Print Your Work Without Printing Your Work?

In Pep Talks, The Craft, The Life Creative, Thoughts & Theory by David61 Comments

I have no idea how I got there, but I found myself on YouTube a few weeks ago watching mesmerizing videos of a carpenter making the most beautiful tables and desks. Cam (the carpenter) can be found at or on Instagram, and his videos (including one about the making of a $10,000 Myrtlewood desk) gave me a new appreciation for the idea of craftsmanship—and what craftsmanship means for me as a photographer.

Cam is meticulous. He is patient. He is thoughtful. And he clearly knows his tools and materials, always learning new ways to master them. It’s also very apparent from just the few videos I watched that he isn’t one for shortcuts or cutting corners just to get it done.

All of this got me thinking about my own craft as a photographer because as I was watching Cam’s YouTube videos, I was fighting with my printer. I hadn’t printed in months, the heads were clogged, the colours weren’t quite right, and Cam was making me feel like a hack for thinking I should be able to just open Lightroom, fire up the printer, and churn out 50 beautiful prints from my last trip without the same kind of patience and care a real craftsman would take with his process while still expecting beauty and excellence. I should have known better. I do know better. But I got lazy.

So you know what I did? I started to learn printing all over again. Just kidding. I didn’t. I hate printing, and it’s high time I admitted that.

When it’s all going well, I tolerate it, and my Epson P800 printer makes lovely prints. When it’s all going well. But I’m finally ready to admit to myself that it often doesn’t go well. I hate printing, and I’m tired of fighting it. It feels good just to confess that.

What I love—and believe deeply in—is seeing my work in print.

Seeing my work printed is one of the joys of photography, and I think it makes me a better photographer. But I’m not a craftsman where the actual printing is concerned, and I don’t want to be. And that’s OK. It’s one reason you’ve never seen me do a proper course on printing: I’m the last guy you want to learn that from. So I called my friend, Jason Bradley, who runs a print shop in Monterey, California, because he most certainly is a craftsman, and I gave him the job.

These are the prints I make when I come back from every trip: my best work on 8.5×11 paper, boxed and labelled. But now, I’m no longer doing it myself. The prints are better, they happen faster, and when I factor in the wasted ink and paper and replacing the printer every now and then, the marginal increase in cost is nothing compared to the benefits I gain.

Where the final print is concerned, Jason has an eye for detail, which I do not. He knows his craft in a way I never will. And while I’ll always remind you now and then to “print your damn work,” what I really mean is this: make sure the best of your work ends up in print, in the real world, and off your hard drives. It is probably less important who does it (unless you really love it, then that’s a different thing entirely).

Handing my printing over to someone who can do a much, much better job with it means I will have more time to engage with the parts of my craft that I do love.

It means going with my strengths rather than spending time working on weaknesses I haven’t really got the desire to fix while at the same time getting better quality prints of my work.

It means collaborating with someone who helps me see my blind spots where my camera work is concerned because, like you, I am always learning—and we all need someone who sees what we do not.

And it means I love my photographs even more.

I think you’ve got to love what you do and be clear about the best path to accomplish that. I believe so strongly in my photographs finding their final expression in print. Holding those prints (or my books) gives me great joy, but that doesn’t mean I need to be the one to make those prints. I certainly don’t feel the need to print and stitch my own coffee table books.

Collaborating with someone who can do some things better than I can is not an abdication of my craft but a way to honour it and get better results.

Watching Cam (the carpenter) made me wonder if the pressure to be a jack of all trades might be standing in the way of me taking greater care with fewer things and seeing higher standards of excellence in my work. And it made me wonder if there were others out there for whom the pressure to print their work themselves was holding them back from getting it printed at all.

Many of you have asked me over the years if it was OK not to buy a printer and deal with the inks and the whole learning curve that represents, and my advice has always been the same: do whatever it takes to get your work printed.

Come home from a trip, choose your 12, 30, or 100 best images and either print them yourself or send the files to a person or service that can do the work for you. You can also build them into a book using or the Book Module in Adobe Lightroom

However you choose to print, this is my annual plea that you make your photographs tangible artifacts you can hold, even if you’re not doing the legwork.

The benefits are huge, and aside from the joy of doing so, I think printing your work (or having it printed) makes you better at the other areas of your craft, more aware of the flaws and the blind spots and the areas in which you might have become lazy, or where the “good enough for Instagram” mentality might have crept in.

Printing will make you less willing to compromise in your work.

