Advantages & Pitfalls of Printing
So folks, why do we print? Why are we so obsessed with this word "print"? Why, why? Well, my journey in photography began, I don't want to use the word "back in the day," because it makes me sound really, really old, but I can tell you now, back in the day wasn't that long ago where we had to print if we wanted to see an image. Now we don't print, okay? So, I had to print to see my vision. I had to print to manipulate the image the way I wanted to manipulate it in the dark room, and have something to hold in my hand, which was the only thing we could do when we printed. Images today, though, I must admit, they are very, very dynamic, okay. We take an image, we manipulate it on a computer, and then of course we share it with the world, and we share it instantly. We share it on our smartphones. So images that we shoot can be this big. Images that we should can be a little bit bigger on our monitors, or they can be even this big, if you do have monitors that big. Great. Very expensive mon...
itors. So they're very dynamic, okay? But you're limited when you start viewing images electronically, by the viewing device itself. And, a little bit later in this course, we're going to talk about viewing devices, and how what you're really seeing is not really what you're sending the device, and we're going to talk a little bit more later about how we control that. But images are dynamic, but you do need something electronic to display them. Printing doesn't work like that. Printing you don't need anything to enjoy your print, absolutely nothing at all. Once the image is printed, you hang it on your wall, and you enjoy it. And if you print archivally, which is what this course is about, you will enjoy it for a very, very long time. In fact, your family will enjoy it. People, your friends, but also the next generation will enjoy that image. And it's a wonderful feeling walking into your house and seeing an image of your family hanging on the wall, as opposed to, "I've gotta go and turn on "the computer so I can see my family picture." Doesn't quite ring the same, does it? So, photographs are meant for paper, and not for computer screens, okay? A little bit more about this, now I'm going to refer to this print I have here of this beautiful image I shot of some birds, Mount Fuji in Japan recently. Now this is my take and my interpretation of what I saw and how I felt at the time. You know this scene reminded me of the movie Alfred Hitchcock, The Birds. I saw these birds hanging around, and they were quite menacing, and they were doing all sorts of things. The color palette and the treatment is my take on how I saw the world, and that vision for that print is complete. No one could ever change that. Now imagine, I've captured that image, and I've spent a lot of time in Photoshop manipulating it, bringing my vision to life, and what I think is the final resting place of the image, only then to give this image on a USB stick, maybe to a client who's bought the image, for whatever reason, only for them to upload it on Instagram with their own special recipe. It's no longer your vision. It's someone else's vision, so electronic images have always been like that. Someone will always manipulate them. It depends on who controls the ones and zeros. But as an artist, as a photographer, as a photographer who is serious about their future and their artistic input on the world of photography, ones and zeros aren't enough. We have to print. This is my favorite line: "If it's not printed, "it's basically not real." It is something that lives electronically on a piece of, you know, on a little USB stick, or on a hard drive, that once again needs an electronic device to interpret it, 'cause it is an interpretation, for it to come to life. And as I said earlier, you definitely don't need any special device to view and enjoy a print. When we view the world, like today I'm looking at all of you here, my eyes are seeing you in a reflective way. Light is hitting you, and I'm seeing the light being reflected off you, and that's how I see the world. When we start to then look at images on a monitor, we see these colors in a transmissive form, so there's light, and there's an LED panel inside these things that is shining light through, and it's transmitting light, and those colors are being once again distorted and manipulated for our eyes to see. But the beautiful thing, of why we should print, is because in print, we go back to the most natural form of the way we see the world, which is in reflective form, okay? Now, printing does make you a better photographer. It's easy to make low-res images look great on a computer monitor, because they're small. But the minute you start printing something to this size, any shortcomings you have, with either exposure, focus, I'll go even as far as, you know, the way you've cropped the image, will really, really, really stand out, because I can look at this, and I can look at the detail, and I can lose myself in this image, and I'm losing myself in the image because there is no distracting elements or technical faults that take my eye away from what the story really is. But when we do images small, we don't have that. We tend to not really worry about the fine things, 'cause you'll never, ever see them. Because you can zoom into an image, but you'll only see part of it, and then another part, but you don't see the whole picture, and the minute you start printing, you go, Wow, maybe I need to start looking at things like lighting, exposure, and