Printing for Myself

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Until very recently, I was firmly in the “I don't need a printer” camp. After all, a decent photo printer is a serious investment, and have you seen how much they charge for inks, not to mention paper? For the few prints I made, either to hang around the house or the very occasional sale, there are a multitude of on line labs, offering stunning quality; quick delivery and prices which must be cheaper than doing it myself. And if I'm not going to display it or sell it, I can just look at it on screen can't I?

I was wrong.

The whole point of landscape photography, to me at least, is to capture, (I hate that phrase), an image of a place which you can take away and look at elsewhere, possibly in years to come. Now OK, you can look at the image on your PC, laptop or any other of the myriad of display devices around the modern home. And indeed you can share it with a worldwide audience at the click of a mouse through any number of social media services and photo sharing sites, but it isn’t the same thing for one simple reason.

Apart from certain subjects, such as night time photography, the image your eye, and hence the camera, sees is largely made up of light reflected from a surface. In other words, the ambient light source, often the sun, strikes an object and is reflected from it toward your eye. In being reflected, the various factors, such as the colour of the object and the angle of the reflection, change the light on its way to your eye. The light can also be changed by, for example, passing through mist, which will diffuse the light.

Now, if you are looking at an image on a display device, what you are seeing is all projected or emitted light. In other words a light source is coloured by some fancy electronic wizardry in your device, before being shone into your eye. It’s bright and snappy, but never has the same look as the image you saw in the first place.
A print, on the other hand, is back to using light which is reflected off the surface. The ambient light, in your sitting room or where ever, is reflected back from the surface of the print towards your eyes. Now assuming that you can get the colours of your print right, which is a whole separate subject, that’s as close as you are going to get to seeing the scene you captured (that word again!) in the first place. It doesn’t glow at you in a sinister manner, it doesn’t grab your attention from across the room, it’s just there for you to look at. As well as that, like any other artwork, you have something permanent which is yours to keep.

So, what about the cost? Well this came as somewhat of a surprise. Even when the ink costs are factored in, the basic cost per print is much cheaper than the labs. But what about the capital cost of the printer you’re probably asking. Well of course that depends how many prints I do before I need a new one. If for now I assume that I’m going to make 50 prints a year, and that the printer will last 3 years, then surprisingly I’m going to save £3.66 for every A3 size print compared to what I was paying to the lab.

So, on all counts, I was wrong.