At the workshop at the North Cascades Institute last weekend we spent most of Sunday morning making prints. Everyone left with at least two prints of their work. We had several different types of papers to try as well as different sizes. The whole printing thing seemed pretty popular. I didn't ask, but I'll bet most people hadn't seen their work in print before, at least not properly printed on fine art papers.
So why make prints? Well, for me a photograph isn't done until it's been printed. Photography has always been work on paper. Pretty much every processing decision I make is in service of the final print. Looking at images on a screen is fine, whether it's showing slides to a group of friends or viewing images on Flicker, 500px, etc, but it doesn't compare to holding a tangible artifact in your hands. Also, uploading images to the web for others to view is an exercise in letting go. You have no control over how others are seeing your images. Is the color accurate? Are the shadows and highlights correct? You'll never know. Someone may look at you work and think you have no clue what you're doing. The highlights are blown out, the shadows are blocked up and there is a horrible green cast. All of this may have nothing to do with your images and everything to do with them being viewed on a crappy uncalibrated screen.
A print, on the other hand, can't be misinterpreted. A properly made print is an exact representation of how you intended the image to look. Also, size matters. Does this image look better small and intimate, or large and majestic? There is no sense of scale when viewed on screen. Plus, the look and feel of the paper can make a difference. The choice of a glossy smooth surface or highly textured matte paper can change the look of the image.
Something else to consider is the future. Do you want your grandkids and their grandkids to see your work, or more importantly, the family snaps you took last Thanksgiving? If so, print them. Your hard drive (or phone) with all your images may be discovered in the attic 50 years from now but as technology changes will anyone have the ability to view them? How many 8 track tape players do you have laying around? I'll bet everyone has a shoe box of prints, from as much as 100 years ago, with all the family history.
The image above is an experiment to see if I can get anything out of a less than optimal file. I haven't printed it yet but I will as soon as I'm finished here. Only then will I know if it worked.
More next week.