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Author Topic: is the declining prevalence of the print lowering standards?  (Read 5205 times)
bwana
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« on: March 19, 2012, 06:56:52 PM »
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I am old to enough to remember when a photograph was a piece of paper. ONLY. This was a high resolution display device that far exceeded what the capture devices could provide. Sure there were transparencies, scans and projectors and large format media. But these were not how most of the world experienced photographs. The printed image was the market that drove the development of the SLR and a company spent its resources on the camera as it was the major tool. Its flaws were documented on hard copy. And its successes were celebrated in Time, Life, Look, etc.

But now we are flowing into a new medium, the digital image. Even before it has left the sensor that captured it, it is really only a sample of the light that landed on the sensor. A subset of the photons travelling through the lens are sorted into luminance boxes the way mail is sorted into addresses. The image is then blasted through myriad display devices - from tablets to televisions to phones. All with their own display shortcomings. The image is degraded more. A great one from Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, or whoever, is no longer seen only in a fine art book or a large poster where much care has been devoted to its reproduction. Pixelated, color compressed and washed out copies pass for the original in front of many new eyes that really don't know what the original really is. Even on this website and others (DPR), people post images and discuss them. I often wonder what is lost when someone with an uncalibrated TN monitor reads the discussion and cant tell what is being discussed. Even those with properly calibrated monitors with an expanded gamut cant approach the detail and impact of a good print.

Instead, I see more and more ways to 'enhance' an image. I have seen crazy psychedelic image bastardization apps on a phone and  complex digital image processing on a powerful pc. The emphasis seems more and more to processing an image and too often to add any random emotion the that crosses someone's mind. Sure, some companies have developed amazing software- Adobe's next version of photoshop will detect motion blur and remove it. In camera hdr and other technologies like fuji's exr sensor seem to be just the beginning of what can be accomplished with multiple exposures in camera. But why isnt there the same fervor to improve quality. If my audience cant see my work on anything better than 1080p display devices, why bother to capture more than 6 megapixels? (and I do not want more room to crop)

I wish there were a format for the 'smart photograph'. A file that knows what it is being displayed on and corrects itself for the most faithful reproduction to the original. We already have this for web pages- digital signatures and certificates serve to validate that one is viewing an unmolested original.

Many of you here have a much greater breadth and depth of experience than I. Perhaps I am missing the boat but would enjoy hearing how some of you see photography evolving as it affects the print. As this high resolution display device disappears, will high resolution capture devices go the way of the steam engine?
I post this in the printers forum because I dont know where else would be more appropriate.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2012, 06:59:18 PM by bwana » Logged
Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #1 on: March 19, 2012, 07:16:16 PM »
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Print is dead...

... just does not know it yet. Just like film, newspapers, books, CDs, etc. It will be the domain of the few, esoteric, collectors, rich, eccentric, nostalgic... 
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #2 on: March 19, 2012, 07:29:37 PM »
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Not sure that I agree with Slobodan here.

There is certainly a shift occurring that is not complete.
However, this is similar to the claim that television would kill the cinema - it hasn't yet and I doubt it will.

I do not see digital display as killing the print.

My $0.02 worth

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MHMG
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« Reply #3 on: March 19, 2012, 08:00:35 PM »
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Print is dead...

... just does not know it yet. Just like film, newspapers, books, CDs, etc. It will be the domain of the few, esoteric, collectors, rich, eccentric, nostalgic... 

Wow!...just as painting was after the invention of photography.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #4 on: March 19, 2012, 08:01:01 PM »
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Funny, bwana, that you posted that, as I was contemplating starting a thread with the same question.

I was in a furniture store the other day and noticed they are using flat-TVs to display images of their collections, kind of slide show. Then it hit me: how long before the price of a TV equates the price of framing a print? At this point, printing and framing a 24x36 print would cost between $200 and $300, give or take. The same dimension TV is 43" diagonally and they are currently already close to that, i.e., around $400-$500. Wait for a deal, and you just might get it for the price of framing a single print.

Add to the equation that, for the purpose of displaying photos only, the TV may be stripped of all other features, kind of a giant photo frame, and you can see how close the prices will converge.

And that is all in comparison to ONE framed print. A TV can display gazillion of them. Imagine the problem most people have with large prints on their walls: they do not have enough walls! Let alone the effect of getting used to seeing the same print day in, day out, to the point of becoming oblivious to it.

Add to the equation that most photographs look better on screen than in print (contrast ratio, reflecting vs. emitting light, etc.).

Finally, here comes Retina display, to address the most common argument in favor of print: resolution. Retina display already matches and surpasses ppi of most prints.

