printing dilemmas and decisions

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Discussing Your Printing Dilemmas and Decisions

Thank you for listening to The Photo Flunky Show. We’re talking about your printing dilemmas and decision in this episode.

Photography is rewarding and so is sharing your photos online. However, there is something tactile about holding your photos. Getting your photos in print leads to a lot of decisions, though.

Do you want to do it yourself or have a print shop create your prints? Will you print on paper, canvas, metal or something else?

Your decision may end up depending upon your needs. Are you selling your images as fine art prints or do you like having a lot of control over your final print? You may prefer creating your own prints.

I use a print shop for my print sales. That helps me with quality, speed and shipping. I don’t have the expense of buying equipment or ink. On the other hand, I give up some level of control when I use a print shop.

We also talk about alternative printing options, such as photo books and creating products bearing your photos.

You can make some paper printers with little expense, or you can crack open your piggy bank to put your photos on aluminum. There’s quite a range of possibilities. Which decision you make ultimately depends upon your needs.

Related Links

Here are links to some of the services that I’ve used to create prints, both for the few I have at home and for my print sales. Each provides a high quality product that you can trust, so I’m happy to recommend them.


Artistic Photo Canvas

Image Wizards

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Welcome to the Photo Flunky Show, Episode number forty-seven.


Today we are going to be talking about printing dilemmas.  Decisions you’ve got to make to decide how you are going to preserve your photos.


William:   My name is William Beem.


Lee:         Hi, my name is Lee Beem.


William:   And of course, as we talked about, we just want to discuss printing dilemmas; some of the decisions that you want to make before you commit your photos to some kind of medium to share them out.


But before we get to that, we just want to say that show notes are going to be available  You’re going to get a free transcript of the show there and of course, you can find links to subscribe to the show at, whether you want to subscribe on iTunes, Google Play or some of the other things.


And we would also love it if you would follow us on our social media.  We are available on Facebook Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest and we will have links to those in the show notes as well.


Lee, you used to print almost everything.


Lee:         Pretty much, yes.


William:   Give me some of the reasons why.  Why was it important to you to have your photos printed, rather than just sharing them on social media?


Lee:         I think some of it is nostalgic. As a child I have very fond memories of sitting and paging through family photo albums, baby albums … my parents always had photos on display in frames on walls, big canvas prints or huge framed prints.  They loved their photographs and they liked to show off and enjoy the memories that we had at any time. It is something that was always special to me. I have always liked to hold a book in my hands and physically page through things.


William:   You know, that is very different to the way I grew up.  We had maybe a couple of framed photos sitting on the counter somewhere, but other than that the walls were bare.


I know my father really loved and wanted to have a painting one time. He went over and commissioned a painting from a guy in Daytona Beach and he hung that up there, but we never really hung up any photos with our family or something else.


Except for one. I had one photo that I took in West Virginia that my mother loved and she went off and had that printed and framed.


But beyond that, it was pretty bare for me growing up.


Lee:         We had the opposite. My dad loved oil paintings and he used to spend a lot of money on these enormous framed paintings and we never had such a thing as a bare wall in the house.


William:   That’s kind of different to where we are. I’ve got some of my photos that are up in the office in here. I’ve got one of mine that is hanging up over our fireplace, but beyond that I haven’t really filled up the walls that much.


We’ve got some of our family photos on the mantle, but those are kind of smaller ones.


Lee:         Yes and it was one of the first things I said to you the first time I ever came to visit I walked in the house and couldn’t believe that there were bare walls.


William:   I know. You’ve seen all the photos that I’ve taken, but I didn’t have them printed and put on the walls.


Lee:         No, and my walls have never been bare.  Ever.


William:   That’s my shame. I’m a photographer with pretty much bare walls. But I want to change that and that’s kind of why we are looking at this topic because looking at some of the things we can print, I’ve done a number of things.


We’ll get into those a little bit later on, but we were kind of thinking you want to preserve your memories, but also if you are a photographer and you are proud of what you have done, you kind of want to show off your work.


Lee:         Yes and it goes beyond that. Most people do like to hang at least a few select pieces on their walls.  I get it if you are into art and paintings and things, but if you want pictures on your wall, why would you pay for someone else’s picture if you have good photos.


To me, I don’t really get it.  I know there is something that doesn’t register with me with that.


