Competitions aplenty, how to (really) become an expert, Lightroom’s hidden midtone slider, the liberating uses of auto-ISO, tips for printing better, a very worthwhile alternative to Instagram, alternatives to mirrorless digital cameras, and much more (including a call for help with my own printing).
To print, or not to print? That really is the question, in photography, these days.
A photograph that’s not printed essentially dies only a few days after it was brought to life. Realistically, how often to we dig out old photographs from hard drives hidden away in drawers? It probably says more about me than about the hard drive vs paper debate, but I was actually unable to locate the source file that was used for the print on the wall in the above photograph to display it on this page. Still, though, most will agree that a few nice prints bring a greater smile to their author’s face than a zillion-strong flickr or Instagram collection. Or – worse still – than computer files on a drive.
Seeing this piezo rendering of the Old Man of Storr (Skye), on my son’s house wall certainly had an impact on me. I remember the day it was made, every detail of it. I remember comparing the piezo print to the standard one made on my Canon Pro 1000, there was really no comparison, to be honest. I now remember the physicality of the object on the wall, stampted, signed, framed. The object, as a whole, achieves much more than the photograph alone. It feels complete. And that (missing) completeness is what’s been stopping me printing. To the point that I gave the Canon printer away many months ago and haven’t printed since.
Malcolm Gladwell popularized the idea according to which 10,000 hours of practise are necessary to become an expert. But that’s a rule of thumb that neglects the most important factors : predictability, feedback … Veritaserum sets things straight.
If your first question is “why?”, the answer is: because I know that many photographers would love film. But few want to invest in a system to try it out. Here’s an easier way to enjoy a different look and a physical object as the end point of the photo process. While on the subject: Where to Develop Film in 2022 (a list of online labs compared, mostly for the USA). Let me add insult to injury: The Best Instant Film Cameras with Manual Controls.
If your first question is “why?”, the answer is: because the Komodo can shoot stills. If we’re OK with photo cameras that make videos, why not try a video camera that makes photos? Colour science and dynamic range on a whole other level might make the swtich worthwhile for some. Plus, if you love the original film Hasselblad cameras, you’ll be right at home here 🙂
An app that lets Sony users send their photographs straight to an AI that will generate variants. Camera manufacturers being dragged into digitilasition agains their will, poor things 😉 On ths same (AI-centric) topic, do check out this fascinating post by Steve Huff : AI Imaging is here and it is Unreal. MidJourney.
Meet L squared, the combined might of Leica and LUMIX. Officially, “the two companies will jointly invest in new technologies that can be incorporated into camera and lens products”. What those technologies are is the interesting question. This ever-so-boooooring and stagnating market (more pixels, anyone?) is ripe for innovation.
That’s 24% annual growth from now to 2026, according to Business Research Company. I’ve written numerous times about camera manufacturers missing the boat by digitizing photography rather than digitalizing it. Smartphones aren’t making that mistakes. Nor are small camera challengers (you know whom I speak of).
Looking for an alternative to Instagram that still makes sense for photographers? If you haven’t yet built a huge following on IG, and want to feel the joy of sharing again, your should seriously consider it. Or you can stick with this : NFTs on Instagram are coming to more than 100 countries worldwide … I’m setting up shop in VSCO 🙂
… discussion continued from the top
For the longest time, I’ve been advocating printing, without doing enough myself, the advocations probably beeing mostly directed at my own practice.
Attempting to analyse what has held me back so long has also given me directions for the future. Firstly, to me at least, a print needs to look stunning to be worthwhile. Prints are clearly about quality over quantity. Making them pollutes the environment, takes time and energy, uses up space. If it’s only to end up in boxes and not that interesting, files on a drive still seem like the better option. And, well, I’ve never been in love with the prints I made at home, whatever the money thrown at the printing gear (again, a reflection on my craft, not a condemenation of gear quality).
Piezo prints from Picto, in Paris (though I’m sure hundred of other labes make great Piezo prints), on the other hand, look superb. Not quite Platinum or Carbon print quality, but good enough to want to keep as an object of contemplation.
Spurred by kind comments and the memory seeing a few of my photos hang on (other people’s) wall, I’ve decided to print more, strating right now. 3 choices open up:
(1) Get another printer and get better at it. Hmmm, not really inspiring (except, maybe, for one of those small Polaroid printers 🙂 🙂 🙂 )
(2) Continue with Picto. Yes, definitely. But that can’t be the end of the object-making process. Nice archive boxes and other tools for ritualisation are required, lest boxes become old tech drives.
(3) Print books. Several friends and readers have sent me their own (large, coffee table) books made with Blurb, Milk and other services. And they are stunning. The perspective of seeing the prints in a book format really appeal to me. As does the process of editorialisation. But Milk & Blurb seem to come with major caveats regarding b&w.
