If you saw the headline for the article you’re probably thinking “Wow! Matt has really lost it these days”. But bear with me and if you make it to the end, I have a very rewarding assignment for you.
I recently released a course called “The Perfect Print” and it’s all about helping you get your prints to match your photography vision. I’ve showed many tutorials to help achieve that vision on the computer, but I also think it’s important to achieve that same vision in a print – and as most of us know, the computer screen and the print are two very different things.
I think it’s easy to think that the world has gone all digital and nobody cares about tangible items (like prints) anymore. But let me pose this thought to you. Why do so many people still play board games (adults and kids alike), when most of the board games also have a digital version too?
Take monopoly as an example. Monopoly exists as a computer game or an app you can download to your tablets and phones. But most families that play it, still use the board game? Why?
It’s easier on the app right? It’s much faster. I don’t have to count money, we don’t have to worry about accidentally hitting the board and moving the pieces and mis-counting something. And nobody has to worry about me being the banker, and “mistakingly” putting an extra $500 in my stack (because I would never cheat on purpose) 😉
The app does everything for you. But yet, people still use the board game.
I think printing is similar. Social media and websites are a much easier way to show off a photo. And they’re a much faster way to do it too. Making a print requires more time right? Well kind of… but once you hone your skills you’ll find you can do it in your sleep. But still, it does take more time. And it takes WAY more thought to make a print. Just like hand-writing a note to some one right?
But the impact is so different. Send a text to share a digital photo with some one and they’ll think “Wow… great shot”. But actually print out a photo for some one and hand it to them, and watch their eyes light up. It’s like that handwritten note. We unconsciously know this person took time out of their day to do something that was a little harder than normal… for us. We appreciate it more because we know that, well, it’s commonplace to do anything digitally nowadays. It’s fast, quick and easy.
Your Weekend Assignment
So here’s my assignment for you this weekend (or within a few days of whenever you read this). Make a print and give it to some one. You all know some one that you’ve talked photography with in the past that would appreciate it because maybe they’re not a photographer. If you have your own printer, then print one for them. If you don’t head over to a site like Mpix.com.
Stuck on the details? No sweat… here’s the formula.
- First, don’t get caught up on perfection. Nobody but you will ever know what perfect is because nobody will ever be able to hold that print you gave them up to their computer screens and compare it (watch my “Don’t fall in to the Side-by-Side Comparison Trap” video for more – it’s at the bottom of the page). Perfectionism and procrastination are the enemy of all things good in photography and creativity. As Nike says… Shut up and Just Do it! (okay, I added the shut up part).
- Take down the brightness of your monitor by about half and add some extra Exposure setting to the photo before you print it. Prints are always darker than the screen. Forget about noise reduction and sharpening. Just brighten it a little more than you normally would.
- If you’re stuck on what size to make, make them an 11×14 inch print. It’s less than $10 online. It’s small enough that even your smaller home photographic printers can make it (with a 13×19 sheet). And big enough that it makes an impact. And, they can very inexpensively go out to Walmart, Target or Amazon and buy a cheap frame for it.
- Write a note on a small piece of paper that you hand over with the print. Maybe tape it to the back. Include the name of the photo (if you have one), and a brief story about the photo itself. Something like “I took this photo at sunrise at Delicate Arch. I remember it being a cold morning, and anticipating the sun. And when it came up, I forgot how cold it was and the beauty of the scene in front of me took over”. Then sign and date the paper. Don’t overthink this part. It doesn’t have to be long and drawn out. The shorter the better.
That’s it. It sounds like a lot but I bet it doesn’t take you more than 30 minutes. And the expression and response you get will be well worth it.
Now, I know most of you reading this won’t do this task. And that’s okay. If anything, hopefully I’ve moved you over a bit more to the importance of having something tangible of your photography. I think online sharing and the digital world we live in is indeed great. However, I don’t think it was supposed to totally replace the tangible idea of printed photo. And it has. I don’t care if you only print small 4×6’s of your family moments. In fact, if that’s all you ever print, my article is a success because those are among the most important moments.
