To Print or Not to Print?
by Ken Tanaka
An anonymous commenter on an earlier post remarked that he never prints his digital images, preferring instead to use the Web as the exclusive destination for his work. He wondered how many others do the same. I wonder, too.
Personally, I consider a print the final destination for a good image. It's the only form that presents a long-lasting and accurate representation of the photographer's intentions. But how many peoples' vacation photos, for instance, still end up as prints? The rapid and pervasive acceptance of camera phones, online sharing, and "publishing" to a CD or DVD has undoubtedly increased the percentage of digital images that are never printed.
I don't know hard statistics of the number of digital photos that ultimately meet paper versus those that never incarnate to the physical world. But I do recall reading an extensive paper prepared by Kodak several years ago that highlighted the lack of basic, accessible snapshot printing facilities for digital photographers. The premise of the paper was that lack of simple printing services for digital photographs (akin to what people used to pick up at the drugstore) represented a significant barrier to broader consumer acceptance of digital cameras.
The paper represented part of the business plan foundations for Kodak's initiative to extend its "Easy Share" digital photo system to push-button print kiosks and other similar simple consumer printing facilities in retail locations. It's been very successful, particularly with women, who generally aren't interested in geeking-out just to print pictures of the friends, travels, and family.
Right/wrong, good/bad, virtuous/scandalous, artfulness/laziness...these are not judgments that I would make concerning the manner in which someone chooses to apply their images. Photography is a personal activity of relaxation for most people. If printing does not enhance that experience for someone, why should they pursue it? The fact is that today the Internet provides a medium for photographers to present facsimiles of their images (albeit in low resolution, small sizes, and limited and/or unpredictable color gamuts) around the world instantly. If that proposition is most appealing to some people, more power to them!
Posted by KEN TANAKA