William:   I think that depends on the photographer, because I know some photographers who will never hang their own. They want to collect photographs from other people; some that they know and some that they simply admire. They don’t want their own photos on the wall. They want artwork from someone else.


Lee:         You see, I want my home to reflect me.


William:   I don’t think there is anything wrong with either one, but it’s a personality choice.  Particularly if we are talking about printing. We are obviously talking about printing your own photos, not grabbing something off the web and printing it.


There are a couple of other reasons why you want to do this. For some of us you may want to make some print sales. I can tell you firsthand, I love print sales. Print sales are good!  Print sales mean money.


Lee:         Yes. They usually pay pretty well.


William:   But that also means that the medium in which you deliver your art has to live up to what the customers want and how they want to display it and of course your photographs can make some wonderful gifts for people.


Lee:         Oh, absolutely and that’s something I’ve done over and over again.


William:   What we are talking about is artwork for display. We’ve occasionally got into products with images on. I mean you mentioned in the past, coffee mugs, diaries, calendars and cards and stuff like that.  I had someone contact me about a month ago.


They wanted to use some of my photos of Las Vegas for products in Las Vegas. For example a simple hand fan which is going to be flat on the bottom and kind of rounded over the top.  Kind of like a protractor. They wanted to put my images on the fans so people can just cool themselves off, I guess.


Lee:         In the heat!


William:   Another reason is going to be preservation archives. I am not sure if this is really going to apply too much to people here, but you know what? If you are working for a business that needs to document and preserve your images, I wouldn’t leave it as just an electronic file because over the years and decades, digital photography is still fairly new in long term historical terms.


I wouldn’t necessarily guarantee that 20 or 50 years from now the file formats that we are using may still be read by whatever the computer systems are in the future.


You probably want to print something off on a material where you can preserve it.


Lee:         That’s true. I never really thought about that.


William:   I mean jpeg we are used to, but jpeg may get replaced in the next decade or so and something else may be the format. Then they could come back and say trying to load that jpeg is like if we were trying to load something off of a cassette tape!


Lee:         Yes!


William:   Medium changes. File formats change, so something that is printed is going to last. And then of course you can always scan that print for whatever the format is that may come around in the future, but if you have got that print and it lasts, then you’ve got a good preservation.


One of the first things that I guess you’ve got to figure out is are you going to print at home or are you going to go to a print shop?


Alright, go ahead. You’ve definitely got an opinion here.


Lee:         Well it’s not really that I have an opinion, but I’m thinking printing at home, is going to be a massive outlay. If you are going to be printing at home, even on your nice expensive printer, the paper to get a good quality print like you’re going to get even if you go to one of the inexpensive ones where people go – CVS or something.


William:   Most folks if you are going to print your vacation pictures you will probably go to a drugstore like CVS which is a popular one, or Duane Reade or something if you’re in the northern states.  Or you can go online to a company like mpix.


Lee:         OK, but no matter whether you go to a high end or a very basic print shop, printing at home is going to cost you more and I don’t think people see this.  Printing at home is not a cost effective way to do it. You do it because you want complete control over what you are doing.


William:   I think that’s it. You want control over what you are doing. It’s not going to be cost effective because you can buy a small color printer, but that is not a photo printer. Even some of the ones that say “Photo Printer” are for like little 4×6 shots.  So you are going to spend money on a good Epson or Canon printer and you are going to have to deal with all the heartache that goes with it.


Lee:         The ink is really expensive. Your paper does matter. It matters a lot.


William:   This is something that people who print at home really talk about. I can choose the paper and I can choose what the quality is going to be like.


For example, if you go to a print shop – even a professional print shop – they are going to give you a few options, but they may not have the exact one that you want. So if you are someone who is really into detail, saying it must be on this type of Red River paper or whatever the product number is, and the print shop doesn’t do that, then you can do it yourself. But you are going to spend – what does a good printer cost – probably about $3,000 or so just for that. You’ve got the ink to put into it which is going to be expensive and if you don’t print often enough that’s going to dry up or clog, probably.


Lee:         Yes.


William:   And then there is the paper and you’ve got different types of paper. So you’ve got a lot of control, but you are going to go through a major expense to do it. And as you can tell, since I don’t have photos on my wall, I did not go to the expense of a printer.