If this idea appeals to you, here are a few resources to consider:

  • Bradley Print Services. If you want a more personal service, Jason and his team do great work. I sent him files five days ago, and a box of 8.5×11 prints just arrived. They look fantastic! Tell him I sent you.

  • Mpix. This is an online service that I’ve used in the past with great results. The system is easy to navigate, and I use Mpix for bigger orders of smaller prints, such as when I’m putting a book together and I want a couple hundred 4×6 prints to lay out on the floor and make sequences and selections. I’ve also used them for larger prints and have been happy with them.

  • PosterJack. Live in Canada and don’t want to pay the exorbitant shipping fees on larger prints? I recently used Posterjack for three huge canvases and some lovely monochrome prints, and they did a great job.

  • White House Custom Color. This is a referral more than a recommendation. I haven’t used WHCC, but people keep telling me they do good work.

  • Artifact Uprising. I love what these folks make: some nice books and print options if you want to do something with your images. if you like the aesthetic of Kinfolk magazine, you’ll like AU.

And of course, there are local labs all over the place that would be thrilled to get your business. Tell me: Do you get your work printed somewhere you love? Have you used someone that helps you get your work into the world of the tangible, or someone who helps your work become the best that it can be?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments and for the comments you leave to become a resource for people looking for local help with their printing.

For the Love of the Photograph,

PS – Want more like this? I send these articles out every two weeks to photographers around the world who want to improve their craft and explore their creativity and I’d love to include you. Tell me where to send it and I’ll send you a copy of my best-selling eBook Make Better Photographs, as well bi-weekly articles, first-glimpse monographs of my new work, and very occasional news of resources to help you keep moving forward in this craft we love.

“Each and every one of your emails inspire and motivate me to want to jump right out of my chair away from my computer and shoot for the love of it . Thank you David.” – Millie Brown


  1. i was thinking about buying a photo printer… learn how to print and so on…. and all that for years now… i thought i might be printing more then… that’s bullsh*t… it’s too much… too much money, too much to learn… too much to fail…

    you’re right…. i’ll leave it for my friend in pro lab who’s great at that…

    thanks David!

    ps. i think i might stick to little Selphy printer… for fun 😀

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  3. Every year I look into buying a printer and doing my own printing because everyone screams about printing your own work. Once I figure out the cost, it always ends up being less expensive and more convenient to keep using a pro lab. I think the important part is someone prints it, not necessarily me. LOL

    It’s like developing film. I could set up my own darkroom and struggle with all that comes with that but it’s easier and less time-consuming to have a pro lab do it for me.

  4. David, I always appreciate your thoughts. I arrived at fine art photography soon after receiving my MFA in Printmaking in 1980. The large photo-etchings and photo-serigraphy prints I had produced in school required equipment I no longer had access to. So with limited funds I purchased my first Epson printer and started printing digitized slides on the rag printmaking stock I had used with my etchings. Although the available Epson ink wasn’t lightfast, the colors were vibrant…and I was sold. Now, decades later, I’m a fine art photographer who, until recently, when my Epson printer blew all of it’s fuses, was still printing my work. Now all commissioned prints are going to Alan Sheets at Woodland Studios in nearby Stoughton , Wisconsin. Alan is a master printmaker I’m very pleased to work with. He has the patience, skills and updated equipment needed to produce quality fine art prints.
    Janis N. Senungetuk
    Madison, Wisconsin

  5. I read this post at a real good time for me. The feeling that I should print my own work has been part of a huge mental blog in the output of my work in a physical tangible form. I have a nice Cannon printer that can make nice large prints but haven’t used it in forever. But I always feel a nagging regret about not using it. I think reading this will help ease this tension in me. Hopefully allowing me to go back to using the printing service I’ve been using in the past and been very happy with to put more of my work in physical form. Thanks for helping to remove this roadblock.

    Kyle Reynolds

  6. Hi David;

    Just a thought on printing your work…when the print is approved by photographer it represents the final step in the creation of a work. Up until this point the work/image may not represent what the photographer had intended depending on what device the image is viewed on, the calibration of the device or if any filters have been applied. My phone has brightness adjustments and screen mode (vidid) which will alter the image.