Most of todays gazillion photographs, dare I say 99.9 % of it, will never, ever be printed. People are already content with showing it on Flickr, Facebook or emailing it, watching it on their phones, computers and iPads.

And that is all happening already today. For tomorrow, no wonder I feel the print is dead, for all but the selected few.

EDIT: Shall I add that Kodak was betting its future on printing... we know the outcome.
« Last Edit: March 19, 2012, 08:04:40 PM by Slobodan Blagojevic » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: March 19, 2012, 08:16:39 PM »
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Fortunately people aren't all the same. I had a discussion with a family member the other day who told me that his wife educated him to appreciate Art. He started going to museums and really learned to enjoy the power of the composition, and just as important, the medium.

Do you think he'll be happy with a digital version, or will he more likely purchase a print of some kind? To me the answer is obvious. Some people enjoy swirls of paint, or the look and touch of a Fine Art paper.

Not to worry.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #6 on: March 19, 2012, 08:21:43 PM »
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... Some people enjoy swirls of paint, or the look and touch of a Fine Art paper...

I never said there won't be "some people".
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« Reply #7 on: March 19, 2012, 08:53:57 PM »
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Interesting. My printing department, both fine art inkjet and photo paper based is up over 200% from last year.

While I'll agree the low end printing business has dramatically declined, until there are some much more viable options to display work around a home or office printing will be around.  Even inkjet still hasn't been able to supplant silver halide .. you would think by now this would have happened.  While it has diminished it is still very strong - manly because it is still far more economical.  WHCC is still growing, and they haven't had to give up their private jets.  I think Epson's business is doing pretty good as well.

so perhaps in the long term the comment is correct, but maybe only in a more generic assumption kind of way ... the statement could really be applied universally because "everything is dead and just doesn't know it".
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Schewe
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« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2012, 09:00:32 PM »
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Print is dead...

Nope...but what we have seen is the explosion of digital media. Between the web and media devices, many, many more images are seen on a screen than in a print hanging on a wall–and that's fine. It's cool that displays can show more images...but that's not a death knell for print, it's just an explosion of a different medium.

I went to the Annenberg Space for Photography last year. They use display screens in an interesting presentation particularly for electron medium (meaning stuff that starts life in digital). They are currently showing The Digital Darkroom (haven't seen that show) pretty interesting stuff (also interesting to note Jerry Uelsmann is in it as is his wife Maggie Taylor–interesting because Jerry don't do digital and all of Maggie's is).

I see these knee jerk reactions all the time. Some people think that because one media is exploding, other media must die. Wrong. I see it as a win/win not win/lose situation. The more the variety of medium that photos can be seen on, the better it is for photography.

Fine art photography and prints aren't dead...in fact, photography as a collectable art is increasing despite the economy. Yes, top prices for top photographers are a bit stagnant...largely because before the recession the prices could have been pushed too high (be dealers).

Craftsmanship for any and all medium you may wish to use still requires a lot of work. And, no, print ain't dead, it's just sleeping.

:~)
« Last Edit: March 19, 2012, 09:04:12 PM by Schewe » Logged
Gemmtech
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« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2012, 09:45:14 PM »
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I went into an Apple store the other day and noticed that they no longer use printed cards showing the specs of the various Applevices, they are now using IPads, obviously lots of benefits to that.   I believe the low end of printing (4x6 & 5x7)  is on its last leg, people use their phones, tablets, ipods, etc. to show off their photos.  It's nice having flat panels throughout the house making image swapping very easy.  However, there will always be some demand for a print......



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Peter Le
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« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2012, 10:02:18 PM »
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          No  I  think it is raising  print standards.....and no I don't think the print is dead or ever will be. It is a little over shadowed by all the new ways to present  our work. But still when I show a customer some of work they are usually pleased and impressed. But when I pull out a really good print of the same photo.......their jaw usually drops and they pull out their wallet .........that will never change. Nothing impresses the eye more that a high quality  print on really good paper. What I see less of at shows is really low quality chainstore prints and that is a good thing.....
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Ken
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« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2012, 10:30:19 PM »
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It's cool that displays can show more images...but that's not a death knell for print, it's just an explosion of a different medium.

Yes! ...and the incredible explosion of photographic images everywhere you look is right up there in importance with George Eastman's little invention. Millions of people around the globe print billions of photographs every day in their homes, mostly with the same quality as they got in a week or two at the drug store's photo lab. Or, they display them instantly electronically. The more people who know at least something about photography (or any craft/art/skill), the more they appreciate truly fine work... and buy it for themselves.