Just like we love to sit down and play monopoly with the family, we love to sit down with people and look through prints, rather than scroll through a phone or tablet to see them.
Have a great weekend!
Hoping you are the Epson Matt K. I have been in publishing since 1976. Int’l Publisher Bertelsmann & Photography since 1969. I had an affair in my mind of making movies since 1968, but had no real equipment, (8mm junk) so still and film became the alternative. No way was it as moving or valuable in a critical artistic sense. Now everyone is both with an Iphone. I started making board games along side Apple and my earlier schoolmate Steve Jobs in nearby Cupertino. I was already at market when they went public Dec 1980. I was a photographer and graphic artist. ex navy photographer 1972-6. We did a little of everything. *Govt budgets and equipment in our hands. I made posters- 85-2004— 100s of thousands 24×36 offset lithe in Los Angeles. I went into display and signage in 1994 era Encad 4C 300 DPI units at the time. Slow but effective. I went to DPI shows a lot, new and watched all the equipment. Sidestepped big mistakes in their evolution. I used a int’l billboard company from time to time rather than fiddle. even 120 dpi on a 40′ sign looks okay from a few hundred feet. I want to know about current productive uv where if I print B/W on uncoated paper it won’t bleed easily (like a laser print) not old school dyes & pigment. which you had to protect against a splash. . speed at under 720 dpi is likely a threshold at bottom for D 24×36 prints in volume for fulfillment. I was holding “cheap inventory at over 50,000 sheets and happy but when you tried to match offset in production speed to inkjet–it was dismal. But you could not balance SKUs of many units from within 30 different choices in an offset run. Terry Bohme. 209 324-2119
I have taken the Perfect Print course which I loved and decided to activate my old Epson R2880 which had only printed about 10 prints previously. I bought a new cartridge set and a Piezo flush kit and cleaned all the nozzles before installing the new ink cartridges. The test print patterns look OK but unlike most people I am getting prints where the skin tones are very pinkish. I have to add a Hue Sat adjustment layer in Photoshop to make the skin look green before sending to Epson Print layout. I select “use ICC profile” and leave it on auto as I had selected the correct Epson Ultra Premium Luster Paper. I expected to have to adjust the brightness and maybe tweak the sharpening but I was not expecting the colour problem. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for all of the inspiration. I obtained a used Epson R2000 and began to really study the print process and the printing technology in earnest and am now excited about printing again. With everything calibrated now I can print with confidence and create great gifts and display my love for photography in my home again. I had not really invested time in printing since my film days. I used to go to thrift stores and garage sales and buy up old framed junk and refurbish the frames for my images or paintings. Once we are out and about again I will restart that practice,
As a long time photographer (got my first Brownie in the late 1950s), I’ve always enjoyed seeing my stuff come to life via a print. I still enjoy printing with 11×14 being my go-to size. I’ve given photos to places that have been kind enough to allow me special access (private rail road and one of my local state parks) which has always resulted in being allowed back to do more stuff that someone else may not be allowed to do.
Handing a vintage car owner a print of his car has gotten my invitations to shoot shows before they are open to the public and introductions to folks with some really interesting classic vehicles that I’ve gotten to shoot.
I am fortunate in that one of the local photography stores in Los Angeles has a printing expert who will do one-on-one two hour sessions (for free), showing how he prints and how to select the right paper for your project. It’s amazing how different a photo will display depending on the paper.
Never underestimate the power of a print.
I have been printing since 1967, before Kodak created Polycontrast rapid RC which was much easier to process than the old fiber based paper. I have not had a darkroom since 1987 and I miss it, but not the work. I have had a couple of inkjet printers, but always got upset because the heads would be dried out when I wanted to print. I consequently went to an HP LaserJet, have both black and color. The color is “just okay” but no control and few options other than what I do in LR or PS.
