Focus editor Philip discusses five reasons why it's a good idea to print your photos from time-to-time
As photographers in the digital age, it’s easy to only ever look at our images on the screen. Of course, there’s a good reason; it’s the quickest and easiest way to work on your images and share them with others.
However, there are several benefits to printing your images too. I’m not saying print every single image you take, but it's worth it from time-to-time, for your favourite shots and your most cherished memories.
Here are some of the main reasons why:
1 It really helps with the selection and editing process
When I was doing my photography degree, and particularly when it came to my final major project, I would struggle with working out which of the images I wanted to include in my exhibition and book. So my tutor and I decided to print out all of my images, lay them out in a grid so we could look at all of them in front of us, and from there whittle them down by removing prints from the pile.
This worked amazingly well for me, and I’m sure it’ll be the same for you if you struggle in this area also. And by all means, you don’t need to print your images on photographic paper for this process, any regular paper will do. You could also pin them to a board or a wall and let them sit for a while - this works well too; and you could even keep them up for a while to see how they all sit together and make any changes where necessary, making it a more considered, fluid editing process.
2 Images can look different printed compared to on screen
This is a big one and something I’ve come across many times. You work on your photos in Lightroom or Photoshop, for example, and give them a beautiful look - on screen - but when it comes to printing your image, you find that it looks murky and bland, or the colours just don’t quite match.
For images you choose to include in your portfolio, on your website or in your online store, I’d highly recommend printing them to see what the physical versions look like, especially if you’re selling them. It’s worthwhile to give them the once over yourself beforehand to ensure that you’re happy with the version your customers can purchase. Remember that images can also look very different depending on the type of paper they are printed on, so you may want to test out versions of your image on additional paper stock. Your photo will always look slightly different on whatever paper you print on. Still, by testing out multiple paper stocks, you should be able to tweak your shots to find a happy medium where they look good on most of them.
3 You’ve got physical memories with prints
There’s something to be said about having a beautiful print in your hand, the look and feel of a tangible, physical object from something you created. Keeping photos of your best work or memories will give you something to keep that will withstand time and technology (just think of how many images might be squirrelled away on your hard drive from over the years that you’ll never look at anymore).
4 You can decorate your living space with prints
Printing your images and placing them around your home will remind you of your achievements in your photography practice and those precious daily moments. In my own space, I’ve chosen to print up a few of my favourite shots that mean something to me, and I get comfort every day looking at them, not to mention it’s always good to hear compliments from visitors who see your work up on the walls.
Your image choices for your decor don’t need to be permanent too; you could change them as and when you want to have something new to look at. So, when you put your images into frames (I could write an entire article about the best frame choices for photos - watch this space), don’t seal them or attach them to the wall where you can’t remove them again, and this way you’ll be able to swap out your printed photos as and when you please. I also prop my images up against the wall, on cabinets and shelves so I can move the framed prints around the space too.
5 You can give prints as gifts or exhibit them
I’m naturally not the best gift giver (it’s just one of those things), but I have found over the years that giving prints of my work as gifts seems to be a winner all around (or at least I hope so anyway)! So when it comes to gifts, if in doubt, print a photo out.
You can also approach spaces that regularly exhibit photography, such as galleries, or even coffee shops with artwork on the walls, with your prints to see if they would be interested in displaying them (and selling them on your behalf), and this is where you can make a good impression too; it’s much better to have a portfolio of physical prints to show rather than solely viewing on screen.
Bonus tip: If disaster strikes, you’ve got the physical images to hand
As much as you can be super diligent with your image backups and file management of your digital files, you never know when a catastrophe can occur in many weird and wonderful ways. So even if the worst happens and the files of some of your best images are lost, you'll have these to keep if you’ve printed them (and stored them safely) too. Again, you don’t need to print every single image you shoot or even print a copy of all your favourite photos; but for those who would be heartbroken if you were to lose forever, it’s worth printing a physical copy. And you might even want to consider printing a second copy and storing them in a completely different place, such as a relative’s house, altogether.