A photo is not a photo until it is printed. And you should print your photos. Today, I am making a case for doing that.

You are reading this post because you are into photography. You are a beginner, or an advanced amateur, or a seasoned pro who would like some new techniques. Either way, you have come here to learn about something dear to your heart: making images. And for many of you—especially the beginners—this means you have hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of images that live only on your disk drive.

Great. But that is not the whole job. You are leaving out the last step. A very important step; I would say an essential one. Creating a print from the best of those electronic files.

Like here, in my living room, which as you can see is decorated with one artistic nude, three travel photos, and one “selfie”:

Why is printing images so important?

For many reasons, of which I am going to mention the top six.

It is the only way to preserve the image. Digital images get lost. Let me repeat that: Digital images get lost. All information carriers (Papertape. Magnetic tape. Floppy disks. Hard disks. CDs. DVDs. CF cards. SD cards. USB keys. Every single type!) lose their information in anything from a year or two to a decade or two. I cannot stress that enough. You will lose your information. CDs, DVDs, hard disks: all of these are meant for temporary storage. there is as yet NO permanent storage solution other than cuneiform clay tablets. “The cloud” is no solution either: things get lost.

Also, even if by a stroke of luck you do not lose the data, you cannot read old media (try to read an 8″ floppy disk: I challenge you!). We may be the generation that takes more photos than any preceding generation; we are also the generation that will lose more photos than any preceding generation. This is a tragedy. Please.. print, to preserve.

They decorate your living room very nicely. There is a reason there is no hotel without prints on the wall. Prints add style, class, to your environment. Not just to hide stains: prints look beautiful on your wall and you can choose something to complement your environment (e.g. urban scenes in a country cottage, and vice versa).

Prints look much better than displays. Prints can be much larger (the nude above is 40″ wide); they can be on metallic paper (that one is); they have wonderful colour saturation, and they are, when done properly, much better than a display. Yes, printing needs to be set up properly, but it is worth doing.

They are a great way to share. Having photos on a hard drive is ok, but how often do you show them? A print on a wall is seen every time someone walks by that wall. And not just for ten seconds: for the entire evening, if you have dinner guests.

There are many possible formats. I love fold flat photo books with hard pages. There are many formats, from canvas wraps to such books: you can go wild. All this amounts to much more than just your LCD screen!

You will feel good about your skills. There is a special thrill in seeing your work large, as it is supposed to be, on your own wall. Your work instead of some IKEA artist’s work! This is an important motivator to keep shooting, as well.

My recommendation is a strong “go make some prints from your best photos—today!”

EXTRA: TIP for readers in the Toronto area: for great prints, in a wonderful variety of types, go to Fotobox in west Toronto, on the Queensway. Tell them I sent you—they have done my large metallic prints, and I am delighted with their service, attitude, skills, quality and pricing. Fotobox, 936 The Queensway, Toronto, ON M8Z 1P4(647) 430-8499. See (And no, before you ask: I am not being paid for this mention.)


Low key or High Key

Definition time:

A low key photo is simply a photo that is “overall dark”. Like this one, of Serenity, made yesterday:

(Black backdrop, 200 ISO, 1/125 sec, f/8, softbox on left as main light, softbox on right as fill light, snoot behind right as hairlight, gridded gelled speedlight on left for red accent).

The nice thing is that the subject stands out because she is the only light thing; in particular, her eyes are.

A high key photo, you guessed it, is a photo whose overall brightness is high. Like this, of intern Daniel, also made yesterday:

There you have it.

Which histogram belongs to which photo?

Answer tomorrow!


Repeat Post: DPI/LPI versus Pixels

Today a repeat post, because this happens all too often, and it happened again yesterday. People confuse the DPI setting in an image with something meaningful. News Flash: By itself, saying “300 dpi” or some such means nothing at all about the quality or size of the picture. So here goes, from 2010:

I keep hearing people say “I want this picture at 300 dpi”, or “send it to me low quality at 72 lpi”.

When talking about a given image, that by itself is meaningless!

Let me see if I can explain. I will simplify and assume that dpi (dots per inch), ppi (pixels per inch) and lpi (lines per inch) are the same. They are not, not exactly; but assume for a moment that they are, since it makes no difference for this explanation.

Folks, the dpi (or lpi) setting makes no difference to the quality of an image. Not by itself. It is just an instruction to the printer.

