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Author Topic: Relevance of print output  (Read 2024 times)

Offline chris@seary.com

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Relevance of print output
« on: October 26, 2009, 10:49:02 AM »
Here's a thought.

I started a discussion recently (on flickr) regarding the way that camera clubs often prioritise prints over projected files.

I've been thinking about how photography moves through different mediums, and the way that we're being moved away from film to digital.

Now, if I take a picture that someone wants a copy of, there are two ways that it is requested.
-If it is someone over 50, then they usually ask for a print.
-If it is someone younger, they usually ask for the file to be emailed.

Is the print becoming less relevant? When many people look through photographs now, they are often using Windows Explorer, rather than looking through a packet of prints.

How far will this go? The digital photo frame is becoming more common, and before long this sort of thing will become more common. Magazines are moving towards being available via the internet, newspapers are finding it hard to cope competing with the online world.

I can see that, for a long time, wedding albums will still be printed, as it's something traditional. But what about your average print?

When photography was introduced, painters were worried about their art disappearing. However, they soon realised that their skill was in making something look like a painting, rather than just a reproduction. So we had impressionism.

Will the same thing happen with prints? Many people are trying historic methods of making emulsions, to ensure that each print has a uniqueness to it. Will the future of prints involve selenium toning or egg whites?

Will any practical purpose involve a small memory drive being placed into a phone/computer/digital photo frame?

For photographers, I think the print is something to aim for. But as the different media evolve, will that always be the case?

I'm at the stage now where I hardly bother to make prints, compared with emailing and posting online. When it comes to sharing and discussing pictures, online sites give (for me at least) much more scope than the small audience than a print would afford. I can look at huge numbers of pictures from all around the world.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2009, 10:53:29 AM by chris@seary.com »



Offline ABERS

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Re: Relevance of print output
« Reply #1 on: October 26, 2009, 03:13:18 PM »

Quote
Is the print becoming less relevant? When many people look through photographs now, they are often using Windows Explorer, rather than looking through a packet of prints.
Surely this just a matter of convenience. It doesn't mean that the viewer has a predilection for a digital image over a print.

Quote
How far will this go? The digital photo frame is becoming more common, [quote/]

People actually buy those things? :o


Quote
Will the same thing happen with prints? Many people are trying historic methods of making emulsions, to ensure that each print has a uniqueness to it. Will the future of prints involve selenium toning or egg whites?

Hasn't that been the case since Fox Talbot was a lad? I know several people who indulge in this type of practice some with stunning results.
See www.timrudman.com  others usually to try and improve or cover up their inadequacies as a 'normal' photographer. ;)


Quote
For photographers, I think the print is something to aim for. But as the different media evolve, will that always be the case?

I'm sure there will be developments that will attract people's attention. I well remember back in the '80's the hologram was going to be the way forward, haven't seen hide nor hair of this since returning to photography three years ago.

Quote
I'm at the stage now where I hardly bother to make prints, compared with emailing and posting on line. When it comes to sharing and discussing pictures, on line sites give (for me at least) much more scope than the small audience than a print would afford. I can look at huge numbers of pictures from all around the world.

I think that's the case for everyone. It's like having an Argos catalogue of your work with the added facility of having it criticised or applauded as the case may be, but recent experience has taught me that the print reigns supreme both in the eyes of those that are photographically aware and the general viewing public.

Offline chris@seary.com

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Re: Relevance of print output
« Reply #2 on: October 26, 2009, 04:55:37 PM »
Hi Alan

I really appreciate the reply.

The point you raise about convenience is what stimulates the discussion. The convenience aspect of technology is what makes people use a PC more and more to view pictures. Convenience often leads (perhaps) to the detriment of quality.

Digital photo frames are in their infancy. Would you have thought about buying a computer thirty years ago? Twenty years ago? TV sets are becoming larger. When they become big enough, and the formats become compatible, could this be how we view camera images? Many software and hardware manufacturers are exploring the usability of this, such as Microsoft with their digital table ideas.

I'd guess that the manufacturers will decide how we move forward. At the moment, film has a lot of advantages over digital from the point of view of quality. But how much funding goes into research and development for film now, and how much goes into digital? That's why film is very likely to disappear.

