear about!
In the end the important thing is to get more of your work in print, even if it’s in a small photo book. I think the experience of looking over our printed work is invaluable for our growth as photographers. Happy printing!