Print, Print, Print, Print, Print! Print Your Photos!

Print, Print, Print, Print, Print! Print Your Photos!

2000 1125 James Tocchio

Did the headline convince you? Did the repetition help or was it too obtuse? Let me spell it out, just in case – the thesis statement, like we’re all back in school – Printing your photos should be the ultimate goal of any photographer, and it doesn’t need to be complicated.

I’m not going to get all artsy and holy about it. I don’t expect you to relegate your kids to the basement, tape off the windows of their former nursery, buy an enlarger and learn about all of that darkroom black magic in which, if I’m being honest, I couldn’t be less interested. I don’t expect you to become Ansel Adams.

I’m not going to recommend darkroom printing because it’s… a lot. And I find that there are plenty of people out there who tell us to “print our photos” and then immediately show us how complicated it is to do so. We get it – you know what a Beseler 23C is. Most of us don’t want that.

That said, if you do want that, if you want to dedicate a whole room and a bunch of space to a stockpile of chemicals and plastic jugs and plumbing and optical magic boxes and spend your precious free time in the dark making optical prints – damn, you should totally do that. I’d be impressed. But that’s not the way for me, nor is it the way for most people shooting film today.

Most of us shoot our film and send it off to Northeast Photographic or Richard or Darkroom, and get our scans back and share them on the internet. We keep them in our phones and on our computer drives and eventually they get lost or deleted to make room for the latest Fortnite update. That’s what most of us are doing, anyway.

Even the most studiously analogue of us (that’s sort of me, to be honest) often forget to print our shots or have a lapse of a year or two in which life just becomes too busy. Printing photos just isn’t a priority.

And it’s kind of a shame.

Here comes the weird story part!

When I was nine years old, my family and I moved from Oklahoma to Scotland for some sort of construction project (my father was a builder). We lived in Kirkcaldy, a city on a river. My memory of it is pretty sparse. Kind of dirty. Mostly grey. We lived near the similarly grey water which locals called the Firth of Forth (I don’t think this is right, but it’s what my memory tells me – cut me some slack, this was 28 years ago). Occasionally there would be a storm and the beach would be covered in dead and dying jelly fish. They were also mostly grey.

At some point in the span of time that we lived in Scotland, we took a vacation to a home in the highlands. The highlands are the mountainous regions up north, where the cold and grey is punctuated by darker grey rocks and little, low-to-the-ground starbursts of purple, the flowering parts of the thorny thistle weed which dominates the scrubby lands there. There are also sheep, and old men who watch the sheep.

The traveling party was comprised of my family (my brother and I, and our two parents), and another family which was engaged in the construction project with my father (two kids – a son and daughter – and their two parents). The son, named Ronnie, was my best friend from school.

We stayed in a little stone house on a mountainside. In the distance on all sides were neighboring mountains. They may have been small, but as a nine-year-old they seemed Everestian (an adjective for “like Everest” which I have just invented). Across one particular valley on the climbing slope of one of the neighboring mountains there was a similar house to the one in which we were staying. There in that house lived an old man who raised sheep. Every day in the morning we would notice him leave his house with his two border collies and a flock of sheep. On his shoulder he carried a rifle. He’d walk off across the mountain, reach some fold in the land and disappear for the day. Every now and then we’d hear a rifle shot.

One day we decided to take a walk through the highland countryside. The walking party was, to my best recollection, comprised of everyone. The two families in their entirety.

We walked and eventually came across a boggy place which I have mentally identified as a “moor” for twenty-something years. I’ve read The Hound of the Baskervilles, like, twenty times. Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a lot of words in that book describing moors. We didn’t have moors in Oklahoma and I haven’t lived anywhere in the intervening years which could claim to have moors. I’m not sure that what I saw in Scotland that day was, in fact, a moor. But I feel like we had stumbled upon a moor, so that’s what I’m calling it.

