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Author Topic: Remember when they used to print photographs on paper?  (Read 4092 times)
dwood
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« on: January 08, 2010, 05:07:54 PM »
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At this year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas, which is occurring as we speak, the emerging product segments of e-readers and tablets appears to be getting a lot of attention. These are devices that are being designed to, among other things, electronically deliver our newspapers, books and magazines.

This past year saw a number of newspaper publishers either close their doors permanently or begin the transition from paper to delivery over the internet and, looking forward, to e-readers and tablets.

For the first time in the company’s history, Amazon sold more electronic copies of books for their Kindle product on Christmas day than they did physical books.

The magazine publishers are all, (many, anyway) scrambling to figure out how they’ll distribute their products going forward. Lately, some magazines I have subscriptions to look more like flyers than they do magazines. Pretty dire.

This is beginning to move VERY quickly. While all of this is still in the early stages of developing, and consumers will ultimately make the adoption rate decisions, it appears that the writing is on the wall. Newspapers, books and periodicals, as they’ve historically been presented and distributed, are probably going bye-bye over time.

Moving to the world of fine art photography, what might the prints of the future look like? Will fine art photographers setup stores on their websites where customers can order a picture(s) and then have it uploaded to their 50” OLED picture frame that hangs in their living room? Maybe print subscriptions from an artist(s) that automatically changes that picture, and others throughout a customer’s home, office etc. on a regular basis.

Personally, I enjoy making prints. I enjoy the challenge of trying to get better at it each time I print an image. I like holding them in my hands. I like beautiful paper. I like matting and framing them. I like the experience of viewing great prints from talented photographic artists.

I wonder how long it will be before making physical prints is a thing of the past. Interesting times, they are.

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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2010, 05:55:05 PM »
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I like paper. I like books -- real books. It will be a cold day in hell when I get a K*ndle. I like prints, too. Real prints. Reflective type, that look good on walls.

If this business of making everything electronic goes much further, I'm going to learn how to make Platinum prints.

Luddites, unite!   

I'll admit I did, reluctantly, move to digital photography several years ago. But I still make prints on paper, but they're inkjet, not silver gelatin.

Eric

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feppe
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« Reply #2 on: January 08, 2010, 06:16:52 PM »
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Quote from: dwood
Personally, I enjoy making prints. I enjoy the challenge of trying to get better at it each time I print an image. I like holding them in my hands. I like beautiful paper. I like matting and framing them. I like the experience of viewing great prints from talented photographic artists.

I'm afraid such sentiments will be mere fond memories sooner than later. When e-ink (which is reflective, by the way) or some other tech will be cheap enough to produce in "full" color and painting-sized, vast majority of consumers will move to digital presentation. Even fine art will move shortly afterwards when the tech is good enough. I give this transition 10 years, and I'm being conservative.

I'm sure there will always be those who create fine art prints, but they will be a niche group in just a few years, just like film photographers are today.

I think the big question is how to manage usage rights, rather than if it will happen.
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Rob C
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« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2010, 03:05:47 PM »
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Perhaps it's too soon or too negative to imagine that photographic art will go away from paper.

Museums/art galleries are full of paintings, drawings and such paper- or canvas-based creations. I can't see these rapidly being replaced by electronic, shiny alternatives, and in like manner I expect that paper-based photographs will continue with, perhaps, even more of a cachet that they have even now.

As things are, isn't looking at a good painting or photograph in a frame on your wall more rewarding an experience that looking at your tv? Of course, I might be underestimating the value (!) of dumbing down; in the end, the lowest common denominator always wins the day in bulk sales, but there may be a good fight before it manages that with photographic printing which could, just could, prove to be the exception.

Rob C
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RSL
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« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2010, 03:47:27 PM »
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Rob, I think you're right. The idea that paper, one of the world's most important inventions, suddenly will disappear as an imaging base, is absurd. By suddenly, I mean within the next couple of decades. Provided something a lot more portable and a lot more permanent than electronic hardware appears, that something may supersede paper as a base for photographs within the next hundred years or so, but nothing that fits that description is on the horizon at present. Everyone should relax and print, and print, and print.
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dwood
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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2010, 05:31:49 PM »
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I don't think any of us will stop making prints anytime soon. It will, however, be interesting to watch how things change (first) in the publishing world. It's already begun and I suspect things will move rapidly in 2010 to electronic delivery. I'd be interested to know what someone like Brooks Jensen (Lenswork) things about all of this and what he will do (or not) as it relates to his publication. And photographers like William Neill who have recently been selling ebooks of their work.
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feppe
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2010, 07:46:34 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Rob, I think you're right. The idea that paper, one of the world's most important inventions, suddenly will disappear as an imaging base, is absurd. By suddenly, I mean within the next couple of decades. Provided something a lot more portable and a lot more permanent than electronic hardware appears, that something may supersede paper as a base for photographs within the next hundred years or so, but nothing that fits that description is on the horizon at present. Everyone should relax and print, and print, and print.