  7. Hello David, many thanks for your inspiring articles.

    In the beginning, I did not print at all, only looked on my photos on screen,
    Then a trainer forced me to bring the pictures on paper and I started to use a printing service (here in Germany).
    I am quite happy with it, as it offers also ICC profiles for their products, which helps a lot in softproofing.
    Here and there I was thinking on buying a photo-printer but always stopped at the end in fear of another learning I would have to go. So far I feel quite happy to rely on some professionals in that area, which allows to focus on making an developing pictures.

  8. Thank you David for starting this great discussion.

    I use my home printer as a proofing system. I print and hang 8x10s on a wire/clip system in my hallway. This lets me “live” with them a bit before making my final selections.

    When I want to “go big”, I trust HD Aluminum Prints in Vancouver, WA to handle my files. They’ve enlarged my little Fuji XT2 files into gorgeous 36×48 metal prints.

  9. You are absolutely correct. I’ve been saying the same thing for years. As much as I love to play in the darkroom, there is no substitute for the services of a professional print lab. We are lucky that here in the southeast, we have two of the best around: NC Tricolor ( and for black & white, Dalmatian Lab ( Dalmatian can even print digital files as silver prints!

  10. So where was this post before I bought a new printer exactly like yours and left it in the corner for its heads to clog?
    This post in ENORMOUSLY reassuring to me. Thanks for the link to that printer in California.
    Sheesh! You mean its okay for me not to become a fine arts printer?
    Thank God!

  11. Hi David,

    I have been thinking, “I must buy a photo printer” for a long time now because it’s what you’re “meant to do”. However, my own experience of office-work orientated inkjets, is of insane ink prices,and cartridges that go dry or clog if you don’t print frequently enough. Coupled with the fact that I don’t really have the space or the furniture to accomodate an A3 printer, I keep putting it off.

    Thank you for the permission to go the route I always felt was best for me, ie. “let the pros do the printing”. Here in the UK, I can’t say enough good things about Loxley Colour, although I’ve never had anything but great results from PhotoBox either.

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  13. Hi David,
    Another great article. I only print my photos up to 8 x 10 and only as a reference. I am in Brisbane Australia and use ProLab in Kelvin Grove – Brisbane.
    Printing photos can be very time consuming. Out sourcing gives time to take photos.

  14. Thank you so much for your articles. Those are helpful for my photographic life.
    Send my best regards from Korea.

  15. As Mark said, you must have a printer that uses Pigment inks (not dye-based ones like cheap printers, which fade in a few years). Epson photo printers (pigment ink models) are best because they have finer nozzles than most others. Downside is they clog more easily.

    Solution? Print something at least once a week. I’m a casual amateur, so don’t do a lot of printing. Consequently, I run a ‘Nozzle Check’ once per week, religiously (I have a weekly Outlook reminder!), and as a result rarely end up with blocked nozzles.

    Qimage software is good for placing multiple images (of multiple sizes and orientations, if desired) on a sheet or roll of paper, something that might be difficult to organise through a printing service.

  16. Thanks David,

    I like the idea of making prints of my favorite images part of my workflow. Collecting 8x10s in a box probably is a great way to store and organize them.

    I also lok ether idea of “printing” in the form of making a book (Blurb, etc. ). My problem is that I dont always have enough image to make a book. Printing 8x10s is a nice alternative.

  17. Hi David,
    I’ve been following your writings for a couple of years now and always seem to get inspired and learn something. Photography has been my hobby for about 20 years. Over the last couple of years I have decided to dedicate more time to improving my skills.

    I’ve given up personally printing any of my work for quite some time. My prints never seemed to turn out the way I wanted. I spent so much time, wasted so much paper and ink trying and only ended up totally frustrated. So, over the past number of years I have been creating books through Photobook Canada. They often offer prepaid vouchers to print a book at anywhere from 50-75% off regular pricing so the cost to print is very affordable. However, when I received the last project I was disappointed in the colours and clarity of the pages. Not sure if my eye is just getting more critical now or if the quality has deteriorated. I liked using them because their book creating software allowed a lot of creative freedom. Have you ever used them or heard anything about them? You mentioned Blurb; I will look into them. I would be interested if any of your readers might recommend any other options that are affordable. I live in Canada (Edmonton in particular).

    Thanks again for always inspiring me.

    1. Christel: That’s interesting. I have 30 or more Blurb books and decided to try PhotoBookCanada during the last sale 2 weeks ago. The colors and clarity were borderline terrible. Most noticeable in darker images. Maybe what I received isn’t normal because the printers had auto color and saturation at +200.

