Why Printing Your Photos Will Make You a Better Photographer

Print your photos. This little piece of advice goes far beyond the simple joy of holding a photograph in your hand. In fact, printing your photos will make you a better photographer and help you hold on to the fulfillment that comes from taking pictures. Here’s why.

This newest ode to printing—certainly not the first such video we’ve shared—comes to us from photographer and filmmaker Peter McKinnon, who was apparently in a nostalgic mood this past weekend, remembering his days in the darkroom.

Photography, he says, used to be a two part process—Part 1: take pictures; Part 2: develop and print them. With the advent of digital photography, that second part was warped into post-processing and online sharing, but McKinnon believes something was lost in the transition.

“Where I love Instagram, and I love digital, and I love where everything’s gone,” says McKinnon. “It got me thinking: ‘People don’t print their work enough, and there are SO many benefits that come from printing your stuff out.'”

The two benefits McKinnon touches on in this video are (1) Printing helps you understand your photography much better, and (2) Printing your photos lets you ‘re-discover’ that second half of the photographic process.

Both of these things help you to improve your own photo taking and, as a bonus, draw more joy out of your photography.

1. Understand Your Photography

Believe it or not, your photography will take on a whole different character on the printed page than it does on a smartphone, laptop, or even a nice 4K monitor. Printing your photos will reveal things about your technique, your gear, and your abilities that you might never discover if you don’t break out of your digital workflow.

2. Re-Discover Another Piece of the Photographic Puzzle

Types of paper, print quality, buying your own printer, finding a frame, signing and numbering a print, and hanging your work on the wall or knowing that work is hanging on someone else’s wall. These are just a few of the joys of photography that many photographers are missing out on in the age of Instagram.

Not only that, printing produces a physical manifestation of your work; something that will last, that doesn’t require a specific machine to read, only your eyes.

In 100 years, someone who stumbles across one of your prints in some attic or storage locker or wherever will be able to see your legacy. Someone who stumbles across one of your discarded hard drives probably won’t.

Of course, this video (and our summary especially) barely touches on the many reasons to print your work, but it does hit the two big ones. Printing will help you understand your own photography better, and inject some of the meaning back into taking photos.

Check out the full video up top to hear McKinnon wax eloquent about this subject for a full 10 minutes and some change, and then, if you like what he’s doing, definitely subscribe to his channel.