4 Reasons To Be Proud Of Being A Professional Print Artist

By Tim Walden M.Photog.Hon.M.Photog.Cr.,CPP, F-ASP

The phone call that our studio had been dreading during our transition from film to digital photography finally came one day, and it just so happened, I was the one who answered the phone. The woman asked, "Can I buy digital files instead of prints if I come to you?"

Without hesitating, I said, "Oh, I am sorry, we do not offer that. We are Print Artists, which means that our work is complete and transferred to our clients only when it is in printed form. We do so much between the moment the shutter is triggered and the time we deliver a beautiful, hand-crafted, printed fine arts portrait; we don't sell digital instead of printed works. But I will be glad to find you another photographer if you would like." The woman got quiet for a moment and then said, "No, I want you!" And to this day, I am so glad I gave her this answer. 

My father, also a photographer, taught me that when a question required a negative reply to find a way around simply saying NO, and instead, find a positive way to answer. Using the terminology Print Artist has allowed us to do just that. We don’t have to say, "No, we don’t sell digital files," and end the conversation there. Instead, we explain that we are Print Artists, which gives us an opening to talk about the importance of the print.

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Since that day, we have used the term Print Artists to describe ourselves. 

Let's now look at some other reasons to be (or become) a Print Artist:

1) One of the strongest reasons to print photography work is to create a compelling difference between you and the masses. Very few photographers who entered the market during the digital era have any printing expertise, so understanding this process does set you apart. Taking it a little further, understanding the archival process for your prints will set you apart even more. 

I am not saying you need to be a print "maker", which means you do your own printing. No, I am saying you need to understand enough of the printing process to make wise decisions in selecting the lab to do your printing, as well as selecting papers and print processes that make your work shine. A Print Artist will make good decisions for the best output for his/her work.

2) Along with differentiating yourself, delivering a beautifully printed portrait that your client can actually touch and hold creates immense value, which handing over a flash drive can never do. Can you imagine your client showing off your hard work on their phone while munching on pizza with their friends? The value and quality of your work in this scenario will be perceived in a vastly different (and way more limited) way. 

3) As portrait photographers, we are also tasked with creating legacy pieces for our clients, providing printed images that can be passed down from generation to generation. We compare having only digital files of family portraits to an empty shoebox. When we think about where many families stored their snapshots in the past, we think about a shoebox, overflowing with memories captured on film and printed at the corner drugstore. 

Today, the contrast is quite stark! Families are keeping their snapshots stored on their phones or other digital devices and never having them printed. Most don't realize or think about the fact that those images will eventually be lost as technology continues to speed forward, making storage systems obsolete or in worst case scenarios, their devices crash and lose everything.

4) It’s almost impossible to separate photography and the print. They go hand in hand, so much so that in order to see my vision fulfilled, it must be printed. As much work is put into creating the portrait after the button is pushed as before it is pushed. I manipulate the image until my artistic vision is satisfied. In fact, with today's technology, Print Artists can go further than ever to create what they envision. In my studio, we put our best foot forward, in every single session, and produce the best portrait possible for my clients. I cannot do that by handing them a set of digital images.

Here's a challenge for anyone who's still hesitant to call themselves a Print Artist or who's reticent to move towards becoming one: understand the importance and the inherent trust that your clients place in you as a skilled photographer. Instead of solely handing clients files, increase the value of your work, think about the impact of providing them with a beautifully printed portrait, ready to hang on their walls, and evoke memories from the day they pick it up and for years to come. 

You have all the reasons to be proud of and voicing the value of the print. Your work in print will be significantly more meaningful to every family you serve today and in the future. Let's not leave our clients with regrets. Instead, let's leave them with amazing stories they can share through printed portraits in their homes. 

If you're ready to get started as a print artist, like me, join the PRINT Movement today!

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