the likes. Most important facts to take away from this is number one, it does complete your vision as an artist. Never forget that. The print is final, and can't be changed, period. A printed print, or a photograph, is emotive and personal. When you start printing stuff for your clients, you don't print because you want Facebook likes, yeah? It's something very personal between yourself and the person you've printed the print for, okay? That's why a lot of photographers shy away from it. I'm not getting any likes out of this. Well, you are. You're getting likes from the people that have commissioned you to shoot their portrait, or their wedding picture, or indeed if you are a landscape photographer, 'cause this class is meant for all, not just wedding and portrait photographers. Anyone who's serious about printing will have great benefit out of this class, okay? So, it's not for Facebook likes. It becomes quite personal between yourself and the person commissioning you to actually print the image. A printed photograph is archival, and we're gonna to talk about archiving, and the combination of different things that need to come together for an image to be archival, where we start to talk these days about 200, possibly even 300 years archival permanency, which is huge. But there's something beautiful about a photograph being archival. It means that it's gonna be here for the next generation to enjoy, and that's important, especially when we start to talk about family pictures, but also once again, if you're a landscape photographer, and you're selling your works of art for a hefty amount of cash, if I'm investing in your artwork, I want to know that this image isn't going to fade in one, two, three years' time, because I'm investing in your art, so printing archivally is so important. And this is one that a lot of photographers forget. You can make money out of printing photographs, 'cause we sell something. We can only take it so far with a USB stick, but then when we start to print, we can take it way further. We are in business to make money. A photographer from California, who recently was at one of my workshops, not too long ago, had a very beautiful line. Her name is Murda Bunett, and she said, it went something like this, she said, "Do you want to sell a USB stick to make a buck, "or do you want to sell prints to make a living?" Isn't that wonderful? Because that's all we're doing. It's a quick fix. I can just do a quick edit, and I'll have your files ready in three days, and there you go, and I never have to see you again. That's great, but there's only so much I can charge for that. Printing takes it to a totally, totally different level. We hear this terminology a lot today, you know. Fine art print. What is a fine art print? You know, everyone says I'm a fine art printer. We're doing fine art. Well, it's a term that's used to describe an extremely high-quality print, which is what this course once again is all about. It's about producing very high-quality prints that are archival, on beautiful archival paper stocks, okay? So we marry this with what is fine art photography? 'Cause if you're doing fine art printing, well then, the two should be linked with fine art photography. Well, in some way, shape, or form, we're all fine art photographers. Why? Because the true definition of fine art photography is photography created in accordance with the creative vision of the photographer. What does that mean? It means that we don't just take pictures with our cameras, and let the camera do the thinking for us. We take a picture, and then we look at that picture, and we either take it into a light room or Photoshop, and we either do dodgy inverting, or change the color, or turn it into black and white, and we give it our own little artistic DNA of what we feel the image is about. So it comes under that fine art banner. So we want to be able to take all of this and turn it into fine art printing. So we take very high-quality images into obviously the editing stage, and then print them accordingly, okay? Now we've seen all the benefits of why we should print, but then the other side of the coin is this: Why don't we print? To answer this question, I want to ask you guys. Some of you are printing. Some of you have never printed before. So share with me why you don't print, or why you're scared of printing. So, Anna, I'm going to start with you, as to why you might not print.
So, I've experienced where I have a vivid colored image on my screen, and I'll send it off to the lab, and it comes back just flat, and then I'll send it, I'll think oh, it's the printing company's fault, and so I'll send it to another one.
And it will come back completely different.
You know, from printing company to the next, and neither one is the vision that I had, or what I'm seeing on the screen, or what I captured in my camera, and so I'm hoping, I think that's what's blocking me from wanting to send things out to print because I know I'm going to face disappointment when that picture comes back.
It's so true, because when we take photographs we have a vision. We have a vision of what we think the image should look like. And we take care in shooting that way. We want to know that, you know, this is what I'm doing, and then you bring it into your computer, and you manipulate it on the screen, and you think this is what I'm going to get, and then something totally different comes back. It is so frustrating, and in fact it's one of the reasons why a lot of photographers say, "Too hard. "Can't do it."