It is the number of pixels that makes the difference. Not the number of pixels per inch, which is just an instruction to the print device.

Let me try to explain.

Let’s start with the image. You have taken a picture. It is a certain number of pixels in size. Say, 640 pixels wide, or 1,200, or 4,500. That is the resolution of the pixture. The more pixels, the higher the resolution. Very simple. So let’s say your camera is a 6 Megapixel camera – that means your image is 3000 pixels wide (3,000 wide x 2,000 high = 6,000,000 pixels, or 6 Megapixels).

When someone says “send your picture to me at 72 dpi” or “send it to me at 300 dpi” that means nothing by itself. Try it: export your photo from Photoshop as 72 dpi and then as 300 dpi and compare the two images. Identical number of kilobytes, and when viewed full size, identical detail.

DPI means “dots per inch”. So by saying “take this image and make it 300 dpi” that is just telling the printer “take this image and print it ten inches wide” (3000/300 = 10). Setting it to 72 dpi means “print it  42 inches wide” (3000/72 = 42). But it neither increases nor reduces the quality!

What people need to say if they are talking about image quality is:

  1. “Send it to me 10 inches wide at 72dpi”.
  2. Or “send it to me 10 inches wide at 300 dpi”.

Which just translates to:

  1. “Send it to me 10 x 72 pixels wide, i.e. I mean 720 pixels wide”
  2. or “”Send it to me 10 x 300 pixels wide, i.e. I mean 3,000 pixels wide”

So if you mean 720 pixels wide, or 3,000 pixels wide, why not just say that?

That is the essence. After all, it is easier to set one variable (pixels wide) than two (dpi and size); and pixels mean something real.

Unless we are printers, we are talking about it from this perspective, so we should use clear terms. Telling me “send it to me at 72 dpi” is only meaningful if you also add the inches. So be clear, and say “send it to me 3,000 pixels wide”.


I never use others’ materials, or criticize others, but this video is interesting and this person is 100% right in his criticism of Ken Rockwell:

Watch the eleven minute segment segment that starts at 39 minutes. A segment that makes me feel roughly like this:

Canon 1Dx with 85mm f/1.2 lens; 1/125 sec, 100 ISO, f/8, Off Camera Flash at 1/4 power; Pocketwizards, HonlPhoto 1/8" grid.


Why am I sharing this? Because the presenter in this video is absolutely right, and if you believe Mr Rockwell, you will be setting yourself up for failure. Take it from me: Shoot RAW. Do not use auto ISO. Use good lenses. Doing anything else is recipe for disaster.

There is opinion, and there is silly opinion, and not all opinion is valid. You are welcome here for your daily dose of valid opinion. :-)

Thanks to Steve Jones for forwarding this segment.


Tender Loving Care… sometimes your photos need some. Meaning, some post-production editing.

I try to keep that to a minimum, for several reasons. First, I am a photographer, not a graphic artist. Second, it’s work, and I like to minimize work. Third, I like my previews “on the back of the camera” to look great, not “needs some work”.

On that subject. The camera usually has a pretty vivid preview, and people (including me) like that. But when you import the RAW image into Lightroom, you lose that: suddenly, your image looks more dull.

Bronte Harbour, July 1, 2014: This image was pretty good out of the camera.

This has two reasons. One: turn off in-camera “image improvement” settings. Those only for on JPG files. If you are going to edit, do it under full control in Lightroom, not in the camera under its control.

But there is another reason. By default, Lightroom converts the RAW into a preview using Adobe’s preference. In the DEVELOP module, scroll down to the last pane, “Camera Calibration:

When you click on the “Adobe Standard” default, you see other options:

I usually select Camera Standard. You can make that your default. Result: images that look more like your camera preview.

Now you can do any further editing. In the image above I did four things: (1) I slightly darkened the blue sky using the HSL/Luminance blue slider; and (2) I slightly increased the saturation using the BASIC section saturation slider. Finally, (3) I added a very slight vignette after(4) cropping off the top inch. Since the original image was good and exposed well, minimal changes were needed. But they were still changes. Sometimes, a little TLC can have big results.

Learn all about Lightroom, the only game in town: come to me for a private workshop during which you learn how best to set up and use Lightroom. You will be amazed at how good your images really are.