Not everyone knows why I take the time to print and mat all my photographs by hand. It's such a traditional approach to dog photography, and one that no other dog photographers use. So- why do I take the time to print and mat my photographs? Every other photographer in the market lets a print lab handle all their print orders. Other photographers offer loose prints, and canvas wraps and photos on mugs. Why don’t I? Here's the answer:
Though it might not seem like it, when you send your photos to a lab to be printed you are not getting a high quality product. Whether you’re sending some great shots from your last vacation to Walmart or your local trusted photo lab, the end result is simply a poor quality print on poor quality paper that won’t last very long. Not only that- you simply won't cherish it. It will get tossed in a drawer and bent and smudged and forgotten about. Even when the pros send their prints out, it’s nothing to be impressed with. Why is that? Well, because you’re letting someone else (the lab technician, for example), decide where the tones and colors in your image should fall, and most likely your prints are being printed on everyday cheap photo paper. Or worse- canvas! Or even worse- put into a calendar!
Here’s why I control every detail of production from the choice of my photo papers, to the tonality and color structure of printing, to the exact thickness and color of my mats, to the archival handling and cutting of my mat board to the signing of each and every one of my dog portraits, to the shipping and handling of each final package right to my client’s door- it’s because I care deeply about the craft of photography and want my clients to receive the highest quality printed photographs possible.
The majority of photographers on the market today- from wedding photographers to baby photographers to pet photographers- have no clue how to properly print or color match or mat a photograph. Either they never learned, or- most likely- they simply don’t care. It’s so much easier to just shoot digitally, use some auto-tuned filter you bought off the internet for $20 to ‘edit’ your photos, and then send them off to some enormous print lab that deals with thousands of prints a day. The result is that the prints those photographers are ‘making’ for their clients are simply nothing special at all. The photographer was hardly even involved in the creation of those prints, let alone did they care enough to create a high quality fine art product. What the client ends up with is an experience that is far from extraordinary, and cheaply made photo prints that lack an artist's touch.
When clients commission me for a fine art dog photography session, they are investing a serious amount of money. And I charge a lot for my prints- much more than any other photographer in my niche. That’s not just hot air. I do it because I am spending hours and hours creating these beautiful art pieces for my clients- from processing film to processing digital images, from editing photographs on the computer using a digital work flow that I’ve developed myself after years of fine tuning and practice which matches exactly what I would do in a darkroom setting, to working extremely closely with my local master printer – from selecting the perfect thick archival fiber paper (after testing countless others), to developing a gorgeous fine-tuned two-layer warm-tone filter profile that matches the old Ilford fiber papers I used to use in the darkroom to make silver gelatin prints, to cutting each and every window mat and backing for every print, to ordering my supplies directly so that I can control and handle every minute step along the way. And having the confidence to sign each matted photograph and include a Certificate of Authenticity. All of these countless steps have to be very carefully followed before a client’s print is good enough for me to let it go. If it is not totally perfect- if there is one scratch on the print (which happens because, hey, we’re human), or one spec of dark fiber in the mat board- that print will be done again until it is flawless. People have come to expect a really high level of quality and care from my studio, and I am always working hard to meet those expectations (and beyond).
Now, when you send off your quickly ‘edited’ digital files to a big photo lab (the ones you edited on your phone or saved from Instagram), you simply can’t get anywhere near the quality I can get when I follow my traditional process.
For me, it’s all about respecting the craft, and respecting my clients enough to give them the very best. And after all these years, not one other photographer in the dog photography world can match my prints, nor have they tried. When clients want a real piece of art, they come to me. And I'm so happy they did.