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Saturday, 21 July 2018


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Don't forget lighting! Take a print outside in daylight and see colors you never have... of course make this quick.

This is completely a reflective display, so what color temp is really the best? Do we need a "viewing box" for full control? Do we compensate in printing?

Great idea. I hope you will post links to some of the items you suggested.

One could try to foist the prints upon some university library photographic archive.

I have the requisite archival storage full of prints. But I also think it is important to live with your pictures. This is the only way I can tell which ones are any good. I purchased three thin wall-mounted shelves like these:


I set them up in the dining room, which is also our most-used room in the house (meals, kids' homework etc.). I then rotate my work and the work of others on and off the shelf on a no-particular-fixed-interval time frame to "live" with the images. I currently have a Gordon Lewis-TOP sale picture up . . . along with some of my own stuff. If I can't bear to see my own stuff for more than a couple of weeks, I know it's no good and back into the box it goes. BTW, Gordon's print is going on a year of display. It just never gets old.

While I like your 1-2-3 concept a lot, I've approached this issue as something to deal with in my "final" years - as though I can carefully plan my life to the very end. I am still an active hiker at 75 and get out to the wood and mountains as often as I can. Naturally my photos are representative of the wild lands I love. Inevitably, there will come a day when I can't go to these places anymore.

I have already purchased the lovely archival binders into which I will place my favorites from 55 years of hiking (both film and digital). My collection is well organized and backed up (friends & family have been shown this so others can easily find stuff if they want to). I'm scanning my old film over time, getting ready for that "sometime in the future". It will be my sedentary hobby. Some of my photography has had historical importance and has already been donated to the right sources, with my having lifetime access - the best of both worlds.

Oh yeah, I'm printing stuff all the time now, but this is playtime, giveaway time, sell time, etc., so prints don't pile up just yet. I'm humored by an encounter with a federal employee loaded with integrity. I casually handed her a 14 x 20 inch print that I knew she would like, not thinking of anything but innocent friendship. Days later, she said she had to either pay me for it or have it accepted as a gift to the government to comply with "ethics" rules. I told her that if I had a nickel for every print I ever handed to someone, I'd be well off now, so please just consider it casual friendship. She couldn't and is paying me $ 45 for it!

The Pile 'O Prints Problem (POPP) is complicated by the fact that what you are showing (usually) is Art, rather than something that automatically attaches to the viewer because it involves family or friends or shared places/events, as an ordinary photo album does. And very few people, even in a close relationship, share exactly the same tastes in Art. What you wind up with is a POPP that nobody is much interested in except yourself. My solution to the run of problems you've discussed in the past few days is to print almost nothing -- but I do have a very large cache of photos on my iMac. With 27" screens and Retina displays, I get all the resolution I need to appreciate my own stuff, without storage problems. I'll now print only genuine masterpieces, which I can evaluate as such on the Retina screen. That means I haven't printed anything but photo album and family snapshots since I made that decision -- I've created no masterpieces lately, and I don't see any on the horizon. For the snapshots, a cheap printer and 4x5 paper (which Canon gives you "free" with ink) is good enough. If I do somehow land a masterpiece, I'll take it to a pro printer. If somebody decides they wish to further delve into my photographic work, a 16mb thumb drive that they can look at in a leisurely way, or sitting side-by-side at the iMac, will do. That hasn't happened lately, either, except with family who want to see family photos. My street shots, not so much.

I hate to write a comment at all, since you are so far behind. I feel like I am burying you a little.

But anyway, the reason I have trouble with your proposal is that in my experience, at some point all the best prints will be ruined.

Even with forewarning and instructions, people who look at my carefully preserved prints tend to put their thumb right on the surface of the print, or otherwise manhandle my prints. And these are friends of mine!

I haven't found a good way to prevent it, short of framing each print.


I print myself or have printed only a quite small % of the images that go on my web sites.

Another, somewhat larger % are printed in photo books. 100 images in 5/8" of shelf width.

My personal experience is that friends, family, visitors, etc. relate in an entirely different, and much better, way to a book or books than to pile(s) of prints.

