November 25th, 2013

Why Print?

Wow. It's been almost a year since I've posted to my blog - I've become one of THOSE people!

Well, today I wanted to provide my opinion on a popular topic - prints. It seems that just about every day I get an inquiry asking if I provide a CD of all of the images I shot during a session. I don't. That might sound blunt but it's just that digital images aren't really my thing. It's not that I'm some sort of anachronistic person. To me, digital images just aren't "finished". That's a tough concept to explain in our digital age. Don't get me wrong - I think it's simply amazing how easily digital images are shared - and I think that's the reason people want them. Moreover, most people figure I click the button on my camera and an image is generated - just a like a cell phone. Well, certainly that's true but the image that's created at the click is not the image that's "finished" - there are a whole bunch of steps between the click and the print. And, even if I did process every image from a session - those multiple images were taken for the purpose of getting the best image - and part of my craft is to select that "best" image.

Yet, given the ease of sharing of digital images, why would I prefer prints? First and foremost, it's obvious when I deliver finished prints to a client. For most people, it's been a long time (or never) since they held a well-done print. The print is experienced differently visually than a digital image - light reflects from the print surface instead of emanating from a screen. That sounds simple but it's huge. Second, large prints are interpreted differently visually than little bitty images on a computer screen. Even if you have a 27" computer monitor you're not viewing image the equivalent size of a 30" or 40" print.  Moreover, the colors in a print are locked in. Have you ever noticed how images look different on different computer monitors - even two good computer monitors? If that's the case, then what IS the digital image? If it varies in size and color from monitor to monitor then it never really IS something specific and deliberate. It's just not "finished". Most of all, prints become artifacts. Many of us have prints that have been handed down from previous generations. Not only are these prints "cool" to look at but we also have an amazing revelation while viewing them. These prints were things held by our long-gone ancestors. They're an artifact of our personal history.

Creating prints is much more complex than just having them done at the corner pharmacy. There are many different types of prints and many different print labs with vastly different results. Matching the image to the product to the lab to the size is a bit of an art. It requires producing test prints to understand how color, brightness and sharpness of a digital file are put to paper. In a world of instant gratification, it's a craft that requires time and patience with attention to detail.

In the end, the effort is worth it. The reaction people get when they first view their prints is priceless. It's in this moment they understand the difference between a digital image and a print that is "finished".