Do you have any experience with any of this? Any advice to share? To be continued …
Never miss a post
Like what you are reading? Subscribe below and receive all posts in your inbox as they are published. Join the conversation with thousands of other creative photographers.
Pascal, thanks for compiling, I found the article on LR mid tones of interest. As for auto ISO mmmm, you are correct one less thing to think about, I will give try it again. Printing; my printer is long dead from non use, I doubt I will replace it, quality photo labs in future should I need prints. Photo books are great and easy to do and don’t cost the earth. I’ve only got one from a cycling trip to Italy in 2011 and guess I’ve only looked at twice. So will they be any different from hard drives? I have all my photos on my 8TB hard drive and find I look back at them on a regular basis. Take care Dallas
Thank you, Dallas. That’s interesting insight. The preference between hardcopy and computer storage seems to be highly personal. I guess I’ll take a closer look at books and will probably keep printing for an even smaller number of photographs. Cheers
A couple of links:
I started reading about Piezography and carbon inks,
and found some useful links.
An informative site about a carbon ink alternative:
– just in case you haven’t seen it.
An overview of piezography pros/cons & costs:
An overview for B/W-printing beginners:
All the best,
Thank you, Kristian, that’s very useful 🙂 🙂 It’s interesting that some people don’t see an advantage to Piezo. To me, it is night and day compared to the output of my Canon printer. But, it also seems to work best in smaller prints, up to A3, as one says. I’ll try a larger one, just to see. And I always use the same paper, Platine Fibre Infinity Canson 310g. It might be worthwhile to try something else, but I find it very difficult to edit the files to print well, so the idea of “learning” another paper is a bit daunting 😉
Pascal, I missed a line in my comment:
I hope you saw that my 2nd & 3d links were *only* intended for some future Week Links on printing!
Personally, I found Paul Roarks articles & PDFs about 4 or 6 level black to light grey (“Eboni-” etc.) carbon inks with Epson printers on cotton paper very interesting.
With his recipes for home mixing from one black ink costs would be low enough to allow flushing the printer with cleansing fluid after each session – clogging (almost) eliminated.
And experimenting would be rather cheap – except in time!
I’m beginning to be tempted…
Aha, let me know how that works. It’s too much for me, but I can see the appeal!
It’s not a photograph until it is printed. BUT, I have made thousands of bird portraits over the last five or six years and I have just over 80 prints. 50 of these are going into my DAC Gallery exhibit in September. All of them have been shared with the public on FB. This will probably be my last gallery show. I turned 80 years old this spring and I’m starting to fall apart. Macular degeneration; sciatica; stomach problems, etc. But, I’m still going to photograph birds as long as I have any strength left and I plan to keep sharing them on FB. Maybe I’ll have an occasional wall hanger made if I get something I feel is really exceptional. Currently, I have a “Hollywood” set on our back porch made just to attract the little tweeters and hummingbirds. I often sit out there in the morning and photograph them.
Cliff, let us know when that exhibit opens. Will there be an online gallery? I would love to see the photographs you have chosen for it.
Sorry to hear you feel like you are falling apart. I think we all feel that way at various times of life. Keep doing whatever takes effort in your life. We only fall apart when we let go. There’s an extremely inspiring story of researchers working in Okinawa to understand why some residents lived so old and so well at those ages. It seems that the main ingredients were a good social life (support groups, and friends) and constant easy activity. They just never stop. They never do anything difficult, but never stop. And at well over 100, they go into the fields every day.
You’re write, it’s not a photograph until it’s printed. Photography means drawing with light. Drawing implies a physical support. Interestingly, we keep saying that photography is technically easy. But it’s not. Because the actual drawing part, the printing itself, is really hard. But I’ll get working on it, and hope you continue to do so for a long time 🙂
Pascal, the exhibit opens on Sept. 1, 5 – 8 p.m. I think there will be pictures on the website of the Downtown Artists Co-Op. I’ll check on that and let you know. Thanks, Pascal.
Thanks Cliff. I look forward to viewing the photographs.
Cliff, this was in my mailbox. Maybe you will find it interesting? 🙂 https://www.audubon.org/magazine/summer-2022/whats-bird-name
Closer to home (for you!), Pascal – there are a few isolated villages scattered around some obscure hilltop location in Greece (I think it was), with no exposure to western diseases, or “processed foods”, producing everything they eat locally, working in the fields and around the house, and living to an AVERAGE age of over a hundred.
Photo-graphs. Prints. I had a thought last night. The whole idea of “photography” seems to have been completely derailed during my lifetime, by technology. Digi – and cellphones. When I started out, I’d go on a photo shoot with three rolls of 36 exposure roll film, and hopefully come back with 36 keepers. These days, people seem to think nothing of coming back with a thousand shots and hundreds of them aren’t keepers. Stuff on cellphones is quite often “just for the moment” and forgotten by dinner time. The number of images created annually has escalated to an astronomical number.