Sure there is. E-ink like they have on the Kindle is exactly that: reflective, and doesn't require batteries unless changing images. There have already been tech demos and even a real product of e-ink in a thin form.

Obviously the tech is in its infancy, but it's only a matter of time until it does what LCDs do now, and surpasses paper in every single technical metric. The only things left in favor of paper is the nostalgia - and we saw how long that held back the digital revolution in photography.

And Brooks Jensen is well ahead of the times: he's had an extended version of his publication on CD-ROM for years.
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2010, 08:14:56 PM »
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Quote from: dwood
This past year saw a number of newspaper publishers either close their doors permanently or begin the transition from paper to delivery over the internet and, looking forward, to e-readers and tablets.

For the first time in the company’s history, Amazon sold more electronic copies of books for their Kindle product on Christmas day than they did physical books.

Think about that statement for a moment. On Christmas day. Wanna guess how many of those "electronic copies" were ordered on-line to go with the Kindle someone got for Christmas?

Wanna guess how many of those Kindles will be gathering dust in a drawer six months later?

Certainly the manufacturers of LCD displays are marketing the heck out of them at venues like CES; once you factor in the economies of scale from manufacturing millions of standardized LCD's at giant factories in China, they must be pretty profitable.

But does the existence of LCD display screens invalidate the photographic print as an art form? Well, did the arrival of photography invalidate painting?

Magazines are I think a different issue. Their business model has been dependent upon advertising revenue for decades; now that revenue is fleeing for the Internet.
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feppe
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« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2010, 08:39:38 PM »
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Quote from: Geoff Wittig
Think about that statement for a moment. On Christmas day. Wanna guess how many of those "electronic copies" were ordered on-line to go with the Kindle someone got for Christmas?

Wanna guess how many of those Kindles will be gathering dust in a drawer six months later?

You're missing the point: Kindle has sold half a million units in two years since its launch, and ebooks are a significant portion of their sales even outside such Christmas peaks. That's why Sony and B&N are in on the action, too.

And I can't imagine a significant portion of Kindles sold gathering dust any time soon due to their high price and the state of the economy. e-readers are already superior to books on many ways, and will only get better, while books remain the same.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2010, 09:18:43 PM »
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I really like the Kindle.  Put a nice LCD behind a nice frame and I'd happily put one on my wall.

I wonder what the permanence numbers will be for images archived by google.

Quote
Brian: You are really pretty
 Girl at Bar (busy texting): Thanks
 Brian: You know, uh, I wrote a book
 Girl at Bar (busy texting): What's that?
 Brian: It's like a long magazine
 Girl at Bar (busy texting): Huh?
 Brian: It's like the Internet made out of a tree
 Girl at Bar (busy texting): Oh, weird.
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bill t.
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« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2010, 10:47:56 PM »
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When every Googlearian on Earth has imagery crawling all over his interior walls, framed paper art will be the new snobbery.  Trust me on this.  It's not too early to be stocking up, preferably before Hahnemuhle converts its paper mills to large scale photopanel manufacturing.  But as a hedge get your hidef webcam URL's locked up now and be sure to buy up real estate with excellent unobstructed views.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2010, 10:59:52 PM »
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Quote from: feppe
Sure there is. E-ink like they have on the Kindle is exactly that: reflective, and doesn't require batteries unless changing images.
I think I have a book around here that, let me see, yup! It works! I can turn the pages even without a battery!
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Rob C
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« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2010, 04:24:25 AM »
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I think an important point that's being missed is the pleasure that producing a print provides you with - that moment of satisfaction and slight surprise that what you have in your hand is pretty close to what you had hoped to have in your hand. That's not something you get from your monitor and won't be any greater an experience on another electronic display medium.

I am writing here of the experience of the photographer or printer, not of someone without those expectations or experiences, say the person just shopping for decoration. And remember, commercial photography (money from the shooting of pics) isn't the driver behind the world of photography; the guy in the seat is the amateur doing it for kicks.

Making any parallel between film and digital in the sense of capture isn't quite valid to this argument: we speak of display not capture. That's why it is relatively easy to abandon wet printing and take on digital printing - both can lead to very pleasing prints, and once these are framed and behind glass, who is any the wiser or concerned? Anyway, both wet printing and digital lead to the same end product: a supported image on paper or plastic, even metal if you insist, but something independent of any other medium and capable of existing on its own. An electronic image can't do that.

Rob C

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feppe
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« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2010, 04:53:32 AM »
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There will be a day in the not-too-distant future when fully digital presentation will produce a viewing experience "better" in all aspects: sharpness, gamut, dynamic range, even resolution, etc. I find it absurd to think that photographers (amateur or pro) would prefer paper over digital at this time. The same photographers who go to extreme lengths to squeeze every last drop of IQ out of their photos, spending as much as a good car on a digital back alone, discussing the benefits of stitching versus MFDB, or putting a book entirely dedicated to sharpening in the top 10 of books sold through TOP*. Maybe the pixel peepers just make a disproportionately high number of posts on forums like this, but even then I feel vast majority of photographers would prefer the higher-quality medium, no matter how much satisfaction they get from printing.

