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The Reward of Printing

In the early days of my photography and before becoming a professional I would always use a third party for my printing. Sometimes it was the local print shop, sometimes it was an online company. None of my work was proofed, and the results I got back varied a lot depending on the company. Sometimes the brightness of the image was off, sometimes the colour was off. As I began the transition towards becoming a professional I wanted to take control of my printing, I felt it was too unreliable to use third parties. I know there are great companies out there that know far more than I ever will about colour and printing, but I was put off by the time delay in having to go to a company, or send work off and wait for the post. What if I wanted to make changes? What if I wasn't happy with something in the image and decided to alter it and reprint? The feedback loop was too long and I could see that this could become costly in both time and money.

So I began researching printing and colour management and suddenly realised how little I knew about this. Glimpsing into the world of colour management was bit of a Pandora's box moment, colour was not what I thought it was. I had flashbacks of standing in a paint shop staring blankly at a card with 10 different shades of white on it, slowly developing a nervous tick. They're all the same, but yet not! More confusing than helpful.

Over the last 18 months I have begun to realise how necessary it is for me to print my work. An image is not complete unless it is printed and viewed under a lightbox.

Even though I use a high quality, calibrated screen, seeing your images in print is often the best way to know if your work is completed. Your screen casts light, whereas a print is viewed only with reflected light, and what may look good on screen may not translate to a printed image. Many photographers may feel it is unnecessary to print these days, photography is becoming a more online experience, and with Lightroom you can quickly edited an image and share it in minutes, job done, move on to the next image. But printing has greatly improved my eye for a photograph, it has helped me understand colour and tones. One of my favorite images is a snowy scene of Iceland that I don't think translates at all well to the screen, there is nothing punchy about it, it won't grab your eye in a twitter feed and looks like nothing much on the small screen of a smart phone. But it is one of my favorite images when viewed as a print. The subtle differences in tone and light between the ground and the sky are pleasing to view and my eye is often drawn back to it again and again.

If you are a photographer and are looking for ways to improve your skills, I really recommend printing your own work. A good inkjet printer isn't that pricey, and seeing your work printed on a good quality cotton rag is far more rewarding than seeing it lost in the blur of social media.

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