Blog #8 Printing Photographs will be the topic of this week's blog. In the throws of the information age, we are all glued to our screens probably way to much. What's in danger of being lost in the new digital age is the tactile and visceral experience of viewing photographs on paper in all of their glory. I consider photographs to be a form of art. This statement is debatable and will become the subject of a subsequent blog entry. A photograph is two-dimensional art like a painting. The edge doesn't count since nothing is printed on it. Therefore, it is best viewed on the material that it was invented to be viewed on. You wouldn't prefer a digital image of a painting over the real thing would you? I'm not sure about you but I get a huge boost of inspiration after visiting a museum than I do sitting at home looking at photographs, regardless of how good they are, on my computer screen.
Remember a decade ago when smart phones didn't exist or before retina displays were on every device? Paper is a technology that has existed for many centuries thanks to its invention and proliferation by an inventor from the Chinese Han dynasty, Cai Lun https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_paper.
Paper these days is still the best medium for viewing photographs in their proper and correct manner. The tones in black and white photography, texture, and even the colour is presented at it's best on paper. If you have ever felt and flipped through a high quality photography book such as The Suffering of Light by Alex Webb you will undoubtedly agree that the mood comes through the page and brings you into the scene. The photo below in the text has amazing color that hardly is apparent through the screen that you are reading this on. I debated even showing it since it's so much better on paper. Even if your screen has been color calibrated (highly recommended) this image is still better on paper in the book. Our history is with paper so this should not be such a surprising experience. Our eyes are more accustomed to viewing images on paper than on screen. Mine get irritated after a while and I still prefer reading real paper books over reading on a screen.
The sheen on the paper whether it is matt, gloss, or high gloss gives the photographer and printer the ability to control, to some degree, the amount of light that the photograph emits and its subsequent effect on the viewer. Paper is superior to the monitor or screen since the monitor or screen does not take into a account ambient light and the temperature (color) of that light. Light has different temperatures that are correlated with the warmth or coolness. There is a plethora of technical information on the interwebs about color and its technical scientific aspects but that discussion is beyond the scope of this blog entry.
Paper is not the only material that you can print a photograph on. Drinking mugs, key chains, bags, and T-shirts can be included in the loose definition of paper. Here's a DIY on printing on wood from DFS http://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-transfer-a-photo-to-wood-video-tutorial.
If you want to hang a photo on your wall as many of us tend to do, paper is the way to go. There are very high quality papers today that are still produced by the big companies that have been doing so for decades (i.e. Kodak, FujiFilm). Fuji film has been in the film and printing business for 80 years. The resolution on a printed photograph is far beyond anything that a screen can reproduce.
Have you ever received one of those holiday greeting cards from some family or friends that has been printed on photo paper? Isn't it a treat to receive one of those and to notice the colors jump off of the page? I think so. This is why we hand on to them and stick them on our refrigerators, indefinately. I encourage you to print some of your favourite shots. Sure, you'll spend a few bucks in the process but the results may be surprising.
Good luck and Happy Printing!
© Alex Webb