#11 Why Print? (Part 2: “It's not photography if it's not printed!")

It’s not that many images aren’t “good” — it’s just that part of the job is picking one and not boring everyone with your indecision.

It’s not that many images aren’t “good” — it’s just that part of the job is picking one and not boring everyone with your indecision.


  1. The selection process is part of the photographic process. It’s an important threshold to subject images to, particularly now that it’s so easy to take images.

  2. Legacy curation: when we die, what of these images do we pass along as important. Do we just hand over a key to a cloud account with terabytes of images? tens or hundreds of thousands of images? Who would go through that? And what would they find important versus what you know to be important? Printing takes on this issue and creates an important subset that can be managed, saved, passed along, enjoyed.

  3. They proscribe how an image is consumed. You just don’t know what kind of device your image is going to be viewed on — it could be big or small, cropped by software or through reposting, over- or underexposed by a range of uncontrollable brightness settings on devices, modified in any myriad ways. If you care about the thing you’ve created, you want to control many aspects for how it is to be viewed, and decide how it should be presented— including its size, framing, surroundings, and exposure. Giving this up is giving up too much…

  4. The creation of an object. A photo isn’t just an image, it’s a physical manifestation of that image. Ansel Adams said that the negative is the score, and the print is the performance. Each performance is another opportunity to do something amazing. And having a THING that you can hold… look at repeatedly, over time… this is special. Printing MAKES it special. It MAKES it iconic.

  5. The hedge to technology. Sometimes an image is important enough that you just need to make sure it’s not ephemeral, able to be lost or buried. Maybe tech will get better and you’ll always be able to see those digital files, but — probably not.

  6. You have to live with an image to know that it’s good. We keep thinking of printing as the deciding moment as to whether something is “good enough” - but we really can’t know that until we HAVE the print, and spend time with it. Printing is part of this evaluation process. (It’s another reason to print often, even if we only frame occasionally.)

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The story, btw, of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, and the photograph by Joe Rosenthal that became an icon. HERE

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