Print: New Magcloud 8-Page Promos

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Back when I was working as a photographer I had a constant stream of printed pieces leaving my office. I did micro booklets, oversized magazines, single image print pieces, etc. I had a database of those I wanted to work with, or for, and another database of known connections who I had worked with in the past. I didn’t just send normal things. I sent a very strange assortment of print. Some of what I sent had nothing to do with photography, and oddly enough, many of those pieces are what returned the most work. Some of my clients collected my pieces and would call when I hadn’t sent something in a while. Once someone took an image of me in the Sahara photographing a camel that was lying down, so I sent a promotional piece about my ongoing documentary project detailing the life of the world’s shortest camel. It was bogus of course, but I played it like it was real. Some people were utterly confused while others thought it was great. My point is I sent it. I shot it, edited it, designed it, printed it and put it in the mail. For those of you who don’t know, print still rules. In the upper levels of design, illustration, photography, art, etc, PRINT is the resource most coveted. Not digital. Digital transmissions are too numerous to count, and many look alike. Even I receive masses of these from photographers who somehow got my email and send me their links as if I can get them work. Most of these emails get deleted right away. Number one, I don’t have time for work coming in that way. I have too many other email to deal with. The second thing is most of the emails are kinda…phony. It’s the rainbow and unicorn email of “life is perfect,” which is somewhat commonplace these days.

But the print pieces I receive. Totally different. I keep them all. Heck, some of them I feature here. I have a massive, clear, plastic envelope that holds all of the pieces I receive. Sometimes I’ll leave out the envelope when people come to my house, just to see the reaction. Eyes bulge, faces contort and I get priceless quotes like “No f%$%^%$ way!” I will study a print piece from a variety of angles. The object itself, the images, the binding, the paper and the combination of the parts. The editing and sequence also give me reason to study. What does this mean? I’M PAYING ATTENTION TO THE WORK. Yes, I just told you the secret of photographic life in 2016. UNDIVIDED ATTENTION. It’s as rare as a polar bear in Mexico City but it still exists!

As you know, I print things all the time, and I haven’t worked as a photographer in six-years, so it’s not like I’m trying to sell myself. I do it because I have an illicit love affair with printed things. I feel that photographers MUST print their work. In my mind I would go so far as to say if you aren’t printing you aren’t really a photographer. Printing is your final chance to leave your mark. It’s one of the most rewarding things a photographer can do. And when I say print I don’t care if it’s on a napkin at Sizzler. If you printed on a napkin you would be very limited which would mean you would have to REALLY edit your work. That in itself is worth the effort and will make you better.

My latest test is a round of Magcloud Digest, 8-page promos that aren’t really promos because I’m not promoting but PLAY ALONG. All six took a grand total of 1.5 hours to produce. The cost was $1.28 per copy and with shipping the total cost was $12. And man do they look good. I feel like asking my mom if she will pretend to be a photo-editor so I can send her one. My mom is mean as a snake and would probably try to get me to sign a rights grabbing contract, but I would never cave to her demands.

Something I’ve always had a hard time with is the number of people who find reasons NOT to do this kind of thing. I get a lot of unwarranted praise for making things like this, but when I tell photographers they can do the same often times I’m met with things like “Oh, I don’t have anything ready.” “Well, I’m going to try to get a book deal.” “What’s the paper stock?” “What color profiles do I have to use?” “Who owns the copyright?” “What binding options do I have?” “Well, I have to edit for another three months before I try something like that.” “I’m not sure where a publication like that would fit in my catalog.” I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP. A simple, 8-page promo becomes a career defining, epic production. I view this ideology as the old world photography model, one that is dying so fast there really isn’t much left other than the lifeboats. The new world of photography and publishing is fluid, creative, responsive and reactionary. True pioneers and the Uber-talented have been doing this for years. And I’ll tell you again, it’s fun. A LOT of fun. Challenging too.

I’ve visited offices in New York that still had printed pieces I sent five years earlier. This isn’t a thumb swipe on Instagram. It’s much, much more.

