I am not the first one to claim that images become real photographs only when you hold them in your hands. This realization came to me already a few years after I had my first digital camera. Today I am convinced that only the physical representation of my work completes the creative process.
Challenge #1 – Image Selection
The printing process challenges me in two key areas of which the first one is the selection process. What photograph is good enough to be printed? After our trip through Western Canada and Alaska I had hundreds of images that we shared with friends and family. The landscape was certainly impressive, and their feedback therefore positive throughout. But would the images work without the contextual narrative? Would they be strong enough to attract and please viewers for longer?
Some time ago I started to print selected images and bring them as gifts when being invited by friends. Many of them had not had a physical print in their hands for years, and so it has always been a welcome surprise for them to get a personal print of the image they had liked most (on the screen.) Through this process I have realized that with all the input I have from studying the masters, but also from the great teachers we have around today, like David DuChemin for example, I am way more critical about my work than the average person I have presented it to. (There is agood chance that this is true for many other photographers as well.) As a result I am not afraid naymore to select the ‘wrong’ image for such occasions.
When it comes to prints displayed in our house or in my office at work, I am more critical. It is through this process that my compositions become stronger. The fact that most of these images still resonate with me after months tells me that I am getting closer to my vision.
Challenge #2 – Finishing the edit
The other aspect where printing helps me is that it forces me to finish my work. In the early days of digital photography I was editing photos for hours, I was never really clear about when I was done. Today the target is in many cases the print, and with a vision-driven workflow* I am much clearer of where I want to go and get there faster. The print itself is the reward.
*For more information regarding the vision-driven workflow I recommend an older post and podcast from David DuChemin.