I’ll admit it. I rarely print photos any more. And yet, recently learning how to print professional-quality black and white photos at home made me realize that I’ve been missing out on a very important part of being a photographer.
It’s hard to think of another creative medium that’s changed as much as photography over the past 25 years, and that’s because the digital revolution rendered printing entirely avoidable.
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Fine-art masterworks that were destined to be framed now hang – ruthlessly compressed – on virtual walls. And hefty photo albums that once resided under the bed now float weightlessly in the cloud or occupy a wallet-sized external hard drive.
I know plenty of photographers still print their work, and I’m not suggesting the best online photo storage options and sharing platforms are bad. But if you’re out of the habit (like me), ponder what you could be missing out on.
Printing is a great way to critique and enjoy what we spend hours creating. I’m willing to bet you have at least one image you’ve disregarded, which could be given a new lease of life as a print. I also think physical photos are a great way to distance yourself from your work, helping you review it from a new perspective.
What about sentimental snaps? Photo albums are handed down the generations, but inheriting digital media can be more complicated than you think. Sorting through terabytes of data is a laborious task and, without disciplined archiving, images can be easily overlooked and even lost.
Missing login details are also a potential headache (though the best password managers can make that easier to manage), and with so many online platforms undisclosed accounts could remain lost forever. Social media is possibly problematic, too. I can’t help but wonder how billions of photos would fare if a social media giant suddenly ceased to exist.
I’m also certain that printed photos get enjoyed more. Photo albums are effortless to flick through. You used to take a couple of rolls of film on holiday and make every exposure count. Now you return with 10,000 photos – and 1,000 are fuzzy shots of the all-you-can-eat buffet. Good luck getting the family to sit through that.
So, I’m going to make an effort to print more. And if you too have neglected this once-essential part of our hobby, why not consider joining me? Physical photos should be a portal to the past, not part of it.
If you’re totally new to printing or want to learn more about it, Fotospeed has recently announced the return of the Fotospeed Academy. Classes start from £95 and include a wide range of photography and printing workshops.
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