But as I hinted at earlier, I agree with Bill: photo prints will have the snobbery factor, and will still be part of a small but important niche. We've seen the same with the rise of lomography, and with Lady Gaga jumping on the polaroid bandwagon. Whether this backlash "against" digital is here to stay is another matter.

*  I was shocked when I just found the entire (?) Fraser/Schewe book on google books, I thought it was only for out-of-print books?
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Bradley Proctor
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« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2010, 09:53:52 AM »
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I don't think were are going to go to all digital any time soon.  Not saying it won't ever happen, but certainly not in the near future.  People have been talking about paper disappearing for over 20 years now and I know I still have a big bookshelf full of books, a filing cabinet full of papers, notepads on my desk, etc.  I'm not an avid reader, but nobody I have every talked to about the Kindle has any desire for it.  They tell me they like to flip the pages and have the feel of the book in their hands.  However, I can see a lot of advantages of something like the Kindle like having an entire library on the device, no more big bookshelves taking up space.
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EduPerez
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« Reply #15 on: January 11, 2010, 04:33:27 AM »
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IMHO, e-ink will replace paper the same day color replaces B&W, or digital replaces film, or television replaces radio, or radio replaces newspapers, or ...
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ckimmerle
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« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2010, 11:26:08 AM »
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Those of you who don't think digital displays will, within a decade or two, usurp paper as the photographic medium choice (at least for the masses), are fooling yourselves. Digital media has already completely taken over music, has as stranglehold on photography, is adversely affecting sales of paper books, and is emerging into the realm of the art display. Sales of digital picture frames continue to increase, as does their quality. LCD, LED and plasma televisions now have the built-in ability to host slide shows. Higher education art departments are adding programs for time-based mediums and at the same time cutting funding for simple photography programs.

The path is laid, and all we can do is watch. However, as with "traditional" printers today, we'll have years, decades, of paper-based media with which to print. The difficult part will be the supply and maintenance of digital printers. Unlike wet darkroom equipment, digital printers are not user repairable and do not have parts which can be easily fabricated. We'll be the minority, of course, but I doubt that's really an issue for any of us.

Still, it's not over yet and I, for one, am going to keep on doing what I'm doing irregardless of the popular trends.
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Chuck Kimmerle
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« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2010, 12:49:02 PM »
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Quote from: ckimmerle
Sales of digital picture frames continue to increase, as does their quality.

Yes, and when the power fails, your copy of whatever's in your digital picture frame will fail too. My copy on paper, in a frame, hanging on the wall won't. This discussion reminds me of the guy who wrote a story a couple decades ago about the future where his character was flying around in his flying automobile. Suddenly the character had to make a phone call, so he landed next to a phone booth.
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2010, 01:12:27 PM »
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Quote from: EduPerez
IMHO, e-ink will replace paper the same day color replaces B&W, or digital replaces film, or television replaces radio, or radio replaces newspapers, or ...

Or pianos replace harpsichords.


Note that the fortepiano was invented in about 1700, and the modern piano was derived from it and dominated most new keyboard music by the 19th century. However, if you google "harpsichord maker" you will get something like 587,000 hits. The piano hasn't replaced the harpsichord; it's a different instrument, and most knowledgeable musicians prefer the harpsichord for baroque music as well as for the numerous 20th and 21st century compositions written specifically for the harpsichord.

I agree that some sort of digital device may well become the mass favorite way of viewing photographs, but I seriously doubt whether e-ink will replace pper during my lifetime.

Eric

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ckimmerle
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« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2010, 01:25:38 PM »
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Quote from: RSL
Yes, and when the power fails, your copy of whatever's in your digital picture frame will fail too. My copy on paper, in a frame, hanging on the wall won't. This discussion reminds me of the guy who wrote a story a couple decades ago about the future where his character was flying around in his flying automobile. Suddenly the character had to make a phone call, so he landed next to a phone booth.

I got my B.S. degree in Photographic Engineering Technology in 1987. At that time, I knew more about chemistry, sensitometry and photo electronics than most traditional photographers will ever know. Even during those four years, the talk of digital photography was present, but we all agreed it was never going to come to reality (at least for the masses) in our lifetimes. Guess what? Pretty much every one of the hundreds of graduates of that program, as well as those from a similar program at Rochester Institute of Technology, saw their jobs become obsolete over a period of just a few years. We never thought it would happen, either.

And as for the story, I predict that flying cars will have built-in cell phone capabilities, so that shouldn't be an issue. Besides, ever try to find a phone booth nowadays? Not many left. Why? The non stoppable force of technology which will consume us all.

For the record, I make prints of every one of my "usable" photos. I don't consider them complete unless they're on paper. I much like this all-digital future, but like it or not, it's coming.
« Last Edit: January 11, 2010, 01:31:53 PM by ckimmerle » Logged

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