I think it's related to a few things. First, there's the problem of handling the loose prints. If they perceive them as valuable, which is likely, they are hesitant to handle them much. Its hard to hold a print flat and at the right angle to the light.

A book has a physical integrity that makes using it easier and safer (seeming).

Second, there's something about the book form embedded in our culture that makes handling and looking at them different, more familiar, comfortable and pleasurable than other forms of presentation.

Then there's the effect on me of putting together a coherent, linear set of photos for a book. I never got ideas of discipline such as One camera, one lens one year. That would be torture for me.

But I find the process of creating a book to be artistic endeavor, not arduous discipline. A not unpleasant process that results in a lasting sense of accomplishment. I suspect too that the process of selection into a limited space improves the quality of the content.

As to PQ, I've been quite happy with the quality of the reproductions in high end photo book publishers. Those who view them often comment on the quality, both physical/sensual and visual. Are they individually as good as a great print? Mostly, I think so, and those that aren't are still quite good.

I printed most of my books with MyPublisher, which has been absorbed into Shutterfly. My last big book was mailed from a different place than before, and packaged differently, which I assume to have been a Shutterfly printing plant, and was of the same quality. I've only done one small book directly with Shutterfly, and it was fine. I've seen AdoramaPix books that were excellent.

If you do really print your best work , over time you will get the 'Pile-o-Prints' Problem. PoPP. Your solution is as good as any because it allows for Promotion -Demotion, which I think is important.
I also organize by project , Paris, China, Dublin etc
Then Family pictures are kept separate.
One extravagance I have allowed myself, is a double set of metal Flat files with very large drawers. They have been a life saver.
Where I really fall down is with my largest ongoing projects. These projects continually get new work. I've never been good at organizing things like that, I tend either to micro-organize or put it all in one big bucket.
One of the reasons I print, is because it finalizes the way I think about a picture-- It's done, no more tweaking . (Unless I change my mind and do a whole new version and trash the old one---because you are right, they do come in and out of favor)
I am a fairly economical shooter, my first form of editing is not pressing the button. I am also a fairly hard editor of my own work so my PoP grows slowly.
In my head, it is not really a picture until it is a print.
I have lots of digital files that are not printed, but in my head those are your #2's & #3's
So (for Me) a print is an imprimatur of sorts.
It gives me pleasure and a sense of accomplishment to look at them.
They exist primarily for me.
As for wall space, I hang primarily other peoples work.
So shelves, flat files, portfolio cases all work for me.

I use pretty much the same approach you do, Mike. The main difference is that I sort photos by broad themes, so my street photo prints go in one box, my portraits go into another, my abstracts a third, etc. Second- and third-rate prints go into the circular file or are given away to anyone who happens to like them. That makes it easier to find and share a particular type of photo I may be looking for. It may not be the best way (if there is such a thing), but it works for me.

I have been quite happily putting my prints in boxes for some years as you suggest. However, your idea of using metal edge boxes for the seconds and thirds makes sense financially, but would be a hassle to keep track of, so I will just try to stay with the better quality boxes all round. I also put all my prints in archival sleeves to minimize handling damage.

Perhaps part of the problem people have with printing is the idea that 'big is best', and the only valid end point is something that could grace a gallery, or at least must be matted, framed and on the wall. In fact I find very little actually belongs on the walls of our house, or needs to go up to 13x19 (although indeed some does), and I prefer most photographs in smaller sizes. Generally 8.5x11 seems to work best for me. Most of us have photo books, and the general size of prints therein is obviously not wall sized, but we are happy just the same. I'm glad to find with your recent post, that I'm not the only one printing at the smaller end of the scale.

On the subject of printers, I think there may be some myths still going around. I was once told by a sincere Epson person that I should ideally print every day to keep my printer is good order! In fact my Epson 2880 sometimes goes for weeks or even occasionally, months between printing sessions, and I have never had a clogged print head in all the years I have owned it. (Probably jinxed it now, but if it breaks I will have an excuse for a P800!) Also, I don't believe pigment inks really have a "best before" date as the manufacturers would like us to believe, as I've never heard of anyone reporting problems using old ink, including partly used cartridges in the printer. (I'll be interested if anyone cares to comment on this.) So my next printer will have much bigger cartridges, but my prints will stay relatively small.

