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If a photo is taken, but is never shared, does it still exist?
The great philosophical question of the social media age.
Today we’re going to talk about what to do with your images after you create them. It’s a topic that is always causing me to pause and ponder, and question my goals and intentions for my work.
It’s also one that is dear to my heart, because we will talk today about the wonderful world of printing. Something that I think is mightily important (and yet I still struggle with how little I do of it).
Yes, so today is all about struggles and philosophy and social media and how to actually print those darn images you've worked so hard on. This is a good one, let’s get to it.
Ah, social media: it can be a blessing or a curse for a photographer. It can help you get your work out in front of countless eyes, but it can also cause so much doubt and anxiety. Especially when it comes to sharing the images you’ve taken of your own life. That is very personal work, stuff that is near and dear to your heart, and so it’s particularly tough when that work is criticized, or ignored.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels a little sad when my favourite image of my son gets almost no likes/hearts/whatevers.
And so when we capture our life, and want to put it out there, we need to start with why.
It's simple: Why do you want to share that photo?
There are many reasons you might want to put it out there: Because you’re proud of it. Because you want your friends and family to see what you’re up to. Because you think other people will enjoy it. Because you think someone else might feel better if they see it.
There’s no right or wrong reason. All you need to do is ask yourself why. Once you get to the heart of that question, and figure it out, it will be much easier for you to figure out how to share your photos, and to deal with any negativity that comes from them.
Let me give you an example. I’m a bit of a nervous mom – I think it comes with parenting in the age of Google. I’m always worried that I’m not doing it right. So almost every time I post a photo of my kids I’m terrified that someone is going to notice that I didn’t have my son’s helmet perfectly positioned, or that my baby is definitely not on the right level of his Jolly Jumper, because his heels are hitting the floor. And they’ll know, right then and there, that I’m an awful mother.
SO MESSED UP, RIGHT???
Concerned For My Sanity
He's worried that his crazy mom is going to mean sky high therapy bills. Sorry, kiddo.
Is That Right?
When your baby weighs over 20 lb at 6 months, he has a heavier bounce, ok??
But yes, this happens almost every time. Because a) I’m kind of a crazy person and b) I’m not always in touch with my why. So when I catch myself doing this nutso panic, I remind myself to think about it. What’s my purpose here in sharing this photo?
Most often, it’s to connect. To make someone else smile. Or to show them that I’m struggling with the challenges of parenting too.
Will someone, somewhere, look at my image and scoff and say “Man, she’s messing it all up.”? Maybe. But will far more people get a chuckle out of fat baby legs, or the craziness of the toddler age? Yep. So that means my goal is accomplished, even if someone doesn’t like it.
Take some time to consider why you share your images of your life. The more time I’ve taken to do this, the stronger I feel in my ability to withstand any negative reactions that might come my way.
The Perfect Family Portrait
Max always loves having his photo taken. ALWAYS.
Now here’s a radical idea – you don’t even have to share your photos! You could take the best photo in the history of the world, and just keep it to yourself.
Isn’t it strange that that really does seem like a crazy idea?
But it’s true. A photo does indeed exist even if it’s never shared. Philosophical pondering answered! Boom!
And this has to do with the “why” of capturing your life. Are you capturing it for other people? Or for yourself, your family, and your future family. Chances are it’s the second one. And so if you take a stunning shot, and never post it online, and just keep it for yourself to enjoy? That’s awesome. You don’t have to put it out there, and you should feel totally satisfied with having it only on your computer.
(Now I know there are a lot of folks out there saying, “Well, duh.” But I grew up in the internet age, and I’m sure many of you did too. And for those of us who can hardly remember a time without it, it can sometimes feel like we’re supposed to live our life online. It’s very helpful to remind ourselves that the value of an image does not lie in how many people like it, but rather how much it means to us.)
Peru on Film
Rob's taken tons of shots with film cameras over the years – including large format, medium format, and 35mm. Most of them haven't been shared online, and that's just fine by us. Sometimes it's nice to have a stash of photos that are just yours.
I’ve slowly started sharing more of my personal work – particularly images of my kids – on my blog and social media. I’ve done it with a bit of reluctance and nervousness, for all those anxiety-ridden reasons I mentioned above.
But I’ve been sharing a TON of my personal work privately since before my first son was even born.
