If you’re just getting into the rewarding pursuit of photography, you might wonder how to best present your work. Whether you plan to print out images for an art show or you have clients you plan to sell photographs to, knowing how to get your photos from digital to hard copy takes some skill in itself. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 133,500 photographers nationwide make an average of about $36,000 per year.
Additional people who take photos are working part-time, freelancers and amateurs not recorded in these numbers. The pay range varies widely, depending upon the type of photography and the person’s experience in the field. Knowing how to get your beautiful images into print isn’t always easy. Perhaps you want to offer copies to your subjects, or you want to display your work. You must ensure the images are ready for the printer, find the right place to create them and pay attention to quality and cost.
Here are nine things to keep in mind as you produce your first photographs. Cover photo by Burst.
1. Consider the Space
Think about where you’ll display the image. If you plan to hang a landscape over your fireplace, you’re going to need a larger size than if you want something in your powder room. What items might surround the print, and how will it fit with other elements in the space? Also, think about what looks best in different environments. Family photos hanging along the wall up a stairway may be well-suited for canvases, while you should frame and hang images for an art show for easy removal when sold.
2. Choose a Material
There are many different materials to print your photographs on. You might choose regular photo paper, canvas, wood, metal or even products like tote bags and coffee mugs. Let your customers’ desires guide your offerings. For example, if you take mainly wedding and graduation photos, you’ll find people typically want 8” x 10”s and large wrap-around canvases. Some families might want to put their images on a Christmas card or blankets and T-shirts to give as gifts. For art shows, you’ll likely use fine art paper and frame the finished product. Size varies, but try to keep them in the same range unless selling a grouping of three or more.
Photo: Jenny Hill
3. Find a Reliable Printer
You’ll need to form a partnership with a dependable printer. Look for a company known for producing quality products. However, you should also pay close attention to how quickly they fulfill your order, even for larger orders. If you get a job photographing for a school or organization, you might need prints for multiple families within a short period. You never want to make your clients wait for months while you wait on a printer to fill your order.
4. Preserve Quality
Some of your images will be small prints, and if the file is in JPEG format, it doesn’t matter. However, always shoot and save your photos in RAW. Using the right format allows you to scale up and not lose any quality. The JPEG format naturally compresses files, and you’ll lose some clarity no matter how high the DPI. Your printer should offer advice on the best format and resolution to send photographs for top results.
5. Choose Standard Sizes and Shapes
As a creative person, you might feel tempted to offer round prints or some eclectic sizes and shapes. However, sticking to common choices gives you more options for framing photographs. If you sell images you shot while out and about, you may have more flexibility. For typical photoshoots where you sell copies to your subjects, stick with a handful of standard sizes, such as wallet, 5” x 7”, 8” x 10” and a few larger canvases.
6. Offer a Few Unique Elements
If you’re working with family photography, weddings or any other specialty where clients then purchase copies of the photos you took, offer a few unique items they might enjoy. For example, you might offer personalized 3D photo blocks, slate tiles or metalized wallet prints.
7. Adjust Colors and Light
Use photo-editing software such as Adobe Photoshop or GIMP to tweak the lighting and get the look you want. It’s tough for beginning photographers to find the ideal lighting. However, with the help of some advanced techniques, your images will look like you’ve been a professional for decades.
You can, of course, use the automatic adjustments. However, the best looks often come when you slightly tweak different colors and light and shadow to get the soft appearance of natural daylight during the “magic hour” shortly before sunrise or after sunset.
8. Fix the Background
What if you snap a shot and aren’t in love with the background elements? You can easily add interest to a bare wall by laying a texture over it in your photo-editing software. You can also use Photoshop and similar programs to remove unwanted elements. Imagine you just did your first photoshoot for a local company, but one of their employees jumped into the shot at the last minute.
You can still salvage the photo. Remove that person with the patching tool and replace them with the background. You can even slot in an entirely new background if you prefer.
9. Pay for Quality
Don’t choose your materials and printer based solely on price. It’s worthwhile to pay a little extra for quality work. Even if you take the best photographs in the world, it won’t reflect well on your talents if the photos are on low-quality paper. Once you’ve chosen a few companies you think you’d like to work with, order a copy of the same photo from each of them. It’s also a good idea to get different options, such as a glossy vs. matte finish. Compare the finished products side by side. Once you get a feel for how well they handle each type of print, you may find you use more than one printer, depending upon the order’s specifications.
Photo: Raphael Schaller
One of the best pieces of printing advice for new photographers is to learn from your mistakes. You’ll order something too large for the file quality. You’ll forget to finish an upload, and your order will sit in limbo. You’ll crease freshly printed images and have to start the process again. Take note of any mistakes, learn from them and grow better with each job you complete.