Comments 12

  1. Mexico City is the secret home of polar bears. You clearly haven’t visited in a while. I recommend it highly: color profiles take on a whole new tint, south of the border.

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  2. Hi Dan,
    Just finished my best of 2015 book on bookwright. It’s like digging all your best work out of a deep dark cave and put it back into the sunshine. It won’t be forgotten or unexpectedly shot into the digital dustbin (crashed drive… anyone?)this way. It will get praised and admirared when you show it to friends and relatives. You’re right, print always rules. The poster thing intrigues me most. More to explore. Thanks.

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      It’s also a good exercise to see what you REALLY have. And getting it off drives is smart too. I’m doing my postcard thing and many books.

  3. I took a few photographs of an angler fishing at a local pond a couple of days ago. During the course of our conversation he pulled out a point and shoot digital camera and showed me photos of some of the trophy fish he had caught around the country, and even in France and Spain. “In fact” he said “I can show you the first photo that I took with this camera, in 2008”.

    Yes, he had all his keeper photos since 2008 (date and time shown on the photographs) on one memory card. I told him that he really should back his photos up somewhere but he said that he didn’t have a computer, he just had prints made and then put the memory card back in the camera.

    At least he makes prints.


    1. Mike,
      This is fairly common. I’ve run into “professional” photographers who do this. Ran into one guy who had photographed several days of a surfing content on one flash card, then dropped it and it had become corrupted. I asked when the last time he formatted his card and his reply was “What’s formatting?” When I was photographing kids I ran into a lot of families who only had cards and Facebook. No prints, no backup. Most of them lost everything, but that’s life these days.

  4. This comes “como caído del cielo” (however is that expression in English). I just finished a shoot with a model and my brain started to grind like crazy. Really. It was painful. I know there is something missing and not sure what is.
    I print photos of almost all my shoots. I have printed some stuff with blurb. I want something different now, wasn’t sure what. This gives me ideas, seems that the grinding level of my brain gears is reducing …
    I think i go to give it a shot and maybe print 2 or 3 different ones. One “serous” and couple with a weird twist to them and see what happen. What the hell! Why not?.
    Now is time to go to bed. Tomorrow as soon as I arrive from work I’ll do something quick and send them to print … Now I feel a little happier.
    Thank you Dan.

    1. Erlantz,
      I think of them as sketches. And when you edit for eight pages it teaches you how little you need, but often times, also have little you might have. We’ve tricked ourselves with technology. Tricked into thinking that good word happens ANY more frequently than it ever did. It doesn’t. Go to print and this fact reveals itself.

  5. Hi Dan,
    Couldn’t agree more with printing; even for a hobby guy – and particularly a book. Individual prints can be handled of course but there is definitely an additional layer of emotion (enjoyment) that comes with the tactile part of touching & flipping the page. I recently finished and got back my 2015 photo journal book. I hand wrote captions and geographical information where applicable. I know you preach it all the time but it is amazing to see the difference in peoples reaction and comments in comparison to the digital ‘on screen’ file. And I think that is a really the key point is the undivided attention the book gets. I’ve had a chance to show the book to several that saw the digital file months ago and, for most anyways, they are really seeing the images for the first time.

    ….Of course that is usually followed by ‘can I get a copy’ or ‘what are you going to do with it? (the book)’…..No people, it’s an edition of one….there’s nothing ‘to get’….it just is.

    PS – Enjoying the new site content.

    All the best,

    1. JT,
      “There’s nothing to get, it just is.” Absolutely right. Every move we make these days seemingly has to come with the added over promotion of over stimulation clause, as if NOT doing these things somehow diminishes the book itself. Enjoy it.

  6. Trying to wrap my head around what to have printed up – my work is somewhat scattered these days and haven’t’ really had a chance to shoot any consistent themed projects. Any advice?

  7. Pingback: Creative: Using MagCloud to Support Blurb, Flyer – Shifter

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