In Praise of Print Making

Whenever I get camera envy, I force myself to go into the studio and produce a matted print. Time slows down, I focus on selecting just one image to work on. I spend a fair amount of time in Lightroom and Photoshop getting the exposure and crop just right. This involves several draft prints. Then, I put in the larger sheet and press the print button. After that, comes the matting, with the joy of having to measure precisely, cut the matte accurately and mount the print without screwing anything up. Then comes the magic moment of admiring the matted print in good light and enjoying that blend of technology and artistry that comes together in a good print.

Here’s the beauty of this process. It keeps you focused on what’s important – the production of photography as art. AND, it draws your attention to the rather limited role played by the camera and lens. When I troll for a good image to print, I often go back 5 or 6 years. I NEVER look at the camera/lens combo when choosing an image to print. Sometimes, just for fun, I’ll select some matted prints from a variety of cameras and then see if I can detect any difference between a print done with an old Canon 20d and a Sony NEX or Fuji X100. For the medium-sized (18×12) prints that I usually produce, I just cannot tell the difference.

When money is burning a hole in your pocket and the lure of the next shiny new thing is niggling at your brain, it is often best to ask the question: will this shiny new thing help me to make better prints? Sometimes, the answer is yes. For example, my Sony Nex-7 makes it easier for me to take a camera along for the ride and I get images that I would have otherwise missed. Most of the time, the answer is no. A Canon 5dmkIII is not going to offer any real advantages over my 5dmkII when it comes to making prints. I can breathe a big sigh of relief and ignore that siren song.

While we are inundated with photos on the Internet (the million monkeys typing), there are still relatively few people who are actually making prints. I sell my work at art shows and fairs and there are usually just two or three photographers selling their wares among the painters and sculptors. This has not changed in five years. Fortunately, people still like to decorate their houses with artwork, so there is a steady market for good quality prints.

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