Could technology drive us away from the print in the same way?

A metaphor for this could be the online job application process. The days of handwritten applications are long gone, and adverts often say 'Word format CVs only'. Is this a lowering of standards? Well, I wouldn't work for a company that chose applicants based on their handwriting first and foremost.

Similar to digital viewing. When you're asked to present a portfolio, you have a lot of influence through presentation - mounting, toning, size of image. However, if someone asks you for a CD/USB stick/memory device to look at on their mobile phone/TV, everyone is given a level playing field - quality of image only.

I would certainly be sad to see prints disappear, but I'm curious as to what people think could be their future as technology progresses.

We've already seen one type of media virtually disappear - how many camera clubs will project colour slides these days? It's just digital file projection and prints in many places.

Offline hevans

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Re: Relevance of print output
« Reply #3 on: October 26, 2009, 05:24:22 PM »
I think there are numerous aspects to this question.

With print, the dynamic range (DR) is about 7 f-stops, with digital images (TIFF, DNG, etc.) the dynamic range is effectively limitless, but the output medium (photo frames, computer screens) has about 9 f-stops(?)  - I'm guessing here and don't honestly know, but presume the range is higher as it is a emissive medium(rather than reflective, like print).

So, given the higher dynamic range, and hence the greater amount of information conveyed in the digital image, I'd rather have someone share the digital version than the print version (you can scan the print version, but with the lost DR you might be missing out). Also, there is the advantage of more flexibility in the future viewing (can get it printed, or share on flickr, or view in the electronic photo frames, etc.). So, the digital version contains more info and can be used more flexibly.

However, if you want to decorate your house, there's no finer option than a nice big print. And if you want to share with local friends, you don't have to power up the PC/Mac/whatever to see them. Nor do you have the problems of making sure the monitor/tv/eFrame is properly calibrated, what you see is what you get. Also, the print is greener - it doesn't require power to view it...assuming a reasonable amount of ambient light. It's also easier on the eyes than a monitor. It will also be easy to view in 100 years (assuming it's on good paper, inks, etc.)

In the long run, I'd say that a print is far more convenient for every day to day viewing; but the digital version has more flexibility. I think the hardcopy will be sticking around for a while, and I'll miss it if it meets its demise.

As for the photographers that are going back to the original methods, well...it's something to do. There will always be the individual that either wants to experiment, or has that eccentricity.

H.

Offline Jonathan

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Re: Relevance of print output
« Reply #4 on: October 26, 2009, 05:48:27 PM »
Dunno really.  I have some random thoughts though.

Over 2 years ago, some nice guys from Kodak bundled me into a coach somewhere in Germany, drove me to an office block, took me to the top floor and bought me a LOT of beer.  Then about every 15 mins somebody came up and said "you know people should be printing more stuff - you should tell people that".  Then they bet me that I couldn't find my way back to my hotel.  Nice guys..... :)

Print is almost dead from a home use POV.  The big problem is that even when you print you only print the good stuff.  Usually you'd shoot 36, print them all and toss 34.  Now you shoot 360, do that 10 times and then consider printing a few "keepers".  Also, prints are cheaper than they have ever been due to the lack of wet chemistry or any skill required.  It is tough in the print world. 

Curiously print books seem to be taking off after a shaky start.  People like Blurb (and the me-toos at Photobox etc) really are shifting a lot of books.  My parents went on a cruise recently (l-o-n-g- story) and came back with lots and lots of snaps.  Apparently I have an album to look through next time I visit.  I'm guessing it's a digital book.

I think you're actually surrendering control and giving anything but a level playing field when you hand in a digital image.  Suppose their monitor is 1,200 pixels wide and you supply 600 px or worse 790?  Or 3,000?  All your careful profiling and colour tagging is useless if they open it in Windows Fax viewer.  Or Paint.  Or open your beautifully hand toned image against a Sports Illustrated bikini edition background.