    2. Hi Christel, I’ve printed a number of books, mostly through Shutterfly and have been pleased with their results and quality. I also create an annual calendar with my images and hand them out as Christmas presents to friends and family. I’ve used Blurb a couple of times and really love their work, plus the fact that you can sell your books on their website. I’ve purchased several books from them over the years and not been disappointed. You can preview most of the books that are up for sale.

  18. Hi David,

    Sage advice about printing. Personally I keep my printing to 4×6 for photo cards which are reasonable in cost. Anything larger I go to commercial labs, even London Drugs here in Nanaimo. For my larger prints/canvas/aluminium I use Pictorem located in Montreal. Fabulous results, super prices, great website, give pro discount, and free shipping (Canada/USA). You can also have a library of photographs on their website for public/client viewing and future orders.

  19. Yes, I heartily agree with this! What I don’t see you mention, and I don’t know if it is as relevant today as it used to be, is to have your computer calibrated before you send your files to be printed. I used to see this discussed a lot, but I am not on the threads as much anymore.
    When I was shooting babies and kids, and weddings and wanted to print larger canvases, I quit printing my own stuff! I didn’t waste that much paper before I realized it was not worth it, because I was definitely not getting the color I wanted, or the contrast and depth I felt the files deserved. But when I sent calibrated test files to WHCC and MPIX, and they returned the prints to me, I knew I was going to get what I wanted back from them.
    I do still have a printer for text and personal stuff, but really only print photos to check backgrounds and see what I maybe want to delete or change for a painting, etc.
    I constantly tell relatives to print their cell phone photos, at least in 4×6’s, so they don’t lose their precious baby and kids photos! I don’t know if they listen, but at least I tried, lol.

  20. Agreed 110%… I remember a blog you wrote back in about Dec 2011 suggesting we make a “New Year’s Resolve” to find a way to get our work “out there”… to raise your/my profile… I followed that advice and about 10 months later I held a “Gallery Show” in my own home. I had the local lab print about 45 images (8X12) that I put on display and then invited family and friends for an afternoon of coffee, cookies and viewing my… It was very gratifying and so I have repeated that process every 3 years (2015, 2018), although I may miss this year until COVID has really been beaten back! I know there are many artists who suggest you ‘need’ to take your work to the final step, including printing! BUT, like you I am happy to leave that to the folks I know and trust will do a great job. It is the best way to efficiently and professionally display all the ground work I did in preparing the final piece for display. I have used two local Winnipeg printers and I have ben very happy with both of them… Don’ Photo ROES and Photo Central Custom Printing services.

  21. Hi, David!

    I really needed to hear this! I have had so much stress lately with a new Epson Work Force printer. I used to have the Epson Artisan printers and they were easy to use and printed great photos and my art images. This new printer eats up ink like crazy!!! And, it has to be reformatted before you can print or scan from your computer. It won’t take some of the Epson light-weight paper that I need for certain projects. It only uses the heaviest-weight paper. I have spent over $200.00 since late June, including the cartridges that came with the printer, and probably have not made than 100 prints, and they are not full pages.

    I have used Shutterfly for books and they do a great job, however, they have changed their format and it is not as easy to work with. All this should not be rocket science! I will definitely look up the links you added. Have a great and creative week!

    Kind regards,

  22. You always seem to know the topic of concern for right now! For years I’ve waffled back and forth about printing my own work. Bottom line, it really is cheaper for me to deal with a print lab. They are way more expert than I am and I rely on their expertise. Giving away the printing gives me more time to be creative and, well, create. That’s what I love to do and printing just causes me stress. LOL

    Several years ago I found a printer in Scottsdale, Arizona called Artisan HD. They can print everything under the sun! And creating custom orders with them is a dream. When I was in Arizona I even went to visit their facilities and was blown away by their operation. I use them exclusively for my art show custom prints. They are more expensive, but oh so worth it! People viewing my work are always commenting on the colors and crispness of the pieces I display.

    Almost from the beginning of my photo journey, I used Bay Photo for my school portrait gigs. I still use them as my print fulfillment lab on my website and the occasional customer special order. I like that they can handle a signature, if I want to include it, and mail directly to my customer.

    I have turned my attention more to doing encaustic wax photography and cyanotype prints, and for that work I do print my own printing, generally on tissue paper, rice paper or a line of Hahnemuhle papers which I adore. They work the best for cyanotype printing. These types of prints don’t have to be “perfect and I use wax or other mediums to create with.