Lee:         Well I was kind of just laughing because the people who do print at home already know this. They know what they are doing and they understand why they are doing it. I do know people who have gone to great expense and bought these home printers and not been able to maintain them to keep the running costs up and ended up sitting with this useless expensive printer which they are trying to sell and still paying to have a print store do it.


William:   Another reason that some people will go and get through all that expense and do that is if they are going to do art sales.  Then let’s say they want to do a limited edition or they want to sign their work before it goes out, they are going to print it themselves. So they are going to have a print shop where they can get access to it, but mostly they are going to print themselves.  And they are going to say, “This is a limited edition. I printed it. I chose all the specs. I chose the paper. I’ve signed it for you and here is your certificate of authenticity.”


Lee:         I understand that, but that is a different league to which most of us operate.


William:   It is, but also if you want to go that route where you are going to be doing art sales, and particularly limited edition, or if you want to put your signature on it where you’ve got to make sure that the product is exactly as you specified, then you are going to be printing at home.


Most of us aren’t going to that detail, but it is an art unto itself.


Look at paper. I mean there is a number of different brands out there and how much rag content you have in it is going to affect how it feels. I think people definitely like a tactile feel, but once you frame it and mount it and put it on the wall you are not going to be feeling that paper.


Lee:         No, you’re not.


William:   So what it really comes down to next is I think it’s something that people over think a bit.


Lee:         Yes.   But also if you go and have a look at different papers, just the finish is different. It’s not to say one is better or one is worse, but it allows you to go very specifically for your personal preference. I have a very strong personal preference.


William:   You don’t like glossy photos.


Lee:         I don’t want glossy photos.  If the print shop that I go to does not offer matt, I don’t even look to see what they can offer me. I don’t care how good it is, if it is only glossy I am not interested.


William:   And there are a couple of problems with glossy.  You’ve talked about it so go ahead.


Lee:         I know a lot of people probably don’t do this anymore, but I would still go and get a batch of prints and put the SD card in or send away and have my prints done.  They arrive and then all the family wants to see the prints from Christmas.  And you can picture back from the years when people have got the stack and they are busy flicking through and ever since I can remember I have always been standing over them like a vulture.  Don’t touch! Careful how you hold them!  Almost wanting to grab it away from them and I eventually would only let them see them once they were protected by an album.


With matt prints I was able to not be so ridiculous about it because I found that with the matt print you can actually take a microfiber cloth and just wipe it. The print doesn’t show as much and it doesn’t damage it, but I found that a print [fingerprint] on a glossy photo was almost impossible to remove without leaving some kind of trace.


William:   Well, you are going to have little natural oils in your thumb prints or your fingerprints.


Lee:         It destroys the surface of the gloss.


William:   Yeah, it’s going to stick in there.  And then you are really stuck with it. So that is why a lot of people who do their own prints are going to have little gloves actually, when they are printing.


Lee:         Yes.


William:   Just so they don’t get fingerprints on them.


Lee:         I used to use gloves when I put them into the album.


William:   Look, I don’t blame you. If you’re going to get those photos, you want them … that’s your work.  That is kind of like your heart and soul when you get those things.


Lee:         They weren’t special gloves. They were just cheap disposable latex gloves, but I couldn’t stand fingerprints on my photos. I’m weird like that!


William:   But that is something to consider.  Also on display, I don’t really like glossy photos because, particularly if you have a light that is over the print, it’s going to reflect on it. It just kind of ruins the experience.


Lee:         Yes.


William:   And that’s one of the reasons I also don’t really want glass in front of the print.


Lee:         You see, I like my glass in front of the print, but I used to pay for the non reflective.


William:   Yeah, you’ve got to get a particular type of glass. I get it. You want to protect the print, but if you’ve got just glass up there that’s going to reflect on it, you kind of ruin the experience of hanging it up on the wall.


Lee:         You do.


I even bought some beautiful photo frames that I loved and then went and had new glass fitted for them.


William:   Alright, next thing you look at is canvas and I’ve got a number of canvas prints in here.  I actually kind of like that material better than having paper. As a matter of fact, I don’t have any paper prints, other than little small 4×6 things that were snapshots with friends and family on vacations.


All the stuff I’ve hung up on the walls are canvas. Well, all but one. But I’ll get to that next.


One thing I like about canvas is you can get away with murder.