Hey Mike, I like your 1-2-3 box idea, I will adopt it as another one of my techniques. I love to print my photos, I was kinda amazed at the last couple of posts about the cost. Hey, worth every penny. I try to print something from every time I take out the camera. I print my favorites and put them in albums. For years I bought Prat Paris books at exorbitant prices, they were supposed to be my portfolio to show about so that , seldom did. But now that I am poor I have found I am more than happy with Itoya Art Profolio Advantage books which are really inexpensive and are nice. My other technique is to dry mount my favorite favorites as 8x10s. I have them all over the place, on ledges, I pull out books from the book case and set them on the exposed edge, I have them everywhere, I love it. When I get tired of looking at them I put something else in front. I never frame stuff anymore. I like to be able to handle them. Every few years I put the old ones in boxes. There are lots of dog picture sitting around in my world . Lots of flowers too. Hey! I like flower pictures.

I use a variant of your technique, Mike. Or, more accurately, two variants:

(1) Print on standard sizes of paper (13x19 and 17x22-inch sheets work best for me) to a standard aspect ratio and image size. For example, for a vertical 13x19-inch print, I typically use a 2:3 aspect ratio and an image size of 9x13.5 inches. Frame to the standardized paper size with a mat that matches the standardized image size.

(2) Print on standard sizes of sheet paper with whatever aspect ratio seems appropriate for the image, but leave sufficient white space to create a border between the image area and the inside of the frame. Frame to the standardized paper size with 1/8-inch spacers attached to the edges of the glazing to keep the surface of the photo paper from making contact with it.

Either of these techniques allows me to rotate the images that are hanging on my walls at will—swapping in pictures from the “permanent collection” to the currently “exhibited collection.” I stuff unused photos in glassine envelopes and store them, lying horizontally, in a large tray that sits on top of a storage cabinet in my basement.

Occasionally, I’ll print a photograph I especially like at a non-standard size and use a custom frame and mat with the intention of hanging it on the wall permanently (or, if I get tired of it, retiring it altogether). But that’s a rare exception.

Digital picture frame.

I'm on board with the "one size fits all" concept. That said, I'm a hobbyist who only owns a printer because of reading TOP. I have the Pixma Pro 100, which I got for a net $80 at B&H (you can currently get it for a net $52, amazing deal). I did not have the courage to spend any more than that. But it is true, printing has been a tremendous learning experience, including stuff like color calibrating my monitor with a Spyder device (and setting the display to 5000K per CTEIN), also something I read here at TOP. It took me awhile to get prints to look like (or close to) what I was viewing on my monitor, but that's another story, but still a big part of my learning.

Anyway, I settled on 8.5x11 inch UltraPro Satin 4.0 paper by Red River. When I print 3:2 it is 7x10.5. Otherwise, I print 4:3 which is a borderless print, or 7.5x10 if I want borders. The 8.5x11 size paper is perfect for what I do at home, which is mostly learning and because it is a common size it is economically priced by Red River ($33.95 for 100 sheets). It has helped my learning quite a lot to tape photos to the wall in my office. The prints look great to my eyes, plenty good enough for my purposes. The Pro-100 and the $114 re-fills is not expensive. It works good enough. The one paper size approach is an efficiency, and keeps things more straight-forward. If I ever need to print on better paper or a larger size I'll send out to a lab (I like Bay Photo quite a lot for that).

I will confess that the way I share photos however is via Google Photos, and I like the iPad best for that, although any device works.

The idea behind the home printer was also to embark on an OCOLOY....I need to screw up my courage and discipline for that. I even have the boxes to store the photos in for that project. Sigh, I need to finally take the plunge.

