Printing your photos

There are many easy ways to appreciate a photo, but none in my opinion beat actually seeing one printed. While for some, viewing digital images on a tablet device (iPad or other), or phone, may be good enough, there are still many people (including myself) who value and appreciate the tactile quality and beauty of a printed photograph. There is a special power in an actual printed image that does not exist in the purely digital version of the identical image. Perhaps it is simply due to an over-saturation of images we see digitally vs. framed or mounted images so that the latter has the thrill of the new about it, or perhaps it is more reflective of us and our condition of mind when we approach an image that is framed and hanging on a wall, or printed into a photo book, that differs qualitatively from simply fingering our way through one streamed photo after another on a touchscreen. Regardless, from a photographer’s point of view, understanding and working with prints is another key skill that must be mastered to fully satisfy client needs.

The original photowall

The original photowall

As this is a time of resolutions, one of which for many is surely to finally sit down and sort through the thousands of digital images buried on hard drives (or floating in the cloud) and curate a neat and tidy collection, here are a few printing options I’ve experimented with over the years that I think people this time of year may find handy:

Print on canvas:

Printing on canvas has been around for a number of years now but I still encounter clients who’ve never heard of it or realize how easy it can be to do. While it is not something I do frequently, I have printed a few images this way and am always excited and pleased with the results. I use a company based in Ottawa (Canvas Pop – and no, I am not paid to advertise their work, I just think they do a great job and provide a friendly, reliable service). Essentially, any digital image can be printed on canvas. The basic technique involves printing the image on a specially treated material that is then bonded with the canvas, though I am sure there are various technical differences among providers. The end result is a photograph that is imperceptibly a part of the canvas on which it is printed. The resulting product is long-lasting and comes in different depths (up to 2 inches) so it can be hung directly on the wall as is, or framed to give it an even more formal look.

Print on aluminum:

This used to be a specialty technique but is popping up in more and more photo servicing shops. As with printing on canvas, getting your photo onto aluminum is actually an image transfer technique that bonds the image with the aluminum to create a very durable product that can be hung as-is, framed and exposed to either indoor or outdoor applications. It works extremely well with colourful images as the process highlights and adds a bit of saturation to colours, much like a glossy finish on a conventional print does, but with even greater impact. The price is considerably higher than printing a regular photograph and more than printing on canvas, but for certain select images (travel shots, art pieces) it works very well.

Print on photo paper – multiple finishes:

Photos are traditionally printed on photo paper, either with a matte (flat) finish, or gloss. Additionally there are metallic papers that are almost a cross between metal and paper, with high resistance to scratching and creasing, and are much more difficult to tear.

Print on watercolour paper:

Usually reserved for art prints, or high-end wedding photography, photos can also be printed onto a wide array of papers with different qualities and degrees of ink absorption and saturation. A good resource for which papers are best for which application would be the vendor at a quality photo store where high end printers are sold. If you are into fine art photographer (as a creator or buyer) than you will likely want to ensure that every part of the process employs museum quality archival techniques and products (inks, acid-free paper, etc).

Postagrams and other ways to print your Instagram, Facebook and other social photos:

There are now also a number of apps that can connect directly with one or another of your preferred social media hangout and print images directly from your account. I’ve used both Postagram and CanvasPop to print Instagram photos. Postagram is fun because it lets you print an image as a postcard that it then sends on your behalf. When I signed up the first five were free, though things may have changed since then. (This was all before I deleted my Instagram account based on concerns that one day my fun and private photos of my family would be used in advertising)


photobookOne of my favourite ways to use images is to create a photo book with them. There are many providers ranging from the built-in options for for Mac users, to in-store kiosks and a number of websites (like Blurb). The book I created of my daughter’s first year of life was both a wonderful process to do, reviewing the many thousands of images I’d taken of her from her first 10 seconds of life onwards, and resulted in an instant family heirloom. I think of all the ways I’ve rescued images from the obscurity of cold digital storage, photo books are actually my favourite. In fact, I think it’s time I get going on another one!

If for no other reason then to have an objective to motivate you to review, refine and curate your collection of digital images, consider printing a few photos this year using one of the methods described instead of consigning all of your digital output to a cloud-based storage somewhere never to be seen or appreciated again. Just like the Velveteen rabbit, a photo has to be seen to be loved.

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Julian Haber Photographer
Julian Haber is an events, corporate portraits and conference photographer based in Montreal. He is the author of a book on freelancing and runs a busy boutique agency of creative professionals in the fields of photography, videography and design. |