When I became interested in photography, I desperately tried to read the books written by the great Ansel Adams. Back then, he was widely recognized to be a master of photography and I wanted to learn from the best. However, the information and language was so thick that my young adult mind struggled to fully comprehend it. The ONE thing I did learn, was to become a great photographer - you had to understand the camera, the negative and the print. It wasn’t enough to master one without the other.
Today, what I want to share about is “the print”. Printing is indeed an art form. I have personally witnessed an average image come to life based on the mastery of the printer. I have printed hundreds of photos in my own time, even worked at a mini-photo lab so I could learn how to print color. Therefore, this advice I am about to share comes from someone that truly knows and understands printing.
First, let me say, there is an easy, fast and cheap way to do everything. Yes, you can print at home. Yes, you can go to a local discount store and get photos in an hour for pennies on the dollar. Just know, buy cheap - you get cheap. Ask Judge Judy, she yells it at people all the time, especially when it comes to photography.
I know I am over talking about price (for good reason) but you don’t buy a Luxury car only to run it on cheap gas. It would undermine the mechanics of the car and make it run horribly. Furthermore, if you can afford a luxury car - it’s safe to assume you can afford premium gas. So, the only reason why someone would use cheap gas is because they didn’t know better.
When people think of digital photography, they think of the camera. However, digital changed the world of printing if not more than the camera. For photographers to match what they saw on their monitor, there had to be a universal point of calibration. That point is gray. Gray is gray - no matter the device. When every device (camera/monitor/printer) sees gray as gray, everything is in balance. Essentially, what you see - is what you get. The photographer could now be in complete control of the prints “IF” they calibrated their system.
At one time, you could not own my photography without purchasing a print. Prints were "how" you purchased photography, therefore the quality of the print mattered. I believed that I was creating a product with value, and wanted to ensure the quality. This is why I chose to only work with a professional photo-finishing lab. Prints were the backbone of my business, so having a great relationship with a photo-lab was VERY important.
When digital photography became mainstream, things started to evolve and buying habits started to change. You could now own my photography without ever needing to print it. When you were ready to print, you could buy from the same professional photofinishing lab as me. Since I invested time in mastering the art of digital printing; I am confident you can print for yourself, especially if you use the labs I recommend. I also noticed how much time this saved me. Taking orders and delivering the photos, sound simple but they are very time-consuming and tedious.
Ultimately, my point is this, you hire me for my time, talent and expertise as a photographer; not based on the size and/or quantity of a piece of paper. The paper is simply a means to sell the photography. If I do my job and you use the companies I recommend. The printing will be the same regardless who sent it to the lab.
To be successful in business, you must cover your expenses and generate a profit. For more than 50 years, all professional photographers used the same business model retailing prints, frames and albums. Since buying habits have changed and people do not print as much as they used to, the business model for photographers is changing.
Today, people hire me for my creativity, skill and mastery of my photography. My rates are based upon my needs for my business to be profitable. Just like before with prints; you buy only what you like, want or need. You are purchasing my photography in a digital format, either standard or high resolution. You have my permission to use my photography for personal use, which allows you to print photos or make coffee cups. I retain all the copyrights, which means you cannot sell the products you make with my photography. In simple words, you can make the coffee cups but you can't sell them.
Sure, you can hire photographers for less, but then remember what Judge Judy says.