Papers please! And the importance of printing in the digital era
We read a lot about the importance of printing, as the final step in the workflow and the most "tactile" experience in photography, beside holding a camera, of course. Printing brings a lot of satisfaction to the photographer. Unfortunately it often involves quite a bit of frustration for those with an eye on color rendition. What your eye sees when you take the photo, what your monitor shows to you and what comes out of the printer are three different things. What a bummer! Not to mention the type of paper you're using, even the brand and the light condition for viewing. Now that's really getting complicated. In fact, not really. A good color management workflow is all it takes. And it starts with calibrating your monitor properly. But that's not where I'm going today. You know I prefer to talk about photography itself, rather that the technique or material. So let's keep it like that for now and follow me in my story.
I haven't printed a single picture for a little while and I wanted to get back to it because I strongly believe it is important to do so. To stay connected with your work, your workflow and, more importantly, see and touch the final print after hours of work taking, transferring, editing photos on the computer. The act of printing is a must and the time I spend doing it is a treat. The more you do it, the better you get. We call that experience and we all need more, and more.
But there are many other reasons why I wanted to print today:
- The printer has been turned-off for many weeks and the nozzles needed cleaning.
- The 11 ink cartridges have an expiry date on them, and at this size (200 ml each) and price (!!) you need to use them before it's too late. However, I doubt printing beyond the expiry date is a problem.
- The monitor was recently calibrated with a new device and software (basiCColor) and I wanted to see how it printed compared to the monitor.
- I try to print photos regularly to stay up to date with prints I keep in the portfolio box. An iPad is great for showing my work, but sometimes prints really make a difference. And that's always in the A2 format.
- When I print, all my attention is on photography. I'm completely absorbed and find it inspiring. That's a moment when I'm alone in my office, thinking, analyzing. I get creative, ideas come to mind and I feel good. I usually put some good music and things just happen!
- When I print and start thinking about the whole photography experience, I realize how much I love it. It's something I've been doing for more than 20 years now and I never stopped. My wish is to keep doing it over and over and, like Steve Jobs said in 2005 at Stanford University, "Stay hungry, Stay foolish".
- Printing also makes me realize how lucky I am to have all that's needed to enjoy photography in general.
Great cameras, lens, monitors, computers, softwares, variety of papers and the time to do it the way I want. Even a good health to move around, climb and travel to great places. In fact, photography is the perfect excuse too enjoy life.
And I could go on and on again listing the many reasons I love to print, but I think you got the idea.
Based on the results I'm getting, I can affirm that printing is for me a great moment and that the workflow I worked on is giving very good results. But I'm a perfectionist and calibrating the printer itself is probably my next step. The ICC profiles from the manufacturers (printers & papers) are usually pretty good, but not perfect. Should I go for Epson's Spectrometer which can be added directly on the printer or simply look into other profiling devices on the market? Good question. I'm very impressed by the accuracy of basiCColor Display and will probably look into a device supported by this software, like X-Rite ColorMunki. Not ColorMunki "Display" which I already have, but the model allowing calibration of both the monitor and the printer. Food for thought, for the moment.
Feel free to share your thoughts on printing or anything photography. I'd be curious to hear about what photography brings to you and what aspect of photography brings you the most intense emotion. That alone could be the topic of a long but interesting article.
© Normand Primeau