    So thank you for this article. I’ve always felt rather bad about not learning the finer details of printing my photographs. You just made me feel better about that whole process and giving me the permission to let it go! Now I really do have more time with less guilt to spend my time being more creative, both behind the camera and in the art studio!

  23. David,
    I love the inspiration that comes from your articles as they challenge me to keep on thinking and feeling different about photography. I bought an Epson printer on a whim at least a decade ago and it transformed my photography.
    Digital is great for, almost, mass consumption. I did however find that the reflection coming from, what shall I print, what do I want to achieve with a print, is there anything “print worthy” in what I have captured took photography to an entire new level for me.
    My main outlet now is gifts for friends and thank you / christmas cards. To get there however really sparks the empathy I feel for an individual or group, spurring me on to produce an artifact that is both tactile and meaningful. It drives intent with a wonderful feedback loop that enriches me. It also slows me down as I need to translate digital into analogue and meet my expectations of the output.
    Obviously I have the details that come back to bight me however they keep me humble and in a learning frame of mind.

    Thanks for provoking this response in me.

    best regards
    Santiago de Chile

  24. I would like to comment from my perspective as a fine art photographer (and printer). Fine art simply means that I purposefully interject something of me into my work, and I have training as an artist. That’s it and nothing more is intended except to define the perspective of my post.

    All I can also say is what I do and how I practice my photographic art. I produce all my work from capture to print. If I want a print larger than I can produce, then I know how to tell my custom printer how I want the file printed. I have taken the time to learn from master digital printers, who were also photographers. I take the time to maintain those skills as technology has progressed.

    The benefit of printing my own work: I maintain my own production standards for my art from start to finish, just like the furniture maker in David’s article.

    The downside of printing my own work: Fine art printing is much more complicated than just pressing the print button in Lightroom. It involves regular monitor calibration, paper selection, ink selection, printer selection, printer maintenance, software decisions to make your print come out on paper like you see on screen, all the little things you did in processing in the software you use, as well as size and presentation decisions. It is not simple, easy, or cheap to make good prints. Paper and ink selections are particularly important when deciding longevity and appearance.

    If one doesn’t want to print or know how to make your prints come out the way you want or have the time to maintain your printer like you do your camera, then having a printing service is clearly the right choice.

    However I’m not sure what I would do in regard to signing my work if someone else made all the final print decisions. Should we both sign it?

    Thought-provoking as always! and thank you!

  25. I agree 100%. I love getting my images printed but it’s taken me years to figure out my printing preferences. I looked at a lit of paper samples and did a lot of test prints before I began to form opinions about what I liked and didn’t like.

    I decided pretty early on that I didn’t want to invest in a printer for home. I knew someone who did invest and was quite good and have used him many times. His company is

    For fine art and shows I use a different local printer who does a lot of print reproductions for artists. I get proofs before pulling the trigger on final prints and they are wonderful about making the tweaks I request. I only print paper prints on matte paper now – I love the richness & depth it creates as well as the reduction in glare.

    For other printing – like acrylic front images or acrylic blocks, I use in Seattle. They give a pro discount of 15% off if you have a biz license/resellers permit. For metal prints I use Bayphoto .com. I have heard good things about but have no first-hand experience.

    I always encourage friends to print their work, but few do.

  26. Hi David
    What a timely article as I have spent the past two days saying nice things to my printer to get the Photo Black happy again. I bought an Epson 2880 in 2007 and it lasted until this past spring. Found a lightly used Epson 3880 that worked fine until it had a hissy fit this
    week. I kept talking nice with every thing I did to get it running and finally it cooperated. Photography for me is a hobby and I print hundreds of photos for cards which get sold in various places with all the money gifted to a children’s charity here in Calgary. I chose to use printers that are not under warranty and buy the ink in bulk from Ink Owl and fill my own for a tenth of the price. Costco in the US sells Epson quality premium glossy photo paper and I get 500 sheets for the price of 20 branded ones so lots of printing at a very low cost.
    Nigel Sutton and Resolve Photo have done fabulous work for bigger pieces but I love to see the prints coming out in my home office. And with my 80th birthday looming I take some pride in figuring out getting it to all work!!
    Cheers 🍸🍸

    1. I can fully understand where you found yourself. I love seeing my photos in print and purchased a Canon Prograf Pro 1000; it took me a while, and some wasted paper, to get all the settings correct but my prints now look exactly like they do on the screen. I just need to work out what to do with them.