See, my family is mostly out on the east coast of Canada, and I have close friends spread all across the world. I don’t see them very often, but I knew they'd want to keep up with what was going on with us. So I created a private blog, and I’ve been posting on it for over 3 years now. It’s allowed my friends and relatives to feel connected and close, even with geographical distance between us. I went with a blog instead of Facebook or Instagram because it’s more universal – you don’t need an account to view it, and you can subscribe to get the posts by email. It’s free, very simple, and has worked out really well.
Now this is a practice I highly recommend. It removes any anxiety about the technical quality of the photos (Is the light good enough? This composition is kinda wonky…) and lets me just share images that I personally love, in a pressure-free environment. My friends and family leave comments, and we all enjoy the experience together. They even very helpfully remind me when I haven’t posted recently!! ;)
To be honest, I’m a bit inconsistent with this. There are five billion things on my to-do list, so this often gets pushed down to the end. But I’ve found ways to make it as easy as possible to share. I have a Wordpress blog, and the Wordpress app on my phone makes it insanely easy to put a photo up. I’ve also installed a Wordpress plugin in Lightroom that also makes it a two second job to get a photo onto the blog. The more you can simplify, automate, and make a habit out of this, the better you’ll be, and the more your family will love you for it.
Sharing Without Anxiety
The photographer side of me can't help but critique every photo I take, so it's been helpful to have a private blog to share my photos without worrying about whether or not they are perfect.
I’m a sucker for photo captions. It’s simple: I like photos, but I love stories. So when someone posts an incredible image that just screams for explanation, but then leaves some cryptic two word description, or worse, blank, I get frustrated. I want to know, understand, and dive deeper into that life.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of the world’s most popular photographers, Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York, is known more for the stories in his captions, than for his images.
So when you’re sharing, try sharing more than just the photo – share the story behind the photo. Flex those creative writing muscles. Speak to the five senses. Tell the who, what, when, where and why. And see just how much more your audience connects.
The Car Museum
"Wait, what was that??" Rob slams on the brakes, and we turn around. We're in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico and we've stumbled across the Classic Gas Museum. Filled with gas station memorabilia from Route 66, we were in a photographer's paradise. A good lesson in always saying yes to stopping for a photo.
When we started to teach our 2 year old son photography (yeah, we’re those parents) we knew that one thing was very important: printing the images. This would take everything he was doing from an abstract place, to a real tangible result. We wanted him to hold those images he created in his hands.
And, indeed, that is currently his absolute favourite part of photography.
See, printing is important. No, it’s essential. Printed images are magic, and special, and so worth the effort.
But it’s hard. I know. We currently own four different printers (yes, four!!) and I still don’t print as much as I should. But there are photos on our walls, and in boxes around the house, and on the fridge, and on my desk. And I absolutely treasure them. I know my kids and grandkids will too. They’ll treasure them in a very different way than they’ll treasure the hundreds of thousands of files on my computer. In fact, they might just shake their angry fists at me for leaving them with so much data to deal with. But I’m pretty sure they’ll smile lovingly at the albums and prints I made for them. I hope...
Ok, let’s dig into how to print, and do it more often.
After a trip Rob will print out a ton of assorted photos to put up on the fridge. It has become one of my favourite traditions, and I spend so much time looking at them.
One of my biggest hurdles to printing is the time it takes to arrange everything carefully into an album. I love making albums, and believe they are the best way to tell a story. But they take a huge amount of time, and so I procrastinate and don’t get anything printed.
So step one is appreciating the value of the loose print. Shoot those suckers off like nobody's business! Our fridge is regularly covered in 4x6s of our favourite images (or just whatever images we printed off). It doesn’t matter. Get some done.
Now, we have lots of loose photos around the house, but only a few framed images. Framing takes time, and the chances of swapping them are low (at least that's the case for us. Rob’s sister is a master at regularly updating her framed photos!). But they look beautiful, so find some key places in your home, and frame some photos. Choose ones that you’ll regularly enjoy, years down the road. Right now most of our framed images are travel photos that won’t have us thinking “That was so long ago, the kids don’t look like that anymore!"
One of our tricks for hanging frames is to use the 3M Picture Hanging strips. That way you don’t have to worry about messing up your walls with nail holes, and they hold like crazy. We used them for a wall gallery of large frames from 3 years ago that has never budged. Check those out, you won’t be sorry. (But make sure you pick frames with flat edges on the back, or the strips won’t have anywhere to stick to!)
Our Little Gallery
These are some of our few framed prints in our home, but we love them. They're from our assorted travels, and hung using 3M Picture Hanging Strips. Super easy to use! We put this gallery up as we waited for that little baby to show up (a week late, the slowpoke!).