In the what-I’m-calling-a-moor that we’d stumbled upon, the ground was a soup. Stepping into it created a squelching sound and our boots were pulled from our legs. We avoided the place as best we could, using our big, human brains to not get stuck and die in the grasping earth. But not every creature had been so blessed with our grand intellect. At one point in the trail, just off of the slightly less disgusting path on which we walked, we saw an enormous moose, or elk, or some other sort of Scottish quadrupedal herbivore sunk into the muck so deeply that only its shoulders and enormous head were visible. It just sat there, dead of course, blindly staring with its enormous, black eyes. It had horns, or antlers, which were larger than my entire nine-year-old body. I stared at this grim scene for a long time. It was tragic and sad, and grotesque, and it captivated my young mind. A pretty horrible sight, to be honest.

We continued our walk and went back to the house. The day ended and the next began, and then that day ended as well.

Later in the trip, the man across the valley with the gun and the dogs and the sheep walked over to our house. He introduced himself and chatted with the adults. The children, meaning myself, my brother, Ronnie, and Ronnie’s sister, petted the dogs and the sheep, which milled about the property eating plants. While running around with the sheep and the dogs, I saw that the adults were talking by the house. My brother and friends continued chasing sheep and dogs while I went back to see what the adults were discussing. I noticed that the man with the sheep had his rifle in one hand, and in the other he held a string which passed over his shoulder and ended tied to two dead rabbits. I asked him if he shot the rabbits, and he said yes, and I asked why, and he told me that he shoots a couple of rabbits every week and feeds his dogs with their meat. He asked if I’d ever shot a rabbit, and I said no, and he asked if I’d like to see how to prepare a rabbit for cooking, and I said yes.

In hindsight, that’s kind of a weird thing to ask a nine-year-old boy, but maybe I’m just being soft.

In any case, he slung the rabbits off his shoulder and onto the grass. He put one rabbit onto a rock and extracted a large knife from somewhere and began cutting into the rabbit. He deftly gutted the rabbit and fed parts of it to his dogs on the spot. With a flourish of the knife and a rapid motion of his hands he had removed the rabbit’s pelt, after which he held a beautiful rabbit fur in one hand and a skinned rabbit in the other. I simply watched in mild horror and awe.

He let me hold the rabbit pelt. It was the softest fur I’d ever felt. I’d never had a rodent for a pet, and I’d never petted a rabbit before. After a moment he asked if I wanted the pelt. He said that if I hung it up on a clothesline for a day or two it would dry out and be fit for keeping. I, of course, said yes, that I wanted the extremely soft rabbit pelt very much.

At that moment, my friend Ronnie, who had approached unnoticed at some point during my conversation with the sheep man, began screaming. He yelled at me and the man with the sheep, and his parents, and my parents, and he screamed that he wanted a rabbit pelt as well. He yelled that he deserved the rabbit pelt. We were all fairly shocked, I most of all, since Ronnie was my best friend and I didn’t want to fight with him, or anyone. Though the man had another rabbit and probably could have simply created another pelt on the spot, this didn’t happen. I don’t know why, because I don’t remember. I feel like, looking back on it, if I were an adult in that situation I’d have said “Ronnie, if you stop yelling at everyone and apologize, I’m sure this nice man will also give you the skin of a dead rabbit.” But I was nine years old and none of the adults said anything like that, and pretty immediately Ronnie screamed louder and ran away into the house.

Being a concerned friend, I chased him, saying things like “Why are you so mad?” and “Just talk to me.” But he didn’t.

He eventually ran into a bedroom in the house and slammed the door shut behind him. I followed and the door was locked, but I could hear him crying on the other side of the door, so I pressed him further. I asked him why he was so mad, and he yelled at me. I don’t really remember the conversation, however, I do remember that his chief argument was that he deserved to have the rabbit pelt because he had never seen a dead animal before.

The logic behind his argument is fundamentally flawed. Never seeing a dead animal doesn’t really entitle you to automatic ownership of a rabbit pelt. That’s like saying you should own Saturn because you’ve never seen a planet with rings before. But at the time, I took Ronnie’s argument at face value and counter-argued “What are you talking about? You just saw that dead moose in the mud the other day?!”