    2. Jan,
      I have followed a similar printer progression the 2880 then the 3880. I don’t sell my work but rather print images that become Christmas/special moment cards or, by far the most common, gifts to friends.

      Great to hear you are going strong with so much experience under your belt. Take care

  27. I hear you. I am sure I might even follow you some day. It is how I USED to do it. And I am, frankly, not great at printing. It takes a lot of trial and error.

    What I get from printing is that I learn a lot about my photography and my processing skills. What I learn is that I am still learning. Yes, my printing process involves printing the same piece a few times, and sometimes not being satisfied at the end.

    But pictures on the screen always look better to me. When I print them I see the problems with them. The things I should have excluded when making the photo. The background elements that have too much emphasis even after processing. In printing I go back and refine the photo. It looks better on the screen and in print. I learn about what I need to do to be really satisfied with a photo. I spend time with a picture and really understand what makes it work and what doesn’t.

    I can get a better print by sending it out. But I learn more by grinding through the printing process, as bad as I am at it.

  28. Hello David — fabulous article about printing. I gave it up about 10 years ago to many of the same reason you mentioned. Not my gig. I have used WHCC for about 20 years, and have been very pleased with their quality, and ordering process. Thanks, Bernie

    1. I have used WHCC as well and have been happy with them. However, it seems that my prints often come back darker than I expected. Have you had a similar experience? I have had my monitor calibrated, but maybe I should try again. I also have a hard time picking out papers and printing styles (matte, glossy, etc) from all the choices they have. Maybe trial and error is just part of figuring it out.

  29. David,
    One of the most important lessons I have learned from you over the years is to let go of what doesn’t suit or serve me. Printing NEVER suited me. Haha! It is so freeing when we let go of the notion that we have to do it all. Thank you!

  30. I print

    In fact, I just bought a new printer.

    For me, photography breaks down into the separate skill sets, taking the image, editing it and then printing it. It is three days of one hobby and those separate parts keep me interested it. For the last 18 months of Covid I had absolutely no desire to pick up my camera, but I did go back and re-edit old images with newly learned techniques, I printed many of them and gave away the prints to friends. And I collected about 200 of them and made a book of our travels for my wife.

    I find that when I make a print and give out to someone (two handed, with a little how) they look at it and year it. Their response might be the same if I printed it commercially, but it wouldn’t feel the same to me.

  31. First of all – thank you, David! I am so glad I had a chance to review this article of yours this morning as I struggled to get on with the day while slurping my coffee, hoping for some focus and energy; we’ll I got a bit of both from your writing.

    As I read your article it occurred to me that while I had never consciously pieced together all of your points on not printing anymore, I realized I so totally agreed with you in them and had been living them out for the most part. for some years now. You have inspired me to make sure that the images that speak to me the most need to be printed – and it’s ok to let my own printer gather dust – and let another print expert do this work for me – and end up likely with a superior result!

    Also, I thought I need to make a pledge to myself to make sure that – at least annually – to print my work! (Unless of course they are requested after a shoot). This article was liberating and inspiring for me. Thank you for helping me realize that its ok to forgo the dreaded print sessions but to be sure that my images at least still get printed.

    (I, too, have forgone social media – good for you). Peace be with you.


  32. Oh my gosh did this ever speak to me!! I’ve got two printers sitting here neither of which is working. I’m sure it’s totally handler error but it seems to be a fight every time I try to print something! Last night I received the link to some dog show photos that I could purchase the digital copies and print myself but boy did I jump on the link to order the prints!
    Thanks for driving the fact home! Let those who know what they are doing do what they are skilled at and let me spend my time doing what I love and have some at least modest skill!

  33. Interesting article and I completely agree that printing one’s work is vital. I do believe, however, that learning what it takes to get a great print is so much easier if you have your own printer. Soft proofing, calibrating your monitor, adding selective contrast and sharpening, trying different papers, etc are vital parts of the printing process and the only way I have really cemented and understood the importance of these steps is by creating a ton of test prints. Is it inexpensive and hassle free? Absolutely not. But having my own printer is what has made me better at getting an excellent print. I use an Epson P800, which I love, and for larger prints I go to Tricera Print here in Vancouver.

  34. I gave up printing my own images years ago. I figured that the professionals have way more expensive and better printers than I was willing to buy.

