I have never seen a person refine faster in the craft of photography than a person who just started to print their work.
The print is unforgiving. Every mistake that you make will be seen in a print. That slight movement will produce a “ghost-like” blur. That chromatic aberration brought about by the lens you have and the f-stop of your choice will be evident. That pixel that you pushed or pull more than it can take – yup! banding. And that dust-spot that you failed to clean up will annoy you to no end.
Every little thing that you did not intend to do shall be shown to you.
So why print?
You probably know some already. The internet has a sea of reasons. From technology mishaps, to heightened value for your work, monetary gain to memories kept even if yours fail. The list goes on and on why should you print your work. But let me add three reasons from a personal standpoint in the mix.
It makes YOU sharper.
Printing makes you more aware of your every move. Having in mind that what you create will be printed later imposes a discipline that you never had before. From the moment you plant that tripod to the point you send it over to the printer – every move calculated. Every adjustment will be precise and purposeful. You will understand the meaning of adjustment in small increments. You will learn how to be patient. You’ll develop a flow of work – of things to check and double check. You will learn the value of consistency.
You can actually hold it. It is physical. Everybody can see it where it hangs. Everybody can hold it if you allow them to. Every hour that you spend shooting is an hour away from your home. You have decided that your photography is more important during that time. Every penny that you spend for your photography is a penny away from something else. Don’t you want something to show for? A million brushes but no painting?
A print is a tangible object created by you. There was nothing, and now there is something. And you made that possible.
It’s a legacy – yours.
With the proper care, your prints will outlast you. It will be something that you will be leaving behind. It is something that you have created out of love and nothing else. It was yours and yours alone. Dictated by no one and was a source of your pride and joy. It is the way you have seen the world – literally and figuratively. It will be something worth keeping.
I am certain that your first print will be your worst. But I also know that if you do not do it because of the same reason, you will never get to your best one. Everything grows. This holds true to almost everything that has life, unless you’re a rock. It takes time. It takes practice – purposeful practice. Do your best every time – could anyone ask for more?
As it is in many things in life, everything is not for everyone. Printing may not be for you. But if you’re serious in your photography and would like to refine your work – try printing. Best if you yourself will do it – learning will be efficient and much more faster, but it doesn’t have to be you. Take into account the economics of a printer and the regularity of printing your work. You can have a custom lab do it and, maybe ask for a feedback or a friend that has a printer. Share it with your family. Share it with your loved ones. It is the end-result of the time that you have taken away from them. What is important is that you print your work, and hopefully learn from them. The cost will only be a fraction of your gear, and the benefits would be tremendous.
Print it. Sign it. Date it. Keep it.
When you look back, you’ll be happy you did.