The Fine Print

"Egg Moon I", Copyright Jim Nickelson. All Rights Reserved.

As readers of this blog will know, I am a strong proponent and champion of the fine print. If you are a photographer, I think it is essential to eventually print your work. You can do it yourself or have someone else do it, you can create a fine digital print or something equally and differently wondrous like a silver gelatin or platinum print, and you can print at whatever size that makes you happy. The exercise of selecting a photograph for print, performing any necessary preparation, and seeing how it actually looks once off the screen can be extremely valuable.

While I love how the Internet has made it possible to disseminate images, I do believe that there is something special about an actual physical print. Perhaps it is the presence of a fine print as an object, perhaps it is the implication that you care enough about the photograph to actually create a physical print, or perhaps it is the fact that so many photographs just look different (some better, some worse) on paper rather than on a backlit LCD monitor or iPad screen.

Since I love prints so much, it is likely not surprising that I’m always on the hunt for resources about prints and printing and so I thought I’d share a few recent ones here. First, a recent article on The Agnostic Print entitled “In Defense of the Precious Object”, is, not surprisingly, an homage to prints, and particularly small prints, couched in a review of current New York shows including those of Cindy Sherman and four separate Japanese photographers from a show at the Howard Greenburg Gallery (including two of my all-time favorite photographers, Kenro Izu and Hiroshi Sugimoto).

Noted digital printer John Paul Caponigro also recently posted three video interviews with noted silver gelatin printer John Sexton, which are definitely worthwhile to hear Sexton’s perspectives on printing of all sorts (and photography more generally, too).

If you are interested in creating the fine print digitally, two recent posts on The Online Photographer will also be of note. First, digital printmaker Ctein (formerly a master dye printer, too) wrote a very interesting post on what is involved in being a good digital printmaker. This can be a good roadmap to doing your own printing as well as providing questions to ask if you are seeking out someone else to print your work.

Mike Johnston also wrote an article outlining a plan for becoming a good digital printmaker yourself over the course of months and years. I think his general recommendation is a good one, though obviously there is quite a bit of flexibility in the specifics. I’ll have to think about how I would structure a program like this myself…hmm, an idea for a future blog post!

If you are interested in the fine print, I hope you find some of these online resources useful.

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2 thoughts on “The Fine Print”

  1. Great! Looking forward to digging into some of these after I get outta work at 3:00. Perhaps over a PBR or two. Unless I hit the woods for some pictchas. Anyway- I love printing! I got an 3880 last summer with the help of a wonderful and benevolent local patron of the arts. And I’ve been pursuing being a proficient printer since then. It’s easy to make an ok print but it’s an advanced craft to produce a fine print. Of course good paper is important- I don’t think the Red River papers are good enough for fine prints but I think the Hahnemuhle papers are unnecessarily expensive so I’ve mostly settled on Epson Ultrasmooth FA. (which JPC endorses) What’s your favorite paper for black and white Jim?

    1. Glad to hear you are printing! Wow – favorite paper for black & white? I’m guessing you are thinking matte papers based on your example. Tough question. For 17×22 and smaller, Epson Velvet Fine Art is a great one. Canson Rag Photographique is another favorite for smoother papers, but the price is on the higher side. The new Epson’s are also good – Warm and Bright, Hot Press and Cold Press. I’ll have to think of some more affordable papers that are still good and get back to you…more soon!

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