Why I Print Digital Images

Earlier this week I was watching an 11"x14" print emerge from my Canon inkjet, and I realized that this is one of the ways I maintain a connection with my photography roots.

The actual steps are different now. I’m no longer leaning over a tray of developer, gently rocking it and waiting for that moment when white paper transforms into a real photograph. These days I send the file wirelessly from my laptop to an inkjet output device that, dot by dot, fuses the image on to a sheet of coated stock. But what follows, the inevitable moment of delight when the picture emerges, has not changed.

In 2018, I was covering Photoshop World as a journalist. During the keynote Scott Kelby (a star in the Adobe universe) spoke brilliantly about the virtues of printing your work. He made five important points that day.

Printing is beneficial because it:

  • Helps you stand out from the competition. The gift of a print blows away any email attachment.
  • Creates a connection with the viewer. Holding a print elevates the experience to a whole new level.
  • Generates impact. A 13"x19" print creates a bigger impression than the tiny images we view on our digital devices.
  • Has value. If you were willing to pay $200 for a print to hang on your wall, how much would you spend for a digital version of it on a flash drive?
  • Protects your visual history. Will our generation be able to leave behind a visual history as rich as what our parents left us?

Talk about the ultimate backup to one’s point of view. I had been preaching the virtues of printing in the digital age for years, but was often viewed as embracing a whacky Uncle-Bob-type endeavor that many found endearing, but not practical.

So there I was in a darkened auditorium, notepad in hand, recording bullet points from one of the biggest names in digital photography who was championing the very same cause. It was one of those crazy moments that never really happen, like your father pondering a position that you had just argued for, then replying, “You know son, you have a good point there. I’m changing my mind.”

I’m sure Scott has met the same pushback that I have when it comes to printing digital images. The ink costs too much, printing is unpredictable, and my personal favorite, it takes too much time.

Compare the 20 minutes spent printing an 11"x14" archive print to the investment for creating other works of art. How long does it take to paint a watercolor? Maybe you can dash off a charcoal drawing faster. And what if you were to chisel a statue instead of photographing a portrait?

A museum quality print is the most expedient form of legitimate art. And for many, myself included, one of the most exciting.

When I create a compelling print of a digital image, that’s the moment I feel like an artist. And not surprisingly, that’s when I’m happiest as a photographer.

Photographer, writer, podcaster- Tune in at www.thedigitalstory.com

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