The Value of Printed Artwork

As a classically-trained photographer, I don’t view my job as having been completed until my client’s artwork has been printed. Whether we are designing one large piece as pictured above or a collection of smaller pieces to fill the space, an heirloom album or even a coffee table book, artwork is made to be seen, not hidden on a hard drive or buried in the midst of 1000 photos on your phone or social media sites. Its meant to be enjoyed and those moments relived on a regular basis.

I had seen may photographs of the Mona Lisa long before I ever stepped foot into the Louvre, but there is no comparison between viewing it on a screen and the feeling you get when standing in front of the original. Am I comparing myself to the great DiVinci? Absolutely not. What I am comparing is the look and feel of an original piece verses it’s digital representation. I’m seeing the differences in contrast, color depths and tones, and texture that can be seen in person, but that aren’t accurately represented in digital format. The same is true of a well-made photograph. When a photograph is uploaded to the web, its color ranges are limited, the image gets compressed on a server, and a good deal of the quality of the image is lost. That’s not to say that sharing digital images isn’t relevant or that the image isn’t beautiful. Being able to share those moments with loved ones across the world is certainly an asset, and as photographers, we know how to adjust our resolution, and resize the image to give it a more pleasing digital appearance.

But we don’t sit behind our computers editing our client’s images for digital display. We edit them for the medium that never goes out of style: print.

Think about it. If you’re a GenX’er like me, or a borderline Millennial like my eldest daughter, the digital format of the day was CD’s. I have loads of photographs, burned to CD’s, stored in CD albums, and that’s where they stay. The treasured favorites that got printed are still displayed all over my home. I was cleaning out my house recently and was going to dispose of my older model laptops that aren’t serving a purpose anymore, until I thought about those CD’s. Most laptops don’t have CD drives anymore. Our technology has evolved. Thumb drives and cloud space are the norm these days, yet here I am hanging onto an obsolete laptop because one of these days I may get bored enough or a particularly nostalgic mood might set in, and I might pull them out. Yeah, right!

The value of investing in a great photographer is not only their knowledge and wizardry behind the camera, but their knowledge of what to do to showcase those images once those moments have been captured. Those of us who are focused on the artwork have spent loads of time educating ourselves on printing processes, the different types of papers and inks available to showcase an image to its fullest potential, the craftsmanship of different framing companies and album makers. I met a guy a few months ago at a conference and spent hours talking with him about prints and why a certain ink/paper combination will flatter a particular composition, or why a particular paper leads to higher contrast images. The man has been working with artists on printing their images for over forty years. That’s incredibly valuable knowledge to have.

There are several companies out there that produce wonderful quality of prints. I, personally, chose to have Graphi Studio handle my images. Their craftsmanship is impeccable. (Click the link to check out their process.) They print on Canson Infinity paper. Canson is a legend all its own. Based in France, the company was founded more than 400 years ago. There is literally no one in the world with more experience crafting archival, museum-quality papers for artists than Canson Infinity. You can read more about their history here. Quality matters. Experience matters. Craftsmanship matters. All of those things are implied when we talk about “artwork”, but are often forgotten when it comes down to the end product.

There will come a day when current technology will outgrow today’s digital formats as well. Cloud space is already being restricted by many hosting companies including Google and Apple, and the fees will only climb with time. As our technology gets better, our files get larger and larger, and thus, over time, will get more and more expensive to store. We can store them on hard drives and thumb drives until the cows come home, but I’m willing to bet most people aren’t spending what free time they have delving through those either. Let’s get back to showcasing art the way it was meant to be seen. Let’s print it.


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