It always baffles me when clients come for a first look at the gallery.  I have some big prints hung (mostly 30X20s) and then show them some pics on a 40 inch telly.  The most common response is "wow, they are so sharp and colourful!".  Which makes me wonder (1) what they expect - crappy 600 X 400 over sharpened compressed junk? and (2) what other photographers are showing them.

If it helps, I spent an hour or so today packaging print orders - people still buy 7X5 glossies even though I tell them not to.

Personally I like printing big.  I had some A1s done for a show at the weekend and they looked fab.  Especially as they cost me £15.
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Offline ABERS

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Re: Relevance of print output
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2009, 07:12:46 PM »
I get a strange feeling we are all living in totally different photographic worlds, with me in the stone age. I get quite confused by the technobabble that is talked about today's photography and just get on with what I like doing, producing images.

Once we had people who talked about different developers, chemicals, film stock, paper selection and presentation, things that were simple and I could reasonably understand, but now we have people who read all the technical details of sensors, pixels ad infinitum.... ??? and go on endlessly on the subjects that have no influence whatsoever on their photographic prowess other than the fact that the image they produce comprises so many pixels.

After all whether it is a print or a digital image all this pontificating is useless if the image is shite!


Offline chris@seary.com

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Re: Relevance of print output
« Reply #6 on: October 26, 2009, 07:51:42 PM »
I understand what you're saying Alan - the image is often most important aspect to keen photographers.

However, the medium that we use is very relevant to photography. If digital imaging enables me to share my images with someone in another country, from a different culture, then that is something that a print cannot do easily.

If, as Jonathan says, photographers discard and delete so many images, then we lose a good deal of history - much deduction about how people lived in the past is derived from old prints.

When a child is born, a photograph is taken, then that photograph can now be shared with family members that live thousands of miles away the same day. This communicates a great deal to distant aunts/cousins. That's worth loads more than a carefully composed landscape/street shot/portrait etc.

How we use photographs is, in many ways, as important as the image.

Social networking sites are quite ubiquitous nowadays, and images communicate a great deal through this medium. We're sharing thoughts and images instantly, even though we live in different areas of the country. Some of us are in different countries.

That's why I feel it's important to discuss the output medium that we use, and I think some interesting thoughts are coming out of the discussion.

Why is that different to discussion of chemicals and papers? Is it so different to discussion of the new colour photographic processes that appeared between the two world wars? As the output medium evolves, so does the purpose and scope of photography.
« Last Edit: October 26, 2009, 07:59:43 PM by chris@seary.com »

Offline ABERS

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Re: Relevance of print output
« Reply #7 on: October 26, 2009, 10:48:09 PM »

When a child is born, a photograph is taken, then that photograph can now be shared with family members that live thousands of miles away the same day. This communicates a great deal to distant aunts/cousins. That's worth loads more than a carefully composed landscape/street shot/portrait etc.


Family photography, for me is just record photography, and whilst we all do it, I have no interest in it whatsoever photographically. It's akin to a phone call or an email, an everyday occurrence that says no more no less than, "by the way here's little Jimmy".

I suppose we do discard images that would be useful to people other than ones self, but we surely are not the librarians of times present?

Strangely enough I have been contacted recently by a chap that has been going to Speakers' Corner for the last 50 years, and is putting together an A-Z of the speakers he has met and known over those years. I have quite a number of images from the 80's that he has seen on my web site and Flickr and wants to use them in his work.

I met him there a couple of weeks ago and he had bought my Blurb book on the place. As we went through it he could name all those that were in it from that time and what their particular subject they used to harangue the crowds with. So I suppose the fact that they were digital scanned images has allowed him to recall the past, something he would not have been able to do if they were prints. I'm looking forward to seeing the work he's putting together.


Offline Oldboy

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Re: Relevance of print output
« Reply #8 on: October 26, 2009, 11:03:27 PM »

Family photography, for me is just record photography, and whilst we all do it, I have no interest in it whatsoever photographically. It's akin to a phone call or an email, an everyday occurrence that says no more no less than, "by the way here's little Jimmy".

I suppose we do discard images that would be useful to people other than ones self, but we surely are not the librarians of times present?



