Musings on Photography

Printing Fatigue

Posted in digital printing, hp z3100, process, z3100 by Paul Butzi on December 17, 2008


I’ll offer up a word of explanation on the printing fatigue issue I mentioned (and which has drawn several comments).

This past summer, Hewlett Packard invited me to be part of the beta test program for their new printer, the HP z3200. They sent me a printer. I set it up in my work space, right next to my z3100. They let me use it. In exchange, I did a lot of printing on the z3200, and I told them what I thought about the printer.

It would seem that such arrangements would be mutually beneficial, but I didn’t find it to be too positive from my end. Beyond dealing with the usual bureaucratic nonsense that you expect to come with such stuff (which I got in spades), what it mostly did was cause me to spend a lot of time evaluating printers and printer software, and not much time with actually making the prints I really wanted to get made.

Worse, I got sick of the whole thing. Sick of printers, and printer problems. Sick of looking at prints. Sick of struggling with beta software that broke in ways that just wasted time. Sick of trying to help people thousands of miles away figure out what was broken. Sick of another printer making loud noise in my studio, driving me crazy.

So there’s that part of the overall printing fatigue. But that’s not all.

There’s also the observation that lately I’ve been spending more time with the camera, and less time in the lightroom endlessly tweaking images. Sure, I still give half a dozen images a month the full treatment. But I’m making more photographs now than ever before – disk storage is becoming a concern again – and I’m finding enjoyment in different parts of the photographic process.

There was a time when I looked at prints I’d made, and looking at the prints made me want to go back into the darkroom, and see how I could improve those prints. These days, when I look at prints (or even look at a set of photos on my monitor, or on the flatscreen TV) I’m finding that it doesn’t make me want to go back to the computer and make more photoshop tweaks.

What happens now is that I look at the photos, and I see patterns emerge among the images. I see trends in the photographs that become more clear as I examine them in various ways and in various orders. And when I see new trends or new patterns or new ideas, it makes me want to pick up the camera, go out into the world, and see what happens next. It’s as if I’m writing a story, and I don’t know what comes next. I want to find out what comes next, and the only way to do that is to make the next photos.

My love affair with prints is not over. I’m not selling all the printers (although if someone wants a deal on an Epson 9600, by all means let me know and we’ll work out a deal). I’m just observing that I have, in the past, swung back and forth between interest in printing and interest in photographing, and right now that pendulum has, for a host of reasons, swung rather far over to the photographing side.

4 Responses

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  1. matt said, on December 18, 2008 at 9:21 am

    ‘I want to find out what comes next, and the only way to do that is to make the next photos.’

    I think about this as my positive feedback loop. For me, my photographic energy level remains fairly constant only when I regularly make new photographs. Although I do print fairly regularly, I can go without making a new print for many weeks without any detrimental effects. But if I break the rhythm of shoot two rolls a week, develop on Sat., scan on Sunday, the bottom just seems to fall out. I need that regular bump of seeing those new photos, or, as you put it, seeing what comes next in the story.

  2. rvewong said, on December 18, 2008 at 11:33 am

    If only using your photos for personal consumption could you see yourself bypassing the print and settling for the computer monitor or a large electronic display?


  3. forkboy said, on December 19, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    As an amateur (and very, very budget conscious thanks to lingering unemployment) I have found the entire printing experience to be very irritating. It’s rather difficult to find an affordable printer that will allow me to make the requisite adjustments so that prints match my monitor.

    I’m to the point where I don’t want to print because I never get the desired results.

  4. Mark said, on December 19, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    Can’t blame you here as I have had my share of issues just with my single Epson 4800 – namely clogs, but also design limitations that prevent me from using the papers I want to use, when I want to without costing an arm or leg. (ie. the whole matte vs. photo black issue).

    Although I certainly don’t print every photograph, I still can’t help feel it isn’t quite complete until I can hold something tangible in my hands.

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