I print a bunch, mostly underwater photographs. In my office I have built in display racks that hold 26 11x14 framed prints. After each dive trip, I exchange the old 26 for 26 new ones (assuming I get 26 printable files). Printing using either a Canon Pro 100 or Pro 10 printer on 8.5 x 11 inch Red River metallic paper. Paper is about $0.70 each and ink (Precision Colors refill ink) runs about $0.4 per print. Frames and mattes are reused so doing the whole office over costs about $30 which seems reasonable to me. I could get Costco prints for a bit more ($1.79 for 8x10) but I like the metallic paper for scenes that are typical of underwater

I find that having large books made of the photographs I want to keep solves the storage problem. The latest book goes onto the coffee table. I only print the photographs I want to hang. I don't change them around that much. I solved the limited hanging space issue by simply buying a bigger house.

In the analog days, prints were the primary way to share photographic images. Now that 99.99% of image sharing is online- I find the "pile of prints problem" effectively a non sequitur. You either elect to create them for their own tactile wonder, or not. I have a select few made whenever I can afford it, simply for the sake of seeing certain images come to their "natural" tangible completion. Occasionally, I'll take them out for the joy of viewing (in standardized formats as suggested), just as I do my photo books- either those I've made, or better yet, from my small library of various photographers.

The there's the Jay Maisel solution: buy an old commercial building in lower Manhattan, use some of the space for living quarters, and make the rest into a studio and storage space.

I once priced just ONE steel flat file - used - and decided that the best strategy for me was hanging file folders, give them away, or trash them.

Good idea Mike, any suggestions as to where you can get good archive boxes?

My favorite way to view and share photos is a self published book or magazine (via Blurb, or Magvloud or similar service). Good way to curate your own work, too.

I don't have a "what to do with the prints" problem.

I print 20" x 30" on 24" x 36" paper.
I thumb tack them to the office wall.

If I like them enough after a few weeks, I trim them down to fit an A1 frame (23.4" x 33.1") and sign and number them. Because I use matt paper, I don't need to mount them, as they don't stick to the glass. I keep a small stock of A1 frames in black aluminium and plain birch - reasonably priced, because it's a standard size.

Occasionally I give one away or sell it. If I get bored with it, it goes into the bin. If I still like it, but want to keep it, it goes into archival sleeves in a print box.I f it's not good enough to print big, it doesn't get printed.

I think inkjet printing has been wonderful for those of us who always liked printing big. I printed everything on 16" x 20" paper in the darkroom days because that was the largest easy size to work with.

Inkjet printing hasn't really been as great an advance for those who liked small prints - certainly the resolution of an 8"x10" inkjet print falls far short of an 8"x10" contact print. Possibly that is a factor for those of you who don't love their inkjet printer?

The "piles of prints" issue is nothing new to me. Having done photography for almost 60 years and keeping every roll of film in storage boxes, even over a dozen more moves, I had a storage problem. I also had a wall space problem, exacerbated by displaying some stuff that I really liked for a long time rather than shuffling in new ones.
Part was solved by digitizing - first all the sports car racing photos from the early days, then donating all the prints and film to the Watkins Glen racing library. That cleared out a lot.
Next I bought a auto-scanner for prints from Epson and started scanning prints and family snapshots. That got rid of another batch.
Then last year we moved from a large house plus farm with barn to a 2 BR condo. Over several weeks, I engaged in triage - deciding 1) save, 2) scan and discard or 3) discard. That was good for most of the rest.
Now I'm down to some on the wall, a couple of boxes and a computer with many thousands of digital images that I can look at any time.
The process was also good for contemplating the fate of pictures.
The largest use for my pictures was making a calendar every year for Christmas presents for friends. Most were from our farm (Food Chain Farm we called it). After we sold the farm last year, I did not do a calendar and got lots of complaints (but good-natured complaints) from friends.
The next largest use is for for books written on on cars and racing - about a dozen authors used my photos.
I've already scanned the good photos of the kids and given them copies. They don't care much now but maybe someday.
My current photos are primarily used to illustrate my books and articles on fiber optics (although I've started an Instagram account on the bad things I see riders doing with these insidious electric scooters here in CA beach towns.)
And I have currently 749 photos - mostly abstractions - in my MACs screen saver.
After I'm gone, the stuff will eventually be most likely trashed. Cool.

I appreciate your suggestion that the prints all be one size.

I loved the technical ability in digital of printing bigger and bigger in all different sizes. That led to selling big prints because I wanted to see them big, but had no room to display them in my home. By big, I mean seven and a half feet by five feet. And bigger does earn more money.

