November 15, 2018
Print That Thing!
Feature image: Gallery wall in my studio
Do you print your images? And I don’t mean those tiny 4×6 or 8×10 photos that your printer kicks out on occasion if the printer head isn’t plugged from lack of use. I mean really print 30”, 40” and bigger. There are those of you that answered that questions with an enthusiastic “YES, of course, I do!” The rest of you—Shame! 😉
So I wanna ask you a favor—Not for me, for your future self. Think of your favorite image. You know which one it is. We all have a few but only pick one. Now find that gem and hold that thought until a little later.
Social media is not the ideal way to enjoy your art
It’s cool to share your passion and put your work out in the world via social media, but ask yourself, does that tiny screen really do your image justice? There is also the experience of having an image hanging on a wall somewhere that you see all the time. You get to take it in and enjoy that moment over and over. When we post our images in a social media gallery, ourselves and others only see them briefly as they are in a sea of other distractions. Plus, humans are tactical creatures. We love to see, touch, feel, and experience our world. A digital display on a tiny device is amazing for some things but terrible for others.
By its very nature, imagery is meant to be seen. Seems obvious, but most images created today never see the light of day other than a brief appearance on social media feeds. I’m also willing to bet that the majority of images are never seen once they hit the hard drive. Even in a world where we are overwhelmed by imagery, I’m sure there are some real beauties out there that are buried.
Imagine if all those fantastic paintings hanging in galleries all over the world only viewable on your phone. That would be so sad.
I get it, I really do. It’s not always convenient and there’s a cost involved. For me, not printing my work would be like listening to my music on an old transistor radio or watching a movie on an old TV rather than going to a theatre or a concert. Seeing your work printed and hanging on a wall will completely change how you perceive your work for the better.
There’s also the consideration of your clients. If you’re not selling wall portraits, I believe you’re doing yourself and your clients a huge disservice. Now I know there are many factors as to how you might be running your business and reasons for how you made the choices you did, but follow me on this a little further.
When you, the photographer, offer a wall portrait option to your clients you are helping them choose art for their home or business.
You’re also building and reinforcing the appreciation for professional imagery as art. This is huge in many ways. Just seeing those same images on a computer or phone screen is such a loss, and whether you are selling weddings, family images, or fine art, by printing and displaying them you’re encouraging your clients and those that see your images hanging to do more of the same.
The next steps
So if you’re not already printing you might be thinking, “Ok! I’m ready but I don’t know how to begin.” Let me show you the way.
The following steps are assuming that you’re shooting RAW and have access to a Lightroom and Photoshop equivalent.
1. Get your monitor calibrated
I personally use the X-Rite i1 Display Pro, but honestly, any screen calibrator will work great. I also recommend that you calibrate even if you don’t plan to print all the time. Keeping your screen color and brightness in check will assist you with your image expectations.
2. Finalize the image
Now, Get that image you found earlier and get it all tuned and tweaked to perfection. The methods for tuning are not critical at this point and there is a lot of software options. I still use Lightroom for older jobs previously edited in Lightroom but have moved to Capture One and Luminar for the RAW edits and Photoshop when I need to push the pixels even further.
Once you have your image tuned, move that baby into Photoshop or an equivalent for a final once-over for dust spots and any additional pixel tweaks that might be needed.
3. Size for output
Now here’s the point where you may need to see what your lab recommends. I personally size my images to exact print dimensions at 300dpi and save as a JPG at 100% quality for uploading.
Let’s talk labs. I use Millers Professional Imaging as well as their prosumer lab, Mpix. I love those guys and recommend anyone to give them a look. After nearly 20 years of working with them, I still couldn’t be happier.
To help get you going, Mpix is offering a 20% off, single use discount with the code MPIX2019. No excuses now!
Now, not all labs are created equal. As a professional photographer, I use a lab that I feel is equally motivated to produce a quality product as I am. There are several factors when picking a lab:
- Quality of product
- Range of products
- Customer service
…to name just a few. I believe that a lab that is willing to be a partner in the success and growth of my business out weights pricing and selection. Quality will follow a lab that cares.
4. Choose your print material
After choosing a lab, there are the often daunting choices of what to print on. Metal, fine art paper, acrylic, metallic paper, glossy paper, mounting options, etc— The list is never-ending. Don’t be confused or discouraged with all the options. If you are completely unsure, go for a metal print if you want something a little more wall-worthy and if you just wanna dip your toe in the printmaking puddle, try a luster or semi-gloss print mounted on single weight mat board. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
The media we print on is a personal and artistic preference, as is what we choose to photograph.
So take your time and don’t be in too much of a hurry to print on the latest fad. Pick a finish that fits your style and the needs of your clients. Simple is often times the best.