Eric’s Note: This article is by Ollie Gapper, a street photographer based in the UK- and now a weekly contributor to the blog. Stay tuned for more of his “Ollie Gapper Thursday” posts!
Over the past few months it’s fair to say I’ve spent a lot of time and money on printing. Though it wasn’t entirely through choice, it’s an element of my university course I absolutely would not change. It’s enlightened me, allowed me to look at my work in a totally different way. Being able to hold an image, move it around in the light, hold it close to my face and scrutinise every inch of it, it feels like its making me a better photographer. Seriously.
I’ve learnt a lot in terms of traditional, darkroom printing, both colour and black and white, and in doing so, I’ve learnt a lot about my film and my photographs.
Ive also been reading through the Ansel Adams technical guide books (The Camera, The Negative and The Print) which has taught me to reverse this method of only ever printing for your negative, it instead teaches you to expose your negative for your print. I shant go into the specifics of the Zone System or anything, as thats not what I want to say in this article.
What I want to say is simple: Print your images.
The sheer tangibility of a print, the physicality of it, being able to pass it round, hang it up – it gives your images a new presence, they cant simply be forgotten about or skipped past like they can on a screen. Your images suddenly start displaying blemishes – imperfections in your composition that seem to disappear into our periphery when viewed digitally.
My point is short and simple: I believe that through printing your work you will become a better photographer.
This doesn’t mean I think you should shoot, tweek then print, more shoot, print, tweek, print. A really useful plugin for this is the freely available Contact Sheet II automator preset for photoshop – It automatically take a folder of images, resizes them into your desired sizes and adds any exif data you wish to include, replicating a traditional contact sheet and intended for the same use.
I personally find it hard to see any benefit from printing images smaller than 6x7cm, so usually around 6 images per A4 sheet is usually my maximum.
The prints themselves do not, however, have to be of ‘photo’ quality, its really just having your images printed that really counts. I find it massively useful to just stick a print on a wall that I intend to use and leave it there, usually somewhere I frequently walk past. This allows me to glance at it periodically throughout around a week or so, and in doing so, notice any and every imperfection in my image which I note down for adjustments when it comes to my final print.
If you’re a film shooter who sends their negatives away for developing and scanning, why not order some 4×6’s? I will guarantee now that being able to hold your images will lead to you shooting to more of a purpose, and you will find yourself naturally scouring the corners of your viewfinder more, leading to better, shots occurring more frequently.
If you’re hearing what I’m saying and giving it serious consideration, heres a few pointers to get you started. If you own a printer, then the best advice is to just use it! Try printing some contact sheets and from this full prints – having your own printer is a convenient blessing. If you do not have a printer, or your printer just isn’t good enough, then load your cards with your images and head to your local Asda/Walmart (or any cheaply priced photo-printers) and get some 4×6’s printed up. I guarantee the cost will be no more than about 20p (30c) per image, which is worth every penny for what you will get out of your prints.
If you’re based in/around the UK, I strongly suggest checking Genie Imaging out, they are just about the cheapest film handlers I’ve come across, with e6/C41 processing costing just £1.99, and 120 C41 process and scan just £5.99. The files are scanned to a nice quality and the negs always handled perfectly (from my experience). Prints will be around the £10 mark, again, very much worth it.
If, however, you’re feeling very frivolous, why not try your hand at traditional RA-4 or Silver Gealtin printing? If you do not have your own darkroom, take a look at lfords Darkroom finder (http://www.ilfordphoto.com/photocommunity/darkroom.asp) or try Googling “Darkroom for hire [your location]” – some community centres and adult education centres have darkrooms setup free for use, so make sure you do your research before parting with any cash. – on a side note, would you guys like to see a video tutorial on producing darkroom prints?
If you’re interested in buying a new photo printer, I’d strongly suggest (If you shoot a lot of B+W) purchasing a printer that has dedicated grey inks to allow your prints to exhibit the purest greys and black possible. If you do not have this, your printer will simply mix the coloured inks and black ink together to attempt to replicate the tones, which almost always results in purple/blue/green colour hues – not very flattering for any image. Take a look at the Epson R2880 A3+ photo printer, it features 2 grey and 2 black inks to allow for fantastic grey balance and tonal control. This is not the only printer on the market to offer this, but I don’t want this to turn into a printer comparison article, so do your research and feel free to get in contact with me if you have any questions.
If you have any questions what-so-ever please don’t hesitate to get in touch, Im always happy to help.
Contact Ollie Gapper
Stay connected with Ollie by checking out his links below. Also he is selling his professionally-processed prints, so make sure to contact him as well if you are interested!
How often do you print your own photos, and what are some tips that you may have for the rest of the community? Share your thoughts below!