  35. David,
    You’re the best!!! You always seem to climb inside my mind by magic.
    Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    You’re timing couldn’t have been better.
    In true appreciation,
    Kathy Meidell

  36. I couldn’t agree more with your post David, and never print my own work, but instead leave it the hands of a skilled craftsman. Speaking of, if you are in the Toronto area, do look up Paul Schillinger of Colour Systems Incorporated. A small, boutique experience. His work is impeccable, and attention to detail is second to none. A true craftsman in every sense of the word. He takes time and care over every image, sees as an artist sees, and pulls your original vision & intention from every print.
    134 Carlton Street
    Toronto, Ontario M5A 2K1
    Paul Schillinger, President

  37. Thanks for this article. I belong to a photo club that encourages printing our work. I have no interest in taking on that skill, especially after pouring money into cartridges that seem dried out or running low by the time I use them again. I use a company called I Print From Home ( and have been very pleased with their work.

    I am curious as to why you print in 8 1.2 x 11 rather than sizes that easily conform to standard mat and frame sizes. My regular print sizes, when I order, and depending on the photo – e.g. a landscape vs a bird in flight, are 8×10, 8×12, 12×18, 11×14. I can always find nice single or double mats and frames that make framing the prints affordable.

  38. Great article. I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a printer for years. Maybe now I won’t bother.

    I live in Calgary and I’ve used three printers for my photos:

    Vistek online – good results but no interaction – you send files you pickup prints (have not used them for 2 years though)

    Resolve Photo – complete interaction – paper choice, some photo edits – excellent results

    Branded Visuals in Bragg Creek – complete interaction. I sit with Bob at calibrated monitors and we make all the decisions, with me typically deferring to his judgement. I get excellent prints at a good price and it’s nice to drive out to Bragg Creek occasionally.

  39. Great to see you back on your blog and in your podcast again, David – I’ve missed my regular hits of your inspiration! I love the process of printing (not that I profess to be any sort of master at it) as it gives me the chance to experiment with the look I’m after. Whenever I send photos away to be printed they’re never quite as I envisaged them but doing it myself allows me to make small test prints and keep tweaking things before I go for a large print. There’s also the sheer pleasure of taking a print out of the machine and knowing it’s all my own work. Thanks too for the link to Cam’s furniture work – what a wonderful rabbit hole to be sent down! My Dad is a furniture maker too so I’ll be directing him down that one too as I think he’ll love Cam’s work.

  40. I print my own work, David, and I love it! I also have the P800 and I have absolutely no trouble with it all. Even after being on vacation, when I return and print some of those images, I turn it on and out comes wonderful prints! As a coach and publisher I am forever suggesting the value of printing your work. Every year I have an “Extras” sale of test prints, images that were sized wrong when printed, etc.

    I use the revenue from that sale to purchase inks and the buyers are very grateful to pick up work they appreciate at a much lower price point.

    I also print for others and am not what I consider to be a craftsman, but I work at getting to that level. I do small runs and people appreciate the very quick turn-around I offer on most work. It is very rewarding when someone comes to pick up something I have printed and say that they have never seem an image printed so beautifully.

    Thanks for your honest insights and keep ’em coming!

    Tim (

  41. Great article David. While you don’t want to do a tutorial on printing, you may want to do one on what it takes to have someone else do the printing (how to prepare a file for printing, etc.).
    I have been using Costco. I know it isn’t hip, but they’re very inexpensive and I think the quality is very good. They used to have local labs, but now don’t. All the prints are shipped from a central site . Of course you need to be a Costco member, but I always save a lot more than the membership fee.

    Thanks for everything, and stay healthy!!

  42. I don’t like the shipping times and waiting to see if I got it all right, but yes, I spend too much on head strikes and damaged paper. I made 3 print-on-demand books this month (blurb using their Indesign plugin) to get some of my work on the bookshelf and in print. It begins to make up for all the printing I have not been doing. I like the look of those print boxes on your shelf.

    PosterJack makes nice gallery boxes too.

  43. Guilty as charged!! I never print anymore cos it such a hassle!! I am going to try your advice cos it makes perfect sense and one less thing to distract me from taking better images. Thanks!!

  44. Hi David, Thank you for writing this. I am firmly in the camp that the end product of making a good photograph is printing it on paper, though of course I recognize the other uses of photography for which other media are necessary. Printing one’s own photographs that would endure satisfactorily beyond several years became possible in the year 2000 when Epson produced the 2000P printer. It was the first archival pigment ink printer of 17- inch carriage width ever manufactured. That is when I got into my own printing because of my dissatisfaction with lack of control and sub-optimal results that the commercial processors produced. I have never looked back.