Ronnie didn’t respond to this, and I assumed at the time that he didn’t respond because he knew that I was right. His argument was shattered. He said nothing more and stayed in the room being upset, and I left the locked door alone, and that was that. I was right. He was wrong. He had a fit over a rabbit pelt, and his chief argument was that he’d never seen a dead animal. But he had, in fact, seen a dead animal. And just days ago, with me as witness. He’d seen the dead moose.

Twenty-five years later my mother was visiting me at my house, and with her she had brought a massive bundle of photo albums from the ancient history of our family. She didn’t want the photos anymore because they were relics of another life. The pictures of our childhoods and my parents’ relationship, which were now distant memories. But she thought I might want the photos, so she left them with me and I looked at them later that month.

There were some pictures from Scotland in the bunch, and those were somewhat interesting to look through. They showed an innocent childhood that I barely remembered. I won’t get into all of that.

But I came across one particular photo that really made me pause. It was a shot of the walking party out on the thing that I’ve called a moor earlier in this writing. We were all gathered together with extremely muddy boots, the countryside trailing away in the background, thistle flowers on the border of the frame, craggy rocks in the background. I could see the muddy land which had killed the moose. It was all there, exactly as I’d remembered, except for one detail. There was no Ronnie.

I called my brother.



“Do you remember that day we went for a walk in Scotland, in the highlands with everyone?”

“Uh, yeah I think so.”

“Okay, do you remember we got to that big muddy area, and we saw that dead moose sunk in the mud?”

“Oh, yeah, absolutely.”

“Okay. Okay. Who was there?”

“Who was there? Like, on the walk?”


“Me, you, mom, dad, and the other two parents.”

“That’s it? Are you sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

“So Ronnie and the sister (I can’t remember her name), they weren’t with us? We were the only kids there?”


And just like that, I’d suddenly lost the argument that I had thought I’d won for twenty-something years. Ronnie wasn’t there. He hadn’t seen the dead moose. He was right!

Anyway, Ronnie still didn’t deserve the rabbit pelt. And in the end it didn’t really matter anyway, because by the time I’d stopped trying to convince Ronnie to still be my friend and gone back outside, the man with the sheep had tossed the pelt to his dogs. It had been summarily devoured. No one got the pelt. Well, the dogs did.

What did I just read?

There are many reasons to print our photos. One reason, which should be obvious if you’ve suffered through the 1800-word somewhat-pointless story that I just told, is that our perception isn’t always accurate and our memories are even less so. We are dumb and getting dumber every day. Photos remind us of who did what, where and when. And printed photos can even prove us wrong (or right) some twenty-odd years after they’ve been printed. That’s pretty neat.

But even if a printed photo’s reason for being is to just exist as something nice to look at, there’s value in that. Printed photos are the all-stars of our photographic journey. We pick the ones that are great, have them printed, and revisit them every now and then.

The obvious rebuttal is that we have photos on our phones, saved to the cloud. Why print these and keep them stored in an inconvenient album or box when we can whip out our phones and see them anytime we want.

I don’t really have a counterargument. You’ve seen what happens when I think I’m right.

I’m just here to say that there’s something different about holding a print. There’s something slower and better about it. Maybe I’m just getting old. I like photos that are made on paper.

You’ll also probably notice something about your photography if you decide to print your photos. You’ll spend more time examining your “keepers” and once they’re printed you’ll see things you didn’t notice on screen.

I’m not trying too hard to convince you. But there’s very little to lose by trying. Select twenty photos that you think are great. Photos you’ve made that you love. Get them printed. If you like it, keep going. If you don’t, at least you’ve got twenty great photos to frame or give away to friends and family.

How do we print?