For the last 10 years I have used Costco as my printer. I prefer the glossy and their investment of thousands of dollars in equipment. Costco was two stop signs and two stop lights from my house (two miles). Having downloaded the ICC profile, I made the decisions as I had them shut off their auto-processing. After many tests, most of the time, 90% of the results were the same whether auto-processing was on or not. The other 10%, it made “high key” or “low key” into 18% gray. Now, Costco is 20 miles, no local printing, no ICC files, and not much service.
I have finished The Perfect Print and have tried to order an Epson P900, but it seems to not be available yet. That’s okay as I am having cataract surgery on both eyes in early August. Maybe they will be in stock by then.
Concerning the stay-at-home, it has given me time to watch Lightroom, Photoshop, and ON1 Integration; Photoshop System 2, Switch for Adobe…; The Perfect Print: Texture vs. Clarity; and Texture Blending. While I have watched several of your LR updates, I have not done your LR System which sits on my hard drive. I use LR regularly and an certain you will have some pointers that I am not utilizing.
Thank you for your diligent work in producing the above instructional videos and several more that I own but have not completed. I am working on an index so that I can quickly get to one of your videos that covered something I want to do today but have forgotten.
Getting tired of the daily rains in Naples, Florida but not tired of the variety of birds that visit my yard every day, especially Annie Anhinga or the Great Egret that makes the daily one mile turn around our lake.
Hi Matt, as you know I am a big fan of you, you photograph The way I do, as you see it. I think you teach in a great way, a way all can understand. I did the print assignment and gave a 11×14 print in a 16×20 frame with a white mat to a older friend of ours, when I gave it to her she started to cry. That made my day, we should all try and do more of these things.
Keep up the good work
Wow Ken! That’s powerful! And I bet she didn’t mention one thing about sharpening, noise reduction or print resolution 😉
Thanks so much for sharing!
Thomas – I recently had cataract surgery on both eyes (corrected to distance vision – glasses for close up work and reading). One thing they don’t tell you is that your color perception will shift. The cataracts have given you (or at least they did to me) a slightly yellow look to all that you see. With them gone, whites are brighter and I noticed I needed to adjust the skin tones on many of my portraits.
Easy surgery, and go for the laser treatment. The out of pocket expense is worth it.
I print with the P800. Amazing colors and wonderful consistency. You are going to love the P900. Get custom profiles for the papers you use the most. It takes a lot of the testing out of the process.
Good luck with the surgery.
I love the print making part of photography
Very compelling. I am dusting off my prints, refilling the inks and printing AGAIN!
Printing is something I always cherish ! The eternal joy in photography is all about prints ! However occasions are pretty rare.
Looking forward to more moments of printing ahead.
Bdw, I am following you since Grid and I have groomed my work to take it professionally. So thanks for being one who inspires me with his work !
We had an artistic challenge here at the retirement home. I elected to display one print per day outside my door for one month. A housekeeper maliciously destroyed one of the prints and put it in the trash. It was a fashion shot that ran in the newspaper. No one else was offended by the print. She had prints of horses displayed on her housekeeping cart. She did not like prints of young attractive women. I stopped printing.
Pre- Covid I used to print out either 8x10s or 4×6 prints mounted to photo cards, put them in an envelope and leave them behind – cpffee shop, library, etc. No ide where most of them went. A couple of times someone pointed out that I had forgotten something…in those cases I simply explained the exercise, showed them the image and left it with them instead.
Every December we make a photo calendar and have them printed and spiral bound. The hardest part there is choosing just 12 images out of those we made. We match images month for month, so the calendar image for July 2020 was made in July 2019, etc.