For me, I don't personally print any of my own work. There's three reasons. Number one, I haven't yet mastered photography, so I don't feel that mastering printing is another skill that I want to tackle just yet. Number two is the cost involved. Printers and papers and inks are expensive, and I just don't want to invest at this time. And number three, there are already experts in the field, such as yourself, so I just send my stuff to you. (students laugh)
Awesome. That's important, though, that when you are sending things to other bureaus, what you're gonna get back is what you thought you were going to get back. We'll address that a little bit later, and someone who hasn't printing but is printing a lot now, Yannik. I want to hear from you, as to your journey with not printing and then printing and your frustrations.
Yeah, so um, the main reason I started to print is because both my parents were passionate photographers, and they did their own prints, and then I had family prints from my great grandmothers and great grandparents, so I always had this special relationship with prints, so I started to print back, I don't know, 20 years in the dark room, and about 10 years ago I started to print digitally. To some degree, it was easier, because I could have repeatable results, but the results were not always what I wanted to be.
So there was a lot of frustrations. You know, the prints obviously didn't look the same as on the screen, the blacks were not the same as I would like them to be. You know, there was like the shadows were all black, versus all the details that I saw on the screen. The colors were not the same as on the screen. Like for example the reds or the greens. So that's, you know, and then the last issue that I always had with my old printers is the paper feed. To feed the fine art paper into a printer sometimes is an art of its own. (instructor laughs)
We'll cover that today.
So, yeah, so it caused so much frustration. (instructor laughs) My wife, Sasha, you know she was witness of me you know, cursing, screaming at the printer,
So that was, you know, part of the frustration.
Yeah, it is frustrating. It is frustrating when, once again, you know, we don't have repeatable results, and it's very easy to be put off. Especially we talked about having differences in color, but also differences in tonality. We look at shadows not quite being right, and we look at highlights not quite being right, but they did kind of look right on our monitor, but something happened, and the information is not being translated across, so what do we do with this information? Let's have a look at some more problems, you know. And some of the problems we've already discussed here is number one, you nailed it on the head. The image, number one, looks different on different monitors. Not only, forget about the print, but you might have two monitors set up in your studio or working environment, and they don't look the same. They don't look the same 'cause maybe they're made from a different manufacturer or maybe they are from the same manufacturer but a different age. You think one's calibrated. You think the other one's calibrated, and it's very, very frustrating to get the color to look the same on different monitors. And then there's this other problem here. The image used to look fine, many moons ago, but now it appears too dark. So in other words, you've done an edit, you've done a shoot. You've done a quick edit, and you're thinking you're going down a road, and perhaps you then let the image go and revisit the image, because maybe a print comp's coming up, and you wanna have a look at what's going on. You bring the image back up, and the image somehow on your monitor has changed. Very frustrating. Something's happened. What could have gone wrong? And then of course your printed images don't match what you see on the screen. And that is the most common problem, most common problem. These are all the things that we need to address. We need to address getting images right on screen. We need to address consistencies in images looking right on screen not just today. So in other words you can open up a file today and open it up again in 12 months' time, and it will look the same, okay? That is the premise of this class, and your printed images don't match what you see on the screen. They will match after this class, because you'll start implementing processes. Let's have a look at some of the pitfalls as well, okay? One of the biggest problems we see when people start complaining about their prints not looking the way that they need to look is this one here, working with an uncalibrated monitor. Not taking the time out to calibrate, or not even understanding what calibration is, or, better still, visually calibrating the monitor to what you think is going to be amazing. Later on in this course, I'm going to talk about how we can't trust our eyes, and there's some reasons for that. Using the wrong paper profiles and printer settings. Some of you watching this are probably thinking, what is a paper profile? And what do you mean there's different settings? And then of course working images in 8 Bit instead of 16 Bit. That's a huge problem when we start talking about fine art printing, huge, huge problem. Working with small color spaces. And this is all gonna sound a little bit, whoa, there's a lot of information there. We're going to address all of these things, and we're going to do it one step at a time.