Lee:         Oh, yes!


William:   I mean if there are little flaws and things are maybe not quite as sharp as you want, it will not show up on canvas.


Lee:         It doesn’t. I had some very large canvas prints hanging in my home.


William:   It’s not that I want to print crappy photos, but it’s a much more forgiving medium and you can print it much larger and I find it works very well. I kind of like having a gallery wrap on these things where things are stretched around the edges and they are a box rather than a wooden frame going around them.


Lee:         Yes.


William:   That’s what I prefer for printing.


Lee:         And you can take a duster over them and they are fine.


William:   Yeah, it’s easy to do, I don’t have to worry about thumb prints on them; they are very easy to maintain. They are very difficult to damage unless you poke it with something.


Lee:         I wouldn’t do a thing like that!


William:   No, don’t be running with scissors. You might hurt my artwork.


Lee:         Yes.


William:   And then probably the most expensive thing I’ve done and I’ve done this a couple of times, is aluminum; having metal prints.  There is one sitting right next to me right now and I’m looking at it. It’s hanging on my wall and it’s the interior of the Vehicle Assembly Building over at the Kennedy Space Center. I’ve got another one that I shot at Portofino Bay in Orlando. It’s over by Universal Studios area.  I just really love both of those photos. They are sharp, they’ve got fine detail and when I look at them on metal, first off they just kind of glow.


Lee:         They do.


William:   You cannot get away with any mistakes on metal. It will highlight your photos, it will show them exactly, beyond what you’re going to get with paper and beyond what you are going to get with canvas. Both of those are porous materials that are going to absorb ink. If you’ve got something that is just not quite sharp or whatever, you can kind of get away with it a little bit then.  Not so with metal.


You are going to put it on metal and it’s going to be more expensive, but man, does it have a dramatic impact when you look at it!


Lee:         It does. They are beautiful!


William:   Those are kind of for my showcase things. If I’m going to print something on aluminum, that’s really going to be showcase and honestly, that is something …. The place I go to is Image Wizards and I think they top out at three feet by four feet. I would love to have some of my photos on metal in much larger format than that, but then you are kind of going to a commercial printer and the costs are much more than I can do for myself.


So those are a few of the options.


Finally we get down to products. And that is – I don’t know – is that more for gifts or is that going to be more for sales? As a photographer I don’t want to get into selling products that may or may not have a market for them.


Lee:         I have never thought about it for sales. I mean just because I take photos for myself, I started doing photo products primarily photo books, but also coffee mugs and fridge magnets and coasters and all that nonsense that you get. And the reason why I did it was I took photos of my child for grandparents and great aunts and uncles. They have got what they need. They don’t want stuff for the house. But they always want something with pictures of their grandkids so they can brag to their friends.


You just figure out what makes a gift.  Calendars worked really well. I’ve done a few.


My dad used to get a diary each year with a page a day, so he got 365 photos in there of his granddaughter.


William:   See that’s wonderful and it’s something that is useful and also something that you can easily share. Someone walks in and says, “Oh hey, what’s that?”


“That’s my granddaughter and here she is on the next page and the next page and so on.”


If you want to give something as a gift, obviously they are really going to love the people who are in them or the fact that you took the photo, whichever the case may be.  But they also kind of want it to be useful because then there is a reason for it to be around; not just because they love it.


Just because you love the people in it, that’s what you hang on your wall. Something that you take with you or put on your desk has got to be something useful.


Lee:         Yes and also you might want to shop around and see how and what your options are. Various places are going to give you different options. For example, with the diary I spoke about I would, once a week (not for every 365 days) but once a week there would be a little message in there for him for the week. That would be something – sometimes a cute quote that she’d said or something special to him.  I think that they make very personal gifts and that’s how I used them. I didn’t use general photos. These really were personalized gifts.


William:   And you really loved your photo books so that’s a different way of printing as far as you’ve got a collection of memories. I notice some people when they go on a vacation and they will create a photo book for every trip that they take.


Lee:         I have a lot of photo books, although I did most of mine for gifts, but I have a lot for myself as well.


William:   And that is not something that you are going to hang on the wall; you’re not going to be selling that off obviously, but those photo books are primarily … it could be a portfolio, it could be a showcase that you take with you to try and find other work with a client.  But I think most people are probably looking at those as their memories and just want to have it here.  Maybe sometime twenty years down the road I want to look through and say, “Oh yeah, I remember that trip.”


