THIS IS A GUEST POST COURTESY OF ELLIE MELLIE PHOTOGRAPHY
PRINTING IS PERMANENT, DIGITALS ARE NOT
Photos are important, but they mean very little if they just sit on a USB, CD or even on your computer. Think about going to your parents and finding an old photo album. Flipping through each page and the emotions that come with this experience. The nostalgia, the laughter, the reminiscing. Perhaps a mixture of happiness and sadness over-seeing the face of a loved one now gone. When you touch that album, you remember all the times you have held it before, maybe going as far back as your childhood. When you flip through the pages, it’s almost as if you hold time in your fingertips; it’s visceral and deep, something to protect and cherish. Scanning over the details of each image, you can recall the house you grew up in or become surrounded by the vision of your favorite dog. Your parents can recall the very moment in any photo and tell you all the details of that very day. They can explain the story behind your giant smile or maybe why you are crying. They look into the eyes of the toddler in the image and stare at you now, all grown up, eyes glazed over at the memory of what life used to be… in complete disbelief at how fast time has gone. The album or loose photographs all spark a memory and set off a barrage of senses. It does something incredible! It takes us back in time. It freezes a memory and allows us to pass that (as well as its story) onto the next generation. THAT is the power of a printed photo.
We could argue that there are many ways to secure the digital photographs we have, but how many photos have you already lost to a broken phone or to a crashed computer? How many of your precious photos are just sitting on a USB in a drawer somewhere or in a folder on a computer? Does your household even have a computer or is everything done through your phones and televisions? We have no idea where or how technology will evolve and how that will impact our digital storage. I mean, look at floppy discs, and even CD’s. It’s an aged process to find a floppy disc reader and most modern computers don’t even have CD readers. Will eventually USB & USB ports become archaic too? Will they need to be transferred to a new medium like VHS or Beta Tapes? Even if you do find a good VHS or CD reader, you now have to hope that the device is in good enough shape to read the disc/tape as well as hope that the disc/tape are in good enough shape to be read! We can all agree that over time, the older the technology the less reliable it becomes. This holds true for your USB, CD and hard-drive storage devices. None of that is guaranteed. If you read the labels of external storage devices, there will be a disclosure that there is a life span to the device that cannot guarantee that it will do its job much beyond a few years. And let’s not even talk about social media…. What would happen if tomorrow Facebook or Instagram just shut down? Everything you ever shared or saved was gone forever. Are you prepared for that? Because it could happen.
USB’s, CD’s, external hard drives, computers and even our phones/cloud service/social media should all be used to do ONE job and that is to serve as BACKUP! In fact, the introduction of the digital was meant for just that. As a photo negative, you put them in a security-safe in case your original print was destroyed. The digitals we know of today should be treated the same way. They, as well as clouds & social media, should NEVER be our primary source for storing and re-visiting photographs. Sure, digitals are easy and cheap, but that’s because they have little value and are a poor investment. They are unreliable and they have no promised longevity. As a consumer, it’s crucial to accept this truth and make better choices moving forward. Really think about it…. paying for something that can only be seen if you are charged, plugged in, connected to WI-FI or have access to a device. Outside of those means, it doesn’t exist!
The goal isn’t to print EVERY photo you have, but about QUALITY over QUANTITY. As mentioned above, the most valuable thing about printing is that it has PRESENCE! And while printing is permanent, how you display your photos is not. Over time you may take down a canvas or remove an album from its display and tuck it away for safekeeping. THAT IS OK! Perhaps you are moving, redecorating or just want to fill your walls with more modern/updated pieces… that does not mean the images and albums before it is wasted. Those are now pieces that have been forever encapsulated and can be revisited in the future, can be passed on to your loved ones or be re-hung whenever your heart feels like it.
As photographers, we understand that most consumers don’t even know where to begin with designing wall art and can feel overwhelmed by ordering canvases, frames or albums. We know that it can be intimidating to make such a large purchase, especially one that feels so ‘permanent’. We also know how hard it can be to choose the best images and figuring out how to incorporate them into a product. It should be your goal as a photographer to help take the stress and inhibition away from all this uncertainty. Experienced photographers can easily design your wall space in real time and help limit your choices, as well as explain the differences in products and what may be best for you and your home. Lastly, working with a professional photographer can make this a fun and enjoyable experience, ensuring that all the technical stuff is taken care of for the highest quality result.
PROFESSIONAL PRINTER -vs- CONSUMER PRINTER
What is a consumer printer? Your local drugstore, Walmart and Costco are great examples of consumer printers. Even digital shops like Shutterfly, Vistaprint or Groupon deals are cheap, consumer printers. If one thing stands true in the photography industry (no matter where you look) it is that you will always get what you pay for. For beginners, consumer printers don’t use the same quality ink or paper, and this has several impacts on your final product:
- Standard ink will fade over time, or especially when exposed to sunlight. Colors will become dingy; whites will start to yellow, and blacks will haze-over, becoming more of a blue or purple. How or when this change begins differs for each consumer printer or where in your home the product is displayed. It could start to fade in a few years, a few months or even as little as a few weeks. One thing for sure is that consumer prints will NOT last for the next generation.