Yet for my own work, I have gone back to an 8x10 size. But not printed borderless. So it's maybe 5x7 or 4x8 with a nice border in that 8x10 size. I can easily hold them in my hand. I find a great shot can hold up fine in a small size. Of course one cannot "pixel peep" in a small size, one just pays attention to the image.

This is the opposite of my old darkroom chemistry days when I treasured the ability to enlarge to a 16x20. Then with digital, printing big was so easy that I got carried away even more so. And initially lots of oddball sizes that did not store very well.

This 8x10 approach allows me to save money on ink and save money on framing. I don't have enough wall space for many more hanging photos. 8x10 boxes take up less space and when you hand them to someone they are not overwhelmed. An 11x14 big is too big. My spouse kept telling me that, but I was slow to realize it.

And if one wants to see something big, get a big HDR TV and easily slide show them on the TV. But interestingly, the photo on the big screen is then even more appreciated in a small print.

This perspective makes me feel better about being an occasional printer. Probably the perfect balance.

Is the corollary to the pile of prints problem the binder of negatives problem or the trays of slides problem, or the pile of negatives to scan problem? Regardless, the solution is to continuously edit your work. I would throw away boxes two and three in your schema.

One thing I haven't seen mentioned- with high quality prints, you'll discover that your monitor is a tad more forgiving than you thought; not all your files are as well edited as you think. Little things not quite apparent on screen (no matter how well everything is calibrated and synched) can be rendered considerably more noticeable in a print!

Most of my prints date back to my darkroom days. They're silver-gelatin black and white, usually printed on 11 x 14 or 8 x10, with a smaller number on 16 x 20. The exhibition prints are mounted and matted and stored in 16 x 20 or 22 x 28 boxes. They were created over a period of 25 years. There are so many boxes, and they are so heavy, that ordinary bookcases were never a storage choice. Instead, I use heavy duty steel shelving units (5 shelves per unit, each unit 6' high, 4' wide, 2' deep), available at Home Depot. For photo, I've got six of these units in my basement, three for print boxes, three for negative boxes, sectional frames, and various other photo stuff. In addition, I have a large number of framed prints from my last exhibitions stored in ordinary cardboard boxes.

I'm 78, so it won't be long until this is some one else's problem. My children will keep a few of the prints, and I'm sure the rest will go to the landfill. That most of it will be thrown away doesn't bother me. In looking back, for me the most important thing was the photographic process leading to the prints - the creation rather than the possession.

Mike’s vertical boxed storage suggestion is practical for prints up to letter-size. But I’ve just never had luck keeping them from curling. You might get better results.

Taking a step back, my own printing tiers begin with the 4x6 inch print.

Here are my main reasons why.
- It’s very convenient and compact to archivally store. Storage space is at a real premium in my home office! You’ll find excellent archival storage products at Archival Methods and other similar vendors.
- There’s an excellent variety of papers available in this size.
- The 4x6 printed on good paper is generally good enough to tell me what an image needs for a larger print.
- The 4x6 is not precious. It’s easy to mail and everyone’s comfortable passing them around in a group, far more than even letter-sized prints. They’re the easiest way to give a photograph a tactile materiality.

I usually file these small prints chronologically, consistent with the physical organization of my primary Lightroom data base.

My next tier up from the 4x6 is the letter-sized print. For work that requires high-quality color reference prints I prepare 13x19 sets. But I’d say that the 4x6 is the bedrock of my printing,

One other possible solution that I've been inching towards for the past couple of years to compliment folio boxes is turning the pile of prints into books. Having people look through a hand-made book in my view is a step-up from looking through a folio box. Inspired by Brooks Jensen (Lenswork) chapbooks, and tired of waiting for his long-promised visual workshop on them, I took a short, local course on book-binding.

Not many of the usual binding techniques are really suitable for photographic prints, but some are. The catch is that for best results, papers and layout should be selected for book-making. This means that binding your prints probably isn't going to make many inroads into any existing piles. But book-making might prevent future piles, or at least slow their growth.

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