Lee:         Yes and also this is the first time I have lived in a home that doesn’t have a coffee table. I really did use them as coffee table books and I used to switch them out. I had a big faux leather box. It was enormous and I used to store the books in there and I would just switch them around now and then.


William:   Alright, just so you know I had a coffee table for years. There are two problems with it. One, I don’t drink coffee.


Lee:         I do!


William:   Yeah, but you weren’t here then! So I don’t drink coffee and I like to prop my feet up when I sit on the couch and coffee tables tend to be hard.  So I replaced that with an ottoman and I love that ottoman. It’s a wonderful leather ottoman and it’s really good for propping up your feet. It’s not so good for coffee.  And with our dog, Milo, you couldn’t put your coffee on a coffee table anyways.

Lee:         You’re probably right.  He would drink it!


William:   Just so you know, in the kitchen we’ve got this little tray. I bought that for guests who wanted to have coffee.  So they could put that on the ottoman – I guess next to my feet. It never really worked out.


Lee:         I thought it was the mail tray.


William:   It is a mail tray now.


Alright, one last thing that we wanted to talk about before we get off of printing dilemmas and this is one that I’m going to tell you from my own experience.


I used to print things that I was very proud of. These were my favorite photos when I was early into photography and I’d print them off and then I remember a couple of times I gave them as gifts and I look back on those photos now and think, oh that’s really not so good!


Lee:         I’ve had it. I think everybody does because you grow and you improve.


William:   You do grow and your idea of what a good photo is and what a good memory is will change as you get better at your photography.  I remember a couple of times I gave some as gifts and I thought, man that reaction wasn’t as good as I thought!  And people were looking at them like, what the hell is this photo?


Lee:         I don’t think it was like that. People were probably surprised. It’s an unusual gift. It’s not the type of gift that somebody expects.


William:   But here’s the point that I’m getting into.  Don’t go spend a lot of money on prints if you are fairly new to photography.  You know you are still learning and you are still identifying what your style is and what you’re going to do.


I’m not saying don’t print at all. But I am saying before you go off and make a big three by four foot aluminum print that’s going to cost you a few hundred dollars, be sure that that photo is worth the expense that you are going to make.


Lee:         OK, I’m going to throw a different slant on it. I agree with you. I would say to new photographers, do print. Don’t spend a lot of money on it, but get lots of prints, because it’s actually by looking through those prints that I started to see things that were wrong with my photos.


That doesn’t mean that I didn’t want the prints. I used to put large prints into big frames, but you can change prints inside of frames. And instead of removing it from the frame, some of my backings to these frames started to take some strain at the back. I would get a new print to replace the old one. I wouldn’t remove it. I would just stick it in front of the old one so they would layer up like layers of wallpaper in there, but I never really removed it because I felt it was protected where it was. It was just not behind the one that was against the glass.


William:   Well, I agree with you. I’m not trying to talk anybody out of printing because if you want prints and you are taking them now, don’t wait. Get your prints out.  All I’m saying is before you go spend the money on an expensive print job make sure it’s the photo that you really want and show it to a few people.  Ask for opinions. Get some feedback. Look at other photos and then decide.


The other thing about photography is it’s personal. If it means something to you and you want to make that big print, I don’t want to talk you out of that. That’s not what I’m saying.


Lee:         All I was suggesting was there is a difference between paying a few thousand dollars for an extra large, commercial sized aluminum print to paying what? Not more than $30 or $40 for a really large print that fits into a photo frame. For a good frame, don’t worry about spending money on it because you can switch those pictures out. I think if it reflects what you’ve accomplished now, stick it up and be proud of it. Just because you move on later doesn’t mean what you did today isn’t good. It just means that you got better.


William:   Absolutely!


And with that, we hope you have fun with your photography.  Show it off in your prints and if you’ve got something that you want to share, please let us know. Leave a comment for us at


Thank you very much for listening to the Photo Flunky Show.  As I said, show notes are going to be available at and there is a transcript of the show there for free.  Of course there are links to subscribe at and Thank you very much for listening to the Photo Flunky Show.  As I said, show notes are going to be available at and there is a transcript of the show there for free.  Of course there are links to subscribe at and we would love to have you join us on social media.


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