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And Don’t Forget to Print…

As a photographer in the digital age it’s easy to forget to print your images.  99% of what I shoot for clients is destined for print (cmyk) but 100% of what I deliver are digital image files.  My images get to clients on DVD, hard disk or via Internet transfer (client downloading from my server or me ftp’ing to their server).  Couple that with screen evaluation of the image on the camera’s screen when shooting, the laptop’s screen if shooting tethered, and my calibrated displays in the studio; most image files pass through color managed, optimized and retouched but unprinted.

My personal work is similar.  These days most of it appears on my web site long before it gets printed.

Why print?  Because it will tell you things that seeing the image on a monitor will not.  It will remove the digital factors from the equation.  It will ground you and bring you back to the most basic of photographic mediums – the image on paper, held in your hands.

In 2008, I shoot with a 21mp camera.  It generates a 60+mb file.  It’s huge and incredibly detailed.  With the current software I can do almost anything with it; manipulate it and control it in ways that never existed with film.  But with all that data, all that visual detail, all that control and finesse you can get led astray.  Seeing a 60mb image file at 100% on your monitor you can burrow in so far you can get lost.  Is the grain and noise I’m obsessing about when evaluating an image at 100% really a factor?  How sharp is sharp?  What is sharp enough?  When does the feel of an image override its technical attributes or lack thereof? With all the control I have I can make it so that there is full detail in almost any image.  Is that good?  Would the image be better off with some of the blacks and/or some of the whites clipping as would have been unavoidable with film? When I view an image at 100% on my 30″ display it pretty much fills my field of vision.  How accurate is that?  It’s the equivalent of a print larger than 4’x6′ which should have a viewing distance of at least 6′ and I’m looking at it from 2′ away.  How can that not skew the way I evaluate an image?

One of the best ways to bring yourself back to reality when working on an image is to print the image.