As promised, I am going to tell you all about why I LOVE high quality photographic prints, and have made them a part of every package I offer.
You are probably used to the current nature of shooting lots of photos, maybe backing up your memory card every other month or so, reviewing the photos and adding some of your favourites to facebook. Some of you might even take a USB key to the photo lab to finally get some printed a couple of times a year. I want the truth though, what percentage of the images you take do you actually get printed? Why is that?
Digital photography is fantastic and I love it, but that is one unfortunate thing about the industry right now. Most of us are not aware of the potential when it comes to beautiful prints for our walls. The average person who does get things printed only buys 4×6’s and they sit in an envelope in a drawer and get seen only a couple of times. We’re much less inclined these days to go through the trouble of mounting prints in albums, or even having them framed. I think part of the reason is that it’s daunting for people because they aren’t sure what’s available to them, and it’s partly because our worlds online have expanded so much that that tends to be where we love to share images. It means your aunt in Ontario will see it, and your friends who moved out of town. But what about you? Are you really getting a chance to appreciate those special memories properly? Eventually they’ll fade away into cyberspace at the very bottom of facebook, where the company is free to use them as they please (because that’s in the fine print when you sign up).
Of course I love sharing online and see the advantage to being able to show relatives far away. But I want my clients to understand that when they invest in professional work, they should also get professional results in the product they receive. If I only give a DVD of images, then I am doing my client an injustice because those images may be sitting on a shelf for so many years that the person I’ve created this work for is not truly taking advantage of them or appreciating them. Not to mention, where is that DVD going to be in 100 years? It will be unreadable and no longer an archive of memories. Hard copies people! They’re the only substantial thing that we can preserve and make last.
What is a good quality print? I’ve heard stories of people who have invested in beautiful wedding photography that they received on DVD, and then they proceeded to have the whole collection printed at Wal-Mart. Because the photographer had done some interesting things with the colour-editing and retouching, and Wal-Mart automatically colour corrects all the files for you, the whole pack of prints came out green or magenta. I’m not saying this would happen to everyone, but you need to be careful with this! Printing your photos well should not be taken lightly. As photographers, we want our work to maintain its quality from the DVD to the printed image, where it will look just as we envisioned in a beautiful frame over your mantel piece. But if we aren’t offering great products to you and convincing you why they’re worth it, then we’re risking having you get not-so-great results elsewhere. So while the argument sometimes may be that having all the photos in high resolution means you can continue to print them as you please, you have to wonder whether that’s always a good call. A lot of the generic labs you know about are run by automatic machines and no one is ensuring you’re getting the image you see on your screen, or even a print of decent quality. Another case of… you get what you pay for.
Good quality doesn’t just mean not turning green or magenta. Good quality is in the paper choice and in the inks. Any print you expect to have for a long time should absolutely be of archival quality. The issue here is that the word ‘archival’ doesn’t particularly have a standard that has to be adhered to, as it simply means “a term often used to imply that a material will be stable over time.” This is difficult to measure and lots of photographers are guilty of using this term without actually understanding it. Archival or museum quality refers to products selected to last, with the use of acid-free materials and high definition inks. Like anything else though, how it is framed and where it is hung can also impact how long it lasts. What I suggest is that you ensure your prints are at minimum acid-free, and the albums and frames you use are as well. I provide a print care card to all of my clients when they receive their final products, so that they can maintain their prints in the best way possible.
I choose to use cotton rag papers, partly because of their thickness and beautiful feeling to the touch, and also because of their reduced impact on the environment. Above you’ll see a chart relating to the choices available for photographers today and how they are graded in terms of their sustainability. I used to be a big fan of papers with a glossy surface, but soon discovered that the surface is in fact a plastic resin coating which means using these papers encourages the use of petroleum products. They are also not recyclable. When I made the switch to cotton I was skeptical about whether they would have the same quality that I usually desire from a print, but was pleasantly surprised. My prints show both beautiful vivid colour and sharpness. They are smooth but the inks don’t scratch off and the edges have such beautiful texture, even with a straight cut. When my clients receive them, they love them just as I do.
I only use products I can get behind and love myself, and when I receive a print that doesn’t look right to me, I would never pass it on to a client. That’s why choosing a photographer who will provide you this service is guaranteeing quality control and make you feel so satisfied with your investment. Tell me, what are your thoughts on this? Do you see the value in a good print when you’ve invested in a professional photo session?