    Since then, the technology has improved incrementally from one model to the next, and there has been a proliferation of excellent archival papers, whereby today we can produce truly outstanding print quality of a gamut and tonal/colour fidelity that was only a dream as recently as two decades ago. I have been advancing along with the technology and over the years have produced dozens of review articles on and of new printer models, papers and software. I’ve developed and used an elaborate test suite to determine scientifically whether a printing system will properly render what we prepared on our displays.

    Moat of this is about preparing the photo for printing. Yes, one needs to understand and implement some elementary concepts of colour management and soft-proofing, but beyond that the software and hardware take over. Our job is learning how to control them to produce what we want, and this happens at the stages of setting-up the printing process and editing the photographs under softproof so that they print as expected. One doesn’t need a PhD in imaging science to do this stuff, but it does take time and some practice. Some people prefer to use their time in other ways, so for them, sending the prints to a good commercial lab makes sense. Note however, that typically their charges per print will be anything from 4 to 6 times the cost of doing it oneself, including amortization of the printer, but not the value of one’s time.

    I have tested quite a number of printers and papers as people will see from my review articles, but right now I am using an Epson SC-P5000, which allows me to print for myself, or others on request, any size up to 17″ carriage width and whatever length the software allows. Recently I have been producing six-foot long panoramas of masterpieces of mural art, which the artists themselves are totally impressed with, and I published a book of mural art that readers can find on My interest in creating this publication arose from a commitment to the cause it represents, and my desire to share the results and the ensuing satisfaction from making photographs on paper. Photography began with a desire to reproduce life-like images on tangible hard media, starting with glass and tin, but since paper took over, that has been the medium of choice and I hope it will remain so for a long time.

    Best Regards, Mark

    1. And one thought I should add: manufacturers and software developers have gone to great lengths to make printing much easier than has been. It’s worthwhile having a look at the latest software and hardware, and what they’ve done to make it more intuitive and more attainable for more people.

  45. I was struck with terror when you said you were no longer printing your work. I thought you were referring to your books. Keep them coming they are great.
    I too have struggled with my printing of my photos and it is a welcome word to know that even great photographers such as you occasional have similar issues. I will try using a printing service
    Thanks for the leads.

  46. I’m just an amateur photographer but this profound statement applies to all of us regardless of our primary trade or craft.

    “Watching Cam the Carpenter made me wonder if the pressure to be a jack of all trades might be standing in the way of me taking greater care with fewer things and seeing higher standards of excellence in my work.“

  47. I live in Ottawa. I reached the same decision you did, David, about ten years ago. I gave up struggling with a printer, calibrations that need to be redone as the ink ages, greyscales that come back with varying colour casts across the range, etc. I use Labworks on Bank Street here in town within a five minute drive from my garage.. They do beautiful work, digital to photographic paper not inkjet, at a small fraction of what it would cost me to do it myself, even before factoring in a fraction of minimum wage for my time and hassle never mind hardware and materials. And better results than I’ve ever got from any photo printer I could afford and find room for in my home. A no brainer for me. Especially as I print rarely these days, I don’t sell prints, and generally prefer to admire my work on a 27” calibrated monitor than trying to find wall space that isn’t already occupied by me or my wife. Never mind cost of mounting, matting, and framing prints.

  48. Yes, Yes! I am discovering this amazing and under utilized thing called’print’ in this digital world! I can’t believe how many good photographs I have taken for granted and never printed… like even the mediocre ones, as well, I thought. Thanks for this post, it has triggered, or actually in some ways, reinforced what I have been intending to do and have just begun.

    Backstory, I killed every Epson printer I have ever owned. I gave up. I was a portrait and wedding photog so I depended on a bunch of online print houses all over the country.
    Been using Millers Lab lately, who somehow even with the slow mail can get a print to me over- night w/o asking them to overnight it. Astounds me every time! Esp. when I just need small ones to check myself on exposure or whatever I am not sure of when staring at my computer screen!

    Thank you again for this post! Just love your insights and dialogs- so helpful.

  49. I mirror your printing sentiment. What size files do you send to the printer? Does it vary based on print size? Thanks David.

  50. Great thoughts as always! A fine art printer is the only piece of camera equipment were my brain won over my heart. I deliberated several times whether I should buy a top of the range A3 printer, but then I noticed: I don’t have the space for an A3 machine and I print so rarely that it isn’t worth all the hassle.

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