We all remember the days spent sifting through old memories while thumbing through a shoebox full of photos. We tend to do that less with new, digital photographs. Printing photos is more affordable then ever, easier than ever, and still as important as it was pre-digital. So where are all of the prints?
The printed photograph is really the finished photograph. It is the actualization of all of the ones and zeroes. In print, the photograph lives, it becomes tangible, it gains wings. Printing photographs is an art all it’s own. Printed photographs run the gamut of visual and visceral elements. Fine art prints from photographers such as Andreas Gursky are massive, super sharp, super crisp, super photographs. They utilize the best in photographic technologies throughout the entire work flow and life cycle of the photograph, to create mind blowing photographic prints. A photograph does not have to scream to be beautiful however, and prints by photographers such as Edward Steichen have a subtlety and presence that is absorbing in it’s own quiet, beautiful way.
What should you know about printing? First start with the biggest file you can manage, this might mean shooting with the best camera you can afford, the largest film you can muster, or the best scanner you can get your hands on. This will afford you the greatest flexibility when approaching your prints, and running into problems with files size, issues in up scaling images, and avoiding image degradation. Next decide how you want to print. What do you want your prints to look like? This is where the art of printing becomes realized. Too many people only understand what an inkjet print is, and are unaware of the beauty other printing styles such as gum printing, cyanotypes, and silver gelatin prints. If you want to get serious about printing, do yourself a favor and study a bit of history on the subject. Deciding what you want the prints to look like will help you out in deciding what methods to take to print the photos. It might be a trip to the drug store to pick up prints, or it might mean hours working with a professional printer to have prints created to your exacting standards.
Printing is fun, and have prints is fun too. The computer screen only yields so much information, and so much of an experience. Photograph prints have souls, LCD representations don’t have much heart.