Back in the film days, unless you were the kind of photographer who processed their own film and printed a select few using an enlarger, there was no such thing as an unprinted photo. You just took the shot, assumed you got it and moved on. Once you had your 24 or 36 shots you took your film to a photo processing lab and you would get them back, film processed, and every photo printed – sometimes you would even ask for two copies before you even knew if they were any good. You would put most of them in a photo album, and more often than not if they were from a special event or trip (and they usually were) you would invite friends over for a drink or a meal just so they could see your photos. But now, most people under 20 have never experienced anything different to uploading a digital file to Facebook and clicking “post”.
Earlier this month this really began to bother me. Despite how much I have grown to love photography in the last 2 and a half years, I had only printed the odd photo here and there on my home printer to pin up around the office. But I started to realise that if it’s not printed and you can’t hold it in your hands or hang it on a wall, then it’s not a real tangible thing. It’s a virtual thing sitting on your computer and probably being shown in a shrunk and compressed format on your Facebook account, instead of being displayed in all its glory.
How sad is it that so many of us put our heart and soul into capturing a beautiful scene or moment, deciding what time of day to take the photo, from what angle and height, with what depth of field and focal length, putting painstaking effort into processing a raw image correctly, only to leave it sitting on our computers and on Facebook’s servers. That’s almost like an artist finishing a painting or sculpture, taking a photo of it to put on Facebook and then throwing their work out with the garbage. It’s just not right.
So 4 weeks ago I bought a pretty photo album that holds 300 photos. I chose some of my favourite photos and out came one of the four printing vouchers that had been hiding in my purse ever since I received them as a bonus when I purchased my first DSLR camera. What a difference it made opening up that envelope that contained my photos and finally seeing and appreciating the result of my efforts. It felt so much better to be able to hand my mother printed photos of the family dog rather than just send her small images via text message.
As luck would have it, I learned that a professional printing business was offering huge discounts once a week on their 20 x 30 inch (76.2 x 50.8cms) prints. I could barely contain my excitement the day I went to collect my large print and couldn’t hold back my smiles when the man in the shop showed me my completed print and I walked out of that shop holding the proof in my hands that my photos looked nice printed large.
It didn’t stop there. I was excited when a popular Facebook page that showcases South Australia chose one of my photos of the thunderstorm we had on Sunday night (together with photos by 7 other people) to be shared on their page on Monday. But that was nothing compared to the thrill I got when a small local newspaper close to where I took the photos printed 3 of my photos from the night, despite that newspaper having a pretty small circulation. The only explanation I have is that once again, it felt so much more real when I could hold the pages in my hands and know I have a tangible item that I can put away somewhere as a memento.
So my advice? Print and print regularly!