As I watch the people who come into the art gallery where oils, pastels and watercolors hang, along with my photographs, I always know who are the photographers. The people standing 10 feet from the wall are looking at oils, pastels and watercolors. The people standing 10 inches from the wall are looking at photographs. When I overhear them talking about f stops, shutter speeds and focal lengths used to get the shot, there's a pretty good chance that they'll buy the print.

There is nothing like a beautifully printed, matted and framed print... and there is nothing like looking at the same image on a perfectly calibrated top-of-the line display. Both are wonderful... and quite different from each other. Maybe the new displays being developed will some day be able to mimic a print and hang on your wall, instead of looking like an electronic device. If or when that happens, I will say goodbye to my printer and paper.
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Ernst Dinkla
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« Reply #12 on: March 20, 2012, 03:19:53 AM »
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Usually old technology reaches its peak in quality when it is challenged by new technology.

So far the growth in picture taking seems to compensate the % decline in pictures printed. Do not count the minilab market numbers, the market changed.

Collectors, musea, photographers in the art category face a new challenge on copyrights when image data will be distributed instead of prints. It has to be seen whether they will embrace that market. Displays with several images included have been sold by artists for over a decade. Ger van Elk for example.
http://www.m-bochum.de/artist_image.php?aid=4  He still sells prints.

For one reason or another a lightbox + transparent print on the wall never really replaced the reflective print. While there are advantages like a wider dynamic range and a larger gamut. Thin light boxes are possible. Could be the same reason why we prefer reading E-paper above other displays for reading. The energy consumption of a light reflecting picture on the wall can only be equalled by E-paper, Electro wetting, etc, displays. Image quality aspects like gamut, resolution, texture are still not equal to prints in that type of displays.



met vriendelijke groeten, Ernst
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330+ paper white spectral plots:
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John R Smith
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« Reply #13 on: March 20, 2012, 05:22:19 AM »
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If printing is supposedly in decline then the statistics from this Forum do not support the argument.

This, the printing section, has 6,921 topics (the most of any section) and 61,130 posts (soon to be 61,131  Wink), which puts it in second place in terms of activity on LL.

What has completely changed, not declined, is the family snapshotter's media. No longer is it the pack of 6x4s from Jessops, but pass the i-phone around instead. As for the rest, the people who shot slide film rarely printed anyhow, and those who enjoyed working away in the darkroom still print. For new photographers the choice has never been wider.

John
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« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2012, 08:21:54 AM »
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There is a lot of convergence taking place. I went to the Apple store yesterday to take a look at the new iPad. Photos displayed on it REALLY look like high gloss prints... like Cibachromes. I know we will quickly get used to this level of display performance but it made my heart race.
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John Nollendorfs
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« Reply #15 on: March 20, 2012, 11:26:24 AM »
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WOW!
And us digital artists are just pondering this now? ;-)

Bill Gates founded what is now called Corbis, back in 1989. Rumor was that he wanted to decorate his new house with flat panel displays on the wall and was looking for digital reproductions of art. Read this from Wikipedia on Corbis--

"Founding
Corbis is privately owned by Bill Gates, who founded the company in 1989 under the name Interactive Home Systems (a name currently held by an unrelated, slightly older company based in Concord, Massachusetts). One major reason for starting the company was Gates's belief that people would someday decorate their homes with a revolving display of digital artwork using digital frames.[3] The company's name was changed to Continuum Productions in 1994 and to Corbis Corporation a year later. "Corbis" is Latin for "wicker basket", which at the time referred to the company's emerging view of itself as a receptacle or storehouse for visual media."

I prefer to think of fine art photographs as prints. It's not a photograph until it becomes a print, in my book. All these digital images we have floating around in the "cloud", or on hard drives, or other fragile digital media are just "0"s and "1"s and will be lost forever when something crashes. The print has a much better probability of surviving in the next hundred years.

It would be interesting to overhear conversations on the subject 100 years in the future, ". . .didn't those folk  back then believe in preserving their digital images. . ."

Yes, our media today is much better, longer lasting. But unless we print the image, what's the likely hood that the photograph will survive?
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bwana
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« Reply #16 on: March 20, 2012, 11:32:57 AM »
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Thank you all for replying in an enlightening and reassuring manner. I really appreciate the lack of metropolitan incivility that sometimes escapes the confines of an upset photographer. But I wonder what the impact is on our perception of quality and how it drives our choices. I would never think of lugging an 8x10 view camera to Zermatt to capture what Ansel might have tried in Europe-although I did dream of doing that when I was younger. But my point is that the bewildering diversity of display devices has brought to awareness the question 'is it good enough for how it will be seen'. When you made a print, sure you had to deal with the viewing conditions, but that did not really change the way you printed the image, let alone influence your decision on the camera you used to capture the image. You always tried to get the best quality in camera and show the best example as a slide. Having multiple camera bodies dangling from your neck with with backs handy was a common sight.