It doesn’t have to be complicated. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not making optical prints in a 600 square foot darkroom. I just take my files (digital photos and scanned film photos alike) to a local print shop and they print them for me. Or I email them if I don’t feel like driving. But even this methodology is rather old-fashioned. There are apps which will easily print any photo you have on your phone, and do it economically. The only caveat to these apps is that the quality may not be as high as taking them to a print shop. I’ve seen enough Shutterfly prints to know I’m not using Shutterfly. You get what you pay for. I’ve used Artifact Uprising, and they do a great job. I’m sure there are others as well.

Or, you could simply buy yourself a nice photo printer. Canon and Epson both make really great printers that don’t cost very much – they start around $200 and increase in quality and price up to $1,999. I won’t dive into the details of which printer to buy in this article. If you have any interest in a printer shoot-out, just let me know in the comments section. I’ve done the research and know which models are good, I just haven’t committed to writing an article about it. If it would be useful to someone out there, I’ll do it.

Or buy an instant camera.

In any event, just print some photos. You’ll thank yourself later, or your kids will, or someone else you care about will. Frame some photos. Put some photos in a beautiful glass box. Give some photos away as gifts. If you’re spending this much time making photographs, they must be worth printing. Give it a try.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • The weird thing is I could probably gues where you were based on your description of the Scottish highlands lol

  • Absolutely right! Fifteen years of mostly digital photography and very few prints…but since I got back into film four years ago, I have made it a habit to print most of my photos – whenever the local store discounts them to 10c per print…..doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but one day they may be enjoyed by someone. The point of photography is to freeze time!

  • There is another way around.
    I did scan all family old photos, several generations back (more then 100 years back). Even scanned their back side where usually something is written (year, and date, who is on photo, or what was the event or where is taken). All photos are uploaded into g-drive, organized in albums. Suddenly all those old forgotten photos hidden in several shirt’s boxes (shirts were sold in boxes in past time), becomes visible and shared to wide family members and friends.

  • Merlin Marquardt March 14, 2022 at 7:09 am

    Interesting. Always wanted a Beseler. Had an Omega. All gone now. Still have some of the prints. Some are digitized. Interesting.

  • Lovely story but having been brought up in Glasgow and made several trips to the Highlands, I can assure everyone it’s not grey all the time!!

  • James, as a nine year old it isn’t surprising that you’d not remember, or even knew at the time, that Glasgow is on the River Clyde. The Firth of Forth is on the east coast of Scotland and is notable for the great bridge that spans it.

    I really enjoyed your short story. It brought to life a young lad having to conform to what out parents did, with no say in the matter. The rabbit incident brought back a memory from around 1951 or 52 when as a young lad of 6 or 7 I witnessed a street trader remove the pelt from a rabbit. It must have had a profound impact on me that to this day I can’t eat rabbit!

    • Hey Terry, I talked to a relative and guess what? We lived in Kirkcaldy. Does that make more geographic sense?

      See? My memory is bad. I didn’t even have the right city. (I’ve updated the article for accuracy).

      • Hi, James. Yes it does. Kirkaldy is north of Edinburgh and your original observation of Firth of Forth is now spot on.

  • Really enjoyed surprisingly absorbing story – thank you. Printing point was good, too 🙂

  • Thanks for the article, especially that headline! I’ve been making it a habit of printing both my digital and film photos every few months (often when my local place does 10/12-cent prints) and putting them in albums. I agree — it makes me slow down, pick the “good ones” and spend some time revisiting what I saw in a photo or why I took it. Plus, it’s always good to pull the albums down and flip through my work or share with others. Much more satisfying than scrolling through an iPad/phone full of images. Coincidentally, as I read this this morning, I was tracking the order I placed over the weekend for two packs of photo paper to print some larger shots here at home! BTW, big fan of the site — keep up the good work!

  • As I read your Scotland story I kept thinking “What does this have to do with prints?” It worked! I kept reading. I’ve always felt that it’s not a photograph until it’s a print. Digital files, and even negatives, are representations of photographs, steps toward photographs, but not photographs. The gold standard is still a traditional darkroom print, but I know that’s not practical for most people. I’ve had consistently good results from Mpix (just wait for a sale – they happen all the time). Mat and frame it, hang it on the wall, be proud of it!

