The Art of Printing

If we were to gather some stats about photographers, we would discover that few actually print their images, or ever get them printed. The truth is, most images, if they get any further than the hard-drive of a computer,  get as far as a website.


Which I think is a real shame, because I think there's something very beautiful about the print. It is for me, what I always thought was the ultimate aim with photography.

Way back in the 80's when I was a teenager, I remember looking at some Ansel Adams book's that my friend Craig brought round for me to look at. At the age of 19, I was more interested in music and writing songs. But when my friend showed me these beautifully printed books of Ansel's work, I was really taken in. I still look back at this moment and realise that for me, I've always thought that the final result for any photographer is the print.

I understand that things have changed. We live in a more electronic world these days, and one where everything lives on-line. We enjoy music streamed down from the internet, and we often do the same with photographic images. But I've always been at a loss as to why we're satisfied with this? It's different for music, because the quality of the audio is pretty good. Whereas the quality of a photographer's work can't be enjoyed to the same degree as it would when viewing a well produced print of their work.


When I released my first book, I had so many emails from buyers who told me that it was so nice to discover there was so much more detail present in the prints, that they hadn't been able to enjoy on my website. It was a very heartening thing to know that others were keen to get closer to my work - because that's what prints do - they allow us to have a more intimate audience with someone's work. I think this is because of two main reasons: the first is that the image is brought into the real world. It exists as a piece of paper and we can touch it and enjoy the quality of the paper it's printed on. Secondly, it's much easier on the eyes to look at work that is printed, rather than being transmitted at so many hertz from an illuminated panel. We tend to interpret work differently when it is presented on different mediums. The way we look at a print, is very different from the way we look at a computer screen.

I would love to see more photographers printing. Because printing is an art-form. It takes a long time to master printing, and it is one half of the photography story. As photographers, we should feel a need to strive for excellence in how our work is presented. And printing our work well is a craft.

In the screen shots you see above, you can see some of my prints. But what you can't see is how much work has gone into them. It's not simply a case of sending a file to my inkjet printer. It's only part of the story to get the entire thing colour managed. It's mostly about being able to convey your vision on a paper medium, and that takes a lot of interpretation skills. Just like deciding on how much editing to do on an image for the web, I have to decide on what kinds of things I need to do to convey my work well on paper. I will often use contrast-masks to achieve this, I will also use creative sharpening applied where needed.

Printing is not only an art form, it is also an immensely satisfying thing to do. To see your images finally come to life, as real objects - ones that you can hold and touch, takes our photography to another level. Our work becomes more defined, because we are no long working in a virtual world. Our work becomes committed, because unlike the electronic world of pixels and websites, the print is an immutable object. It is a fixed constant, a statement of your intent. Above all, it is the ultimate calling card of who you are as a photographer.