Most of us carry and share albums of our photographs with our phones every day. When was the last time you carried prints of your images with you? When was the last time you made a print? If you haven’t made prints recently, you’re missing out. So are your images. Making prints does many things for your images.
How many things? Let me count the ways …
Prints make your images tangible. Prints enhance your images with material qualities and the associations they bring with them. Synthetic or organic? Reflective or non-reflective? Smooth or textured? Uniform or irregular? Sharp or soft? White or cream? Transparent or metallic? These and many other factors will have an impact on the technical quality of your images (color, detail, gradation, etc) and on the reactions they produce within their viewers (“It feels like or reminds me of …”).
Prints define the scale of your images. What is the appropriate scale for an image – miniature, life-sized, or larger-than-life? Do you want people to walk up to a building-sized mountain or hold it in their hands? Scale changes the physical and psychological reactions people have to images. They draw close to small prints and sometimes hold them or even carry them with them wherever they go; large prints immerse people in images that may fill their entire visual field until they pull back to view them from a distance. You can change a space or even create new space with prints.
Printing makes your images more durable. So far, it’s prints that have stood the test of time. Historically, it’s the images that were printed that survived. Putting new technology disaster stories aside, there’s never been a precedent to help us determine how long digital files will last if properly cared for. In theory, they should never degrade and can be copied indefinitely without reducing their quality. Whether people, first you and later the inheritors of your images, will perform the required maintenance to ensure this is the real question. One day in the future, media and format migration may become automated, but it’s not now. Consider prints your ultimate form of backup. Though they can deteriorate on their own, if properly produced and stored, prints need little or no additional care and no know how to retrieve and use them.
Because they’re physical, prints are easily bought and sold. It’s hard to command a high price for intangible things and harder still for them to hold their value or appreciate. In recent years, there have been unprecedented escalations in the value of photographic prints. Photographic prints have sold for as much as major paintings.
Images in print are more rare as well as less accessible. (Often, this contributes to both their market and personal value.) Prints take up physical space and why would you let something do that if it wasn’t important? Of all the images you look at in a day, how many of them are prints? No one carries thousands of prints in their pockets or on their cell phones. No one makes millions of prints. How many prints do you make? Most of us don’t make enough prints. Making a print is a statement.
Traditionally, to be viewed at all photographs needed to be printed. Today, that’s no longer true. Still, prints encourage images to be viewed in different ways. If you’re like most people, only the most important images to you have been printed and only a few of those are displayed at one time or for long periods of time. We look at images that are printed differently than images that are not. Do you look more frequently and longer at images that have been printed or images that haven’t? Prints persist. They remain in our environment consistently and require little or no conscious effort for us to consider and reconsider them yet often they demand that we do look at them more consciously. Making prints can become a part of the decision-making process to focus more attention on a select few images. When images are printed they are no longer lost amid so many other less important images. When printed your images become more significant.
In short, printing your images can work wonders for them. It can also work wonders for you.