Pros used to tell amateurs to take more time and put more effort into planning their photos. To ensure that they actually got the shot they wanted when they pressed the shutter button. A lot of pros used to suggest that a defining difference between a pro and an amateur was that amateurs would take a dozen shots to get one, while a pro would nail it with one.
Of course anyone who’s checked a bag of sports photos, or wedding photos, knows that’s utter rubbish. Many times, pros want video on a still camera so they can select one out of a hundred shots, to get “that perfect shot – not even half a second either way!”
So it would be completely unrealistic these days to expect everyone to print all their photos.
But that’s a bit of a furphy – you still can’t make up you mind which shots are “keepers” and which aren’t, without post processing. Just as there was no way of assessing most 35mm film shots without at least shoving them into an enlarger, it’s only when you start fooling around on the computer with your haul of digital images that you can inspect the potential for a “photograph” properly.
The more spontaneous the subject matter, the more often I find this. It’s still true in many – not all – cases that planning enables you to create a keeper first up. But with street- pets – kids – sport – wildlife – etc, it’s amazing how often you only realise later, on screen, on the computer, exactly what the “real” centre of interest is. And that’s when you finally put 99 images to one side, to concentrate on the 1-in-100 shot/winner.
When you choose colour vs B&W vs sepia vs blue/black. Gloss vs semi-gloss vs matt.
When you realise you should have held the camera vertically instead of horizontally, and kick yourself.
When you realise 4×6 images are dull, boring, repetitive, because everyone does those. And start exploring all the other standard formats. And then finally give up on standard formats, and unchain the boundaries to suit the image instead of trying to chain the image to the size of the printing paper.
I agree, Pete, and am quite guilty of that myself. The cost of photography is now perceived as essentially zero, so we snap like mad. But the cost isn’t zero. Storage uses energy. Making phones isn’t clean. At all. And snapping does nothing positive to our talent.
What I really enjoyed in Willem Verbeeck’s photograph is his sentence “why I make as much effort with the phone as with my pro cameras, then I get great looking photographs”. That’s really the secret, whatever camera we use, stop snapping, and think like photographers.
not do that in digi – but you can do something else instead, that I was never able to in those days – make colour images. And the extent to which you can manipulate images these days is itself a form of art, of painting.
I don’t keep all of them. A lot are done for others, and they’re the ones who have them hanging on their walls.
And I do a lot of them, for the specific purpose of bringing something into other people’s lives. By recording precious memories for them. Or promoting their businesses. Anything and everything that you can do, with an image.
– “A lot are done for others, and they’re the ones who have them hanging on their walls.”
Yeah, that’s my case as well. And it feels so special to see a great print of a photo you’ve made 🙂
I’m ambivalent about colour. To me, a colour photograph has to show *great* colour. cf Haas, Meyerowitz, Leiter … That’s fairly easy in a controled environment, but very hard in nature or cities. Still, it happens. And then, the photographs feels really special. I’ll publish something about that very soon.
“ambivalent about colour” – moi aussi, mon ami – it’s just that after all those decades being constrained to shoot B&W because I could only print B&W, I am now doing the opposite deliberately – wallowing in colour, because at last I finally CAN print in colour. Do it myself, I mean. And the more I do, the more I find myself filtering the colours out. Maybe I will meet a point of equilibrium eventually.
Anyway – as I’m not a professional I can do whatever I choose – using whichever gear happens to appeal on the day.
I did feel tempted by “AI Imaging is here and it is Unreal. MidJourney” though – maybe I could use it to create that image of the elderly chinese lady in the restaurant in Hong Kong that I mentioned a while back – that quiet dignity she had, in her old age – despite the fact she could apparently eat with chopsticks and was reduced to using a spoon. I felt at the time I had no right to intrude into her life by capturing her image, yet her image has always haunted me ever since.
Would using AI instead of a camera solve my dilemma, my crisis of conscience, and give me that image after all these years? Is it “ethical” to us AI to “photograph” someone after they’ve died?
I think it’s ehtical as long as your motivations are.
Midjourney doesn’t seem all that easy to use, I couldn’t figure out where to start, on first inspection. But it seems worth giving another go.
To my eyes, colour has to add something to a photograph to be included. Photography is a subtractive process. We start with a lot of information, unlike the blank canvas in the additive process of painting, and it’s ups to us to decide what to exclude from the frame, colour included, to create the most interesting result. That said, colour is growing on me, and I am makng efforts to better understand how to use it.
Totally agree, Pete. I have so many people tell me how much they look forward to seeing my birds each day. And sometimes someone I’ve never met in person will approach me and ask if I am the one who posts the bird pictures. I call that affirmation and it pumps me up enough to keep me going each day.