I’m a retired librarian/archivist and have always thought that the best archival format is a good print. For the past four years I’ve been working with the Cheakamus Centre here in British Columbia, volunteering my time as an event photographer and donating printed materials such as bookmarks and greeting cards to help out with their marketing activities and grant proposals. Lightroom and my Epson P800 printer, along with Moab entrada double-sided paper, work beautifully for this task and event attendees love leaving with a bookmark featuring a labeled image of a medicinal plant or farm animal along with contact information for the Centre. I’ve also printed 13 x19 images for some of the graduating classes. The Centre is an outdoor experiential learning organization affiliated with the provincial school system and located in an ecological reserve on the Cheakamus River. I’ve set up a Lightroom catalogue for them and always donate the copyright to the Centre. It’s been a wonderful way to help out a really deserving organization.
Sometimes your prints go on to have a life of their own. I printed an A3 calendar as a gift for my parents, just holiday landscapes taken in Scotland. When they finished using it my dad took it in to his doctors office to show where they had been on holiday, they liked it so much they framed some of the images and hung them on the waiting room wall. Good job I am not precious about copyright! It is nice to know my photos are cheering people up whilst waiting for their appointments.
I think Julia has a a great topic for another article – what do we do with tens of thousand of “non-family” prints when it is time to start getting affairs in order? How do you go about asking whether a person or organization might be interested in photos of a particular subject/topic? Is photo paper recyclable? I cannot bear to throw away a photo once its been printed (unless its a disaster!), so I am not seeing that as an option, although my children might.
When I moved out of my home we had a big yard sale. I was surprised by the number of people that picked out a print from my free pile that was headed for the trash.
Matt, I have been printing my photos for many years. I own an Epson R2880 printer which can print a maximum of 13X19 images. Prints of that size frame nicely and allow me to share my phots with house guests. I also cut my own mats which makes things even easier and less expensive. it also lets me change out my framed photos easily.
I have friends and family who only photograph with their phones and never print anything, that seems to be the way the world is going, what a shame.
I for one am a recipient of your prints and annual calendar.
They are very much appreciated.
I see at least one of your prints every day as we enjoy your calendar in our kitchen.
You are on the right path.
I always say that photos taking up terabytes in the computer are doing nobody any good.
I’m putting photos on magnets this weekend to send to some friends and family. One is a composite I made when I did your compositing class 🙂
Ha! I just beat you to the challenge – it was a friend’s birthday this week and I made a print and mat mounted it as her birthday card – she texted me to say she was looking where she could hang it…. (bonus – it was a wildlife texture blend!!!) 🙂
Matt you are so right! I have dozens of photo albums documenting a lifetime of memories. My favourite thing to give friends and family as a gift is a framed photo of a moment in time to remember. The response is always a pleasure to receive.
After a while one does have boxes of printed images under the bed. So is there a resource that might benefit from many free printed images. These are mostly 16×20 and black and white.
Right on the money Matt. A teacher of mine, at Santa Fe Workshops, Carlin Tapp told me “if you don’t print the image you have not taken it.” I am looking forward to your course it is on my computer.
While I am on the topic of printing I hope you included a section on printing greeting cards, maybe with ON1. It is starting to bother me to pay $120/year to only use LR’s printing module. Haven’t been able to find another that is as smooth to use as that one. Thanks for being a great teacher.
Luckily I’ve always been printing my digital photos but maybe because I shot film in the old days and had a dark room!! I still think this will be a great course, which I will get, as I know I will learn something new. You are never too old to learn!! BTW, I still remember the days work printing Cibachrome prints!!
Matt, you’re so right. When my mother-in-law’s Dad died last year, I reworked an informal portrait I’d taken of him and gave her an 11×14 print. She was very touched and framed it for use at his funeral service. It now sits in a place of honor on her dresser. When I did it, I had no idea how important it would become.
I’m rededicated to printing now and finding new ways to use photographs I already have. Thanks for the motivation here.
Yup. What Matt said.
It’s not done ’til it’s printed.
You have gotten me to think in a new direction. I have previously only printed my photos to books or calendars and have not thought about giving individual prints to friends. Great idea. I am going to get your latest course and hone my limited skills toward this end. Thanks for everything.