Our best printer is the Epson 3880, and it’s a beast. (The newer version is the Epson P800.) It doesn't work well for small individual prints, instead being suited to larger sheets. The way we often use it is to put a ton of images onto one big page, and then cut them out. It takes some time, but the print quality truly cannot be beat. If you want to get into printing seriously, you should definitely check these types of printers out. They are beautiful.
Our quick printer is the Canon Selphy CP910. This is the one we got when we started teaching Max, and it’s ok. It’s fast for sure, and you can just stick your memory card in, select the image right from the printer, and then the print is done in a minute. So it’s convenient. But the print quality isn’t great, so we’re a bit torn on this guy.
Our quirky printer is the Fuji Instax SHARE. It prints on instant film, from your smartphone. Kinda fun, and a hit for parties when everyone can connect to it. The results are cute, Polaroid style prints, but the quality is low, so it’s more for the kitsch of it than anything.
Fuji Instax Share
We like to pull this little printer out at parties, so that people can print party shots wirelessly from their phone!
The quality isn't what you'll get with an injket printer, but they're super-fun and easy to print.
“That’s lovely for you guys, but what printer should I get?” you say.
Great question. And to be honest, I’m not sure! We’re still on the hunt for a great home printer to recommend. We did have an Epson All-in-One printer that was working for 4x6s and then it broke not too long after we got it, so we’re stuck.
If you don’t currently have a photo printer, you might want to just regularly send a bunch of files over to Costco, or whatever local place you use to print (Costco is pretty good for just random prints, by the way.)
If you do have a printer, use it often. Do whatever you have to to regularly get some small prints made, and around your home.
Once you’ve done that, it’s time to get serious...
As I mentioned before, I love albums. We’ve already spent a lot of time talking about how important storytelling is for your images, and albums are the perfect way to tell that story.
See, the story isn’t just in the photos you take. It’s in the edit. The way you present the photos, which ones you choose, and how you arrange them.
Arranging an album takes some time, so this is where regularly starring your photos comes in handy. When it’s time for me to sit down and create an album, I’m able to click a button and see only the images I’ve starred, giving me a smaller, and stronger set of photos to work from.
From there, it’s about telling the story. And we know how to do that now! Set the scene, introduce the characters, show details that add richness, get some action going, maybe some conflict, then resolution and ending. By carefully selecting which images to include in your album, along with what order you place them, you can bring that story to life, and make that album something much greater than all the images on their own. Albums also give you the opportunity to create contrast by pairing different images together – a wide shot with a portrait, or a quiet moment with a funny one.
As for printing the album, these days there are so many options it's fantastic! We've really enjoyed the personal albums we printed with Blurb, and have heard good things about Artifact Uprising. For wedding albums, you can't beat the quality of VisionArt.
Now, how you actually create and that album is up to you. There are free and easy options out there, like Apple Photos, or Blurb’s free software. These are both very simple, and quick. There isn’t a ton of customization possible, but more than enough for most of your needs.
I personally use Adobe InDesign, because it’s a program that I’ve been using for nearly a decade, and I know it backwards and forwards. It will do exactly what I want, and I can make templates to make things even easier. If you want to use it, Blurb even has a plugin to automatically create the pages for you, which saves a ton of time.
When making your album, consider adding some writing. It doesn’t have to be complex; it can be as simple as a caption under each image, sharing more of the story. I know it can be tough, especially if you’re not a writer, but I guarantee you’ll appreciate even the simplest addition years down the road once the names, dates, and other details have faded from memory.
Add Some Writing to Your Albums
This is one of my most favourite books I've ever created. It's the story of a day with one of my favourite little humans. I wrote captions for each photo, and it really brought the images to life.
If you take anything away from this blog post, I hope it’s two things:
I mentioned that I use Adobe InDesign to create my albums. If you're looking to get into album design, and especially if you design albums for clients, you should check out my full tutorial, Awesome Album Design Skills. It will teach you how to use InDesign to:
Click here to check it out and get it with an instant download - keep on learning, you’re doing great!
"I've cut my design hours from 6 to 1 thanks to you! So thank you a million times over!"
Ok, pal, we’re coming near the end here! We’ve talked about so much great technical stuff, and motivational stuff, and image-safety stuff and just lots of great stuff. Now we’re going to wrap it up with a chat about how to stay fresh and creative and inspired! New tricks to try, new places to get ideas, and new ways to find energy for the task. It’s a great one to wrap up on, so I look forward to seeing you there!
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