Why should you print more ?
I once read that the word ‘Photography’ was coined by Sir John Herschel way back in 1839, it was based on the Greek (phos) meaning ‘light’ and (graphê) meaning drawing – I guess that means Photography has a pure literal translation as ‘drawing with light’. A pretty fun fact to remember when trying to compose an image. The reason that I started this blog with that fact is that I wanted help bring up the subject that in this fast paced world of instant images and the race for likes on Instagram, is that Photography has the past. Once upon a time, it was a slow exercise. At the end of the photographic journey, a print was made. A unique, one off image that was made through the hands and process, it involved many steps, from camera to chemical.
Much of the photography today is taken with little thought of what Sir John really was thinking about when he first dreamt up the term. Where is the ‘painting of light’ in the Instagramming of your burger and fries. The millions of images that flood social feeds each day of cats falling asleep or running away from cucumber are funny, but, again, not sure they carry the weight of the first concepts of photography were about. Today we snap as many photos every two minutes as humanity as a whole did in the 1800’s. My point is this, there are pictures and there are photographs. I think in 2016 there are distinct differences. My question is this as a photographer, how can you make sure that the work you are making is one and not the other. Most importantly, if you’re looking to set up a business it can be very important to clearly establish you just where you want to be and what the exceptions of your clients are.
Last year I was asked to attend the Fotospeed FotoFest event we set up some lights and waited for people to come along. The aim was very simple, take photographs of people and print them. We started out the day by setting up our Broncolor lights, we used a long strip light and the slightly smaller strip light. We went for a very classic Rembrandt lighting style, the camera used was Fujifilm X-Pro 2, set it to Acros film mode. We wanted to have the simplest set up possible. In the start – before we had any prints to show – it was hard to get people to sit. I showed them images on my phone of the test set up, while doing my best to convenience people to sit for me. Please bear in mind, I had never met these people before, they just walked into an event not really expecting me to be greeting them with a camera. After a short, while I got someone to sit with me, we took his photograph and put it on the computer then a few moments later it was headed to the printer. We printed his image 24inchs on the longest edge, the moment he saw the image his smile was about the same length as the print.
At the start of the day, I had no prints to show anyone, I had nothing ‘real’ to show. Once I had one print, I was off and away. In a very short time, I had a queue of people asking…. is where I can have my photograph taken. Just having one print, I was able to show people effectively what I was doing. Once we had a few images out the printer, we had quite a crowd watching the shoots and lining up. People were asking questions and getting involved. Another question I offer up – would we of had the same reaction if we just left the images on the computer? Would the same principle work for your photography?
This might seem like a silly and small story, but the thing is this… Done right, the right printed image has the power to stop people in their tracks. We are so programmed to flick through images with a digital luminosity and give them no valued time, that when we do see a stunning printed image, it has even more impact. This can be used to great effect, if you’re looking to separate your photography from those around you, I might suggest have a better look at how you can shape the perceived value of your work by printing.
While we are on the topic of perceived value & as a final parting thought. The average life span of a digital image today is about 3 to 5 seconds, the very moment you print it you increase the life of that image thousands of times. If you want people to value your work, printing can be a very logical step. As something to try, the next time you get an image you like – print it and give it away. If you’re looking to market your work, maybe find a local coffee shop or restaurant that is happy to display your work. Letting people be able to view your work in the way you intend is going to let your work shine the way you want.