Creative: Making Prints

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“I’m still working on my book.”

“I’m trying to make it perfect.”

“Do you have any coupon codes?”

I’ve heard these lines countless times over the past ten years, and I can say with one-hundred-percent conviction that those who utter these lines not only don’t create interesting books, most of the time they don’t make books at all. I’ve run into the same person over a multiyear timeframe who is working on a 24-page, softcover and can’t pull the trigger. I find this puzzling.

You want a code, follow Blurb on Twitter and you will be a happy camper. There is no such thing as perfect, and the books created with that concept in mind tend to be boring and look a lot like books I’ve seen before. And at some point you HAVE to hit print.(Especially on the test copy.)

“How do you make so many books?” is another question I get a lot. Let me answer that. First, I enjoy the process. With all the awful stuff we have to deal with in life, bookmaking is a joy. I never lose track of this reality. Second, I’m prepared and I’m focused. I don’t spend my life on social, don’t surf the Internet, don’t watch TV and I practice my craft whenever possible. I know how to edit, know how to sequence, have my digital asset management system in place, keep my monitor calibrated which all allow me to get a lot done in a short amount of time.

And I print my work.

I’m just going to say it. If you don’t print your work you aren’t a serious photographer. You might be a seriously online photographer, but who doesn’t print? Amateurs. Nothing wrong with being an amateur photographer, nothing at all, but tossing your images around in cyberspace is what consumer/prosumers do, but making and showing prints is what real photographers do. What real photographer’s dream is to get an online gallery? Answer, nobody. What real photographer wants on those walls of the gallery or museum? Nearly everyone. Those printed pages of the magazines? Nearly everyone. Those books that cement your position in the history of photography? Nearly everyone.

Printing is FUN. And it sure does separate the wheat from the chaff. What’s good? What’s not? Printing makes bookmaking so much easier, and printing these days is SO inexpensive. Even large prints are dirt cheap. I make cheap prints on a cheap printer and paste them in a cheap book, but you can bet your ass by the time I’m done I’ve got my edit and sequence ironed out and my book is that much further along in the publishing process.

Yesterday I printed old Wyoming images. The book is done and off to the printer. Less than a week after returning home, and this while having four additional Blurb tasks on the to-do list for the week.(It’s very doable people.)

And before the consumer society makes this process more complicated than it should be. It doesn’t matter what printer I have, or what paper I use or how any of these things look. It’s just about making prints. Keep it simple and enjoy your success. Good printing leads to good bookmaking. Good luck, have fun.

Comments 12

  1. Needed to read this five years ago. Over the last 6 months I have culled an archived three year project totaling 1700 6 x 6 digital scans down to 100 work prints. All to find that it is unlikely I can pull together an edit that works of this project. If I had printed as I went, I wouldn’t have the holes that I can’t fill now. Annoyed but a huge lesson learned. Have put them all back in a box for now and will come back to them fresh in a month or so and take a second look.

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      Not a bad idea. Leaving things, coming home and taking a look with fresh eyes can often lead to good things.

  2. Mick,

    Figure out what your can make of it! Throw your ideas away, keep the pictures. What if you added an equal number of cell phone snaps to the mix? Or ten charcoal drawings? Or dried flowers? Or 5000 words of essay or 10 nonsense haiku?

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  3. Thank you for the reminder. I have too many “completed” projects that haven’t been printed. They haven’t been completed.

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  4. I’m not big on printing “books” (I quoted it because some are more like pamphlets). I loose a lot of time surfing the web. Not into social media tho. But I print. Oh yes I print. And I love it! I print Instax Mini with the SP1 for my journals, I print 4×6 just for fun, I print 8×10 to see how the photo looks out of a screen. I just like the tangible.
    I haven’t pint in the past as much as I should and it was sad. Since I started following you back on the Smogranch days I started printing my photos, even if it was on printer paper, I don’t care, I just want to hold them in my hands. I have even print a 100 page book on blurb with no editing whatsoever, just a bunch of random color photos, just to see how a “big book” would look like. Photos might be good. Photos might be bad. Photos might be terrible. I don’t care. At least I have something to hold in my hands, or hung on my wall, or tape in my journal; that is real, not composed of zeros and ones. Tangible man, tangible.
    Thank you Dan.

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      I hear ya. Whatever print works for you is the way to go. Just making the decisions about what to print will make you better.

  5. I’m curious what you’ve decided for your digital asset management? Did you stick with LR or move on to something else? We discussed it in post-comments way-back when we were both buying the XT2 at the same time. For now, I’m continuing to use LR, but I’m wondering if there is a program that would more easily join my iPhone photos together with my XT2 images. Thanks for any help/advice or write-up on your personal experience.

  6. A temporary darkroom set/unset at home. A humble enlarger, a not so humble easel. Focus the grain, take out FB paper, countdown, subtle water sounds, the smell of fixer: 5 passable prints in a 3 hour timeframe, plus 10 test prints, wash, check, repeat, REFLECT. This is what works for me nowadays: these intimate sort of conversations with my pictures because the process is sort of mystifying, physical and involved. Printing!

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