To be fair a lot of social history is gleaned from 'family photos' and not from photos taken by pros. These 'family photos' allow us to see how different sections of local comunities lived and what shaped their lives and how that influenced us in the present.  ;D

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Re: Relevance of print output
« Reply #9 on: October 27, 2009, 07:08:47 AM »
It strikes me that we are running round in circles chasing our tails with this one.

Digital is the 'new' medium - a digital type of paper. It has differing qualities that the techies could spend all day debating just as techies of old would debate paper quality, developing solutions and film types and grain.
In these ever busy life times digital is the more convenient medium and some would say more 'eco friendly' though i'm sure some one could raise an argument disproving that statement.

I'm not surprised by Jonathan's statement that he still does large business in the 7x5 print market. It seems most people still want a souvenir of an event whether it be a wedding, christening or some large event such as Gay Pride or Notting Hill Carnival. There has been enough discussions on DCM about event photography and all that boils down to is taking lots of pictures of people and selling them a print for a few quid. Pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap photography.

But when you get down to - why would you have a bunch of prints for your once in a life time holiday for which, as has been pointed out, not all have come out to an acceptable level. No, you can create your own photo book using the best images taken digitally and cropped or processed to achieve their best result and add anecdotes to fully capture the memory. In 20 years time that book will do more for looking back on that holiday than a couple of rolls of film.

But my final point is this. On Saturday i should be going on a meet to see another exhibition of Alans work. We've all seen his stuff on this site, Flickr and his own web site. But i defy any one to see his stuff in framed print and not go 'wow - this really adds a new dimension to your pictures' - because believe me - it really does. It makes you want to try your hand at turing some of your stuff into framed print.

Digital is good and it serves a purpose/ market. Paper is also good and it serves its purposes/ market. And we've not even mentioned Canvas, Acrylic etc!

I think we just have to accept that technology has brought about a change to how we capture, process and present our pictures.

As long as 'at the end of the day' we remember to enjoy our pictures.

Offline Oly Paul

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Re: Relevance of print output
« Reply #10 on: October 27, 2009, 09:27:53 AM »
I get a strange feeling we are all living in totally different photographic worlds, with me in the stone age. I get quite confused by the technobabble that is talked about today's photography and just get on with what I like doing, producing images.

Once we had people who talked about different developers, chemicals, film stock, paper selection and presentation, things that were simple and I could reasonably understand, but now we have people who read all the technical details of sensors, pixels ad infinitum.... ??? and go on endlessly on the subjects that have no influence whatsoever on their photographic prowess other than the fact that the image they produce comprises so many pixels.

After all whether it is a print or a digital image all this pontificating is useless if the image is shite!



Alan surely you remember the techno geeks from the film days that took/printed endless test pictures to show that there Ziess/ Nikon glass/enlarging lens was the sharpest or that this or that actuance developer produced the sharpest edges in print.

And in the majority all they produced was boring sterile record images, these guys have always been here, they just have a bigger audiance to bore these days.  ;)
Regards Paul
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Offline Al Birmingham

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Re: Relevance of print output
« Reply #11 on: October 27, 2009, 10:20:14 AM »
The general public (or people who are not big photographers) are still very much into prints.
How do I know? I do a bit of schools photography, one of the options I offer is an emailed image. This year I had my biggest uptake on that ever - 6 parents wanted pictures emailed. The other 350 wanted prints.
Al Birmingham

skellum

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Re: Relevance of print output
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2009, 11:30:29 AM »
I do all my own printing up to A3+ ( Larger sizes to order ) and sell my framed and mounted prints to the general public & businesses. Some have told me they have looked at my pictures on my website and then decided to come and have a look at them ( in the flesh, so to speak ).
The internet is a wonderfull tool but I think it is mainly used as a shop window. As for computer images, well we have all seen some fantastic images on the various sites and forums but unfortunately a lot of them, mine included never make it to print, some for technical reasons ( basically overdone in photoshop or over sharpened ).
If any of you out there have a favorite image but have not at least printed it yet then please have a go and have it mounted and framed I am sure you will be pleased by the "physical presence" of your own artistic creation as apposed to a image on the computer monitor.     Long live the print !  ............. :legit:

 

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