But now we showcase the work on digital displays, tablets and pcs.  Even MILCs with APS-C sensors far exceed what that display medium requires. And in fact, many of our interactions are on the net. I guess it's not so much the 'declining prevalence of the print' but rather the tsunami of digital imagery that has overwhelmed sensibility. The fundamental data type that stores our imagery is flawed.

We store pixels with data points attached. But this is the same problem that typesetters had in the early days of pcs. Enlarging a font resulted in a pixelated mess and unless you had font installed on your pc, good luck reading without getting a headache. We evolved to vector representation of text that is infinitely scalable and looks good no matter what display you read it on. So my question can be flipped on its head but is then rather technical. Instead of asking 'is our technology making us stupider, blinder, coarser' - I'd rather ask 'can a vector representation of an image format help preserve our perceptions and standards'?

For the sake of clarity, consider the following brief, too simple and uninformed example. Digital certificates like verisign would have to be stored and made by a trusted agency-perhaps like LuLa and Google?  So when I display an image, the image calls home and gets a certificate. The image checks what it is being displayed on and corrects itself to give the right colors. The other problem is how would you transform a set of finite pixels into a set of mathematical equations - it might not be as hard as would be imagined, but it would involve adding interpolated information to an image. This already is done in many imaging apps.

My point is that no one has asked the question - is it worth preserving quality, making the effort to communicate quality. How each of you perceive quality is unique and not easily communicated. But you know it when you see it. And you know crap when you see it too. Too often though it's easier to call something crap and prove it-because flaws can always be seen. But when quality is limited by the display medium, how do you point it out? How do you tell others that something is good when they can't see it?

I am sure many of you have thought about this stuff and even talked about it with clients or at shows,galleries,etc. If there are real technical reasons that a solution is not possible, I would like to hear them. Another way to 'maintain quality' is to have some sort of technical standard bar-although this is very subjective and not codifiable. For example, I would like to see a hi-res downloadable photograph reviewed by multiple respected photographers independently. I would pay to download a hi-res landscape that has been commented by the photographer who made it describing his/her considerations in the exposure/pp choices. And then to read a few pages from a photo mag editor, a commercial photographer, etc who talk about the technical areas of the photograph and how their exposure/pp choices would differ. Maybe this already exists somewhere here or elsewhere.

Maybe there are other ways to 'preserve our perception of quality', if you even feel it is worth it. I would like to know.
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Schewe
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« Reply #17 on: March 20, 2012, 12:08:51 PM »
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When you made a print, sure you had to deal with the viewing conditions, but that did not really change the way you printed the image, let alone influence your decision on the camera you used to capture the image.

Maybe not for you but it sure did for me....when I put together print shows at agencies and galleries, I decided what images to use and how to print them based on the size of the print and the venue.

Look, if all you want to do is show a photo on an iPhone, the iPhone 4 is a pretty good camera. Why do you suppose Nikon is releasing the D800 36MP DSLR if they didn't think people wanted more resolution?

If anything, to your thread title, I think standards are being raised...the public is becoming more sophisticated and more demanding. Anybody enjoy watching LO DEF TV channels these days? They suck...3 million iPad HDs in three days? People must like the display (ok, and the other cool stuff).

Naw, no reason to think standards are getting lowered. No evidence...
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #18 on: March 20, 2012, 12:29:56 PM »
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... Gates's belief that people would someday decorate their homes with a revolving display of digital artwork using digital frames...

I am glad Bill and I are on the same page!

Ooops... scratch that! I should have said "on the same display" Wink
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Slobodan

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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #19 on: March 20, 2012, 12:38:06 PM »
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If printing is supposedly in decline then the statistics from this Forum do not support the argument.

This, the printing section, has 6,921 topics (the most of any section) and 61,130 posts (soon to be 61,131  Wink), which puts it in second place in terms of activity on LL...

But, but... John... if you take out ZoranC-related posts, the forum activity drops precipitously. Remove all other "my print is too dark" posts and the forum activity fades into... well, darkness Grin

Besides, using your yardstick (i.e., forum activity) would mean that medium format is the most prevalent today. Or that stamper and I are the most influential photographers of our times (judging by our forum activity) Grin
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