- Standard papers and canvas will also contribute to the quickening of fading photos, but also will start to deteriorate over time. The wrong paper, when exposed to certain light sources, can make the image disappear completely or change how bright or dark the photo looks. Good paper will be made to stand the test of time, including abuse from UV rays, being constantly touched/handled, being stored for long periods and even minor water/moisture damage.
- Your images contain a color profile. This is essentially the range of colors available in your photos. If you paid a professional photographer, chances are you have a higher color profile/range than what your consumer printer is capable of printing (the better the photographic equipment = superior color range and pixels per inch). The standard inks and basic printing systems those consumer printers work with simply are not capable of mixing and creating the wide-range of colors needed to properly print your image, and their printer may not even be capable of reading half of the pixel data available in your image. The result? Images that look ‘drained’ of color, washed out or just dull. In fact, the colors and exposure may look completely different (over or under saturated) then the colors you see on your computer. Pixilation and pixel errors will also be apparent; though most easily seen in large prints (11×14 or larger). I will say this is the number one complaint I have received from clients in the past who have opted to use consumer printers instead of my professional printing services. Unfortunately, there is nothing I can do about it except educate you on your future decisions.
Professional printers not only use top of the line quality inks, they also use special processes, coatings and procedures to make sure that your art is protected and displayed in the same manner it was shot & edited. In most cases, your products will also come with a guarantee and/or warranty should damage occur. The right photographer should offer extensive manufacturer and lifetime warranties on all your products, meaning that if damage should occur, your art pieces can be replaced. (More on this below…)
Professional printers also use some of the most high-quality papers known! I understand that most of us do not see paper in terms of ‘expensive’, ‘high-end’ or ‘luxurious’, but it is really a beautiful thing! Archival, heirloom and museum quality rated paper are just the tip of the iceberg…
Archival paper means that it is meant to last! It was made to hold the inks properly and designed to withstand the havoc of time so that those photos can be passed down for 100’s of years! The more in-depth explanation is that these papers are made with specific pH levels (alkaline) so that they don’t become brittle, turn yellow or fade over time. For example, archival paper is used for museum prints, for printing important government papers, and for other archivists, artists and purveyors who look to make their craft last. It is the foundation of any great print.
Heirloom products are similar, in that they are hand crafted pieces that are made to withstand the next hundreds of years. That means the pages can be turned and touched without falling apart, the images printed on them will be of the highest quality inks and coatings, and often time, feature beautiful textures and high end finishes.
Museum quality is a term often used in the industry that references your pieces as the same quality that is found in a museum. This may not mean much, but this often goes beyond the consideration of just ink and paper. This is the application in which the ink is applied, the strict conditions in which the paper is handled and designed, and the expensive machinery and man-hours behind the craftsmanship. It is also in the quality that is physically on the other side of your product. How it is protected from the back end is just as important as how it appears on the front. The framing, the canvas, the wood and the products meant to accentuate your photo all take consideration here, as they too will need to last the test of time. Lastly, a certificate of authenticity, verifying its high level of quality should also be present with museum quality prints. With a certificate of authenticity and a proof of purchase; your investment can be protected under your homeowner’s insurance. This is not something you receive with consumer printers.
*DID YOU KNOW…. that most art displayed in a museum isn’t covered with glass? Why is this? Simple, because the glass makes it hard to see the art within the art. You know… the incredible strokes of paint/ink or the beautiful textures of the paper or canvas. The museum/artist certainly doesn’t want the art to be occluded with an unsightly glare from the glass or for dust to get trapped inside. It’s because the museum and those artists want their pieces to be seen for more than just a beautiful picture, but for the craftsmanship and beauty of the mediums used to display that image. With that said, when museums do use glass, it is often because it is a traveling piece that needs to be protected from excessive handling. *
WHAT YOU GET WHEN PRINTING WITH ELLIE MELLIE
We are proud to print with one of the most prestigious professional printers, based out of Italy. This means all your prints and products include:
- 3-year manufacturer warranty
- A lifetime Act of God Replacement clause (artwork replaced at 50% the value)
- Certificate of Authenticity that allows you to add/claim the loss of art pieces on homeowners or renter’s insurance
- Professional installation
- Indefinite archival of ordered images as digital negatives
My final thoughts…
You have spent a great deal of time preparing for your shoot, preparing yourself, your family and your wardrobe. You have already invested time and money into your session. You didn’t compromise quality to pay the photographer you wanted, and you made sure that nothing was sacrificed to make sure that YOU & YOUR FAMILY were the highest quality on the day of the shoot. Don’t stop investing and choosing ‘high quality’ once the photoshoot is over. Don’t settle for digitals, even if it means having to save up for the high-quality prints and products, and don’t succumb to consumer printers when everything else you have invested in has remained the highest of quality.