    • The obvious and probably much better way of writing this article would have been to just list a bunch of reasons why I think people should print their shots, and list a bunch of resources for getting that done. But there are a lot of articles like that out there. I figured, why not just tell a story. Some people will like it, some people won’t. That’s life! Glad you stuck through to the end. Many thanks!

    • +1 for They’re based in Kansas, have super-fast turnaround times, ship everything with great care, and the quality is wonderful. My wife used Shutterfly once, and the 4x6s we got went straight into the trash.

  • The story has a George R. R. Martin taste : ) I was half expecting the man would be skinning the rabbit while explaining to you why the lion doesn’t concern himself with the opinion of the sheep.
    I print mostly memories and family photos, and from my dedicated (I was about to write “proper” but honestly the cameras in cellphones are already mature devices) digital cameras. In part because they feel natural; in part because I shoot fewer photos with them. With my film cameras I used to ask scans, but they are terrible (not offense to the lab, almost nobody shoot film here so the staff doesn’t have experience, the equipment is old and probably the chemicals past the end of their cycle) so I prefer them printed and scan them myself, well, storing them until scan them because I need an attachment to my digital camera, and a proper holder to flat the negatives.

  • I’ve spent the last 10 months rediscovering film, and I’d love to print a photobook so I don’t just recreate the shoeboxes of our parents 😅. Any recommendations on good / affordable photobook printing services?

    PS: First time commenting. This website has been a beacon in what had been an otherwise painful year. Keep up the good work James and the gang.

  • I’d appreciate some tips on both commercial printers and at-home private printers. I tend to print photos mostly as gifts but sneak one or two into my personal archive every once in a while, too. I have a run-of-the-mill ink jet for documents but would definitely consider buying a high-quality photo printer but would rather not depend on rolling the dice. Nice idea for an article, too.

  • +1 for a printer shootout!

    I actually do have a darkroom set up in my basement, but it’s cold down there and takes a lot of prep, so I only do it once every other month or so. Lately, I’ve been considering a photo printer, but I haven’t done any research. If you’ve got opinions based on testing and research, I’d LOVE to hear them. If that article is far into the future because you’re a busy guy and dad, I’d love to hear your brief suggestions to jumpstart my own research.

    If you don’t print your photos, what is it all for?!

    • Justin, I hear you about a cold basement! I did mitigate it with a portable electric fan heater that I’d run for about an hour prior to beginning a print session. But I’d still have to eventually reheat the developer. But with the heater running, that occurred far less often! Heck I almost considered getting some of those air activated hand warmers and setting them in a towel with the developer resting upon it to keep it at 68-70 degrees.

      Two months ago, I had to replace my furnace. Looking back, I should have asked the HVAC contractor to install a vent right off the output that I could open to heat the basement when needed and close for the rest of the time. Oh well…

  • Another thought on the story and memory…

    It’s amazing what we think we know, isn’t it? Even the things we see can’t truly be believed sometimes, especially old memories. It makes you wonder what else you’ve got totally wrong, doesn’t it?

    I’ve watched a few films recently that are about memory and the believability of the seen. If this subject is of interest to anyone else, consider checking out THE THIN BLUE LINE (1988) by Errol Morris, RASHOMAN (1950) by Akira Kurosawa, or, more recently, THE LAST DUEL (2021) by Ridley Scott.

    I’d also plug what I often cite as my favorite book, THE THINGS THEY CARRIED (1990) by Tim O’Brien, which is also about memory and truth—the story truth versus the happening truth, as he puts it. Some absolutely amazing stories in that collection.

    • We once bought a house with an unusually long closing period. When we finally took possession, they had moved the staircase!

      • I agree with printing photos, especially if one uses film to some degree. My film exploits are limited to black and white as anything color is handled very well by my Canon 6D. So to print my black and white negatives, I have gone the traditional wet darkroom route. But why would I do that when there are some exceptional quality photo printers out there?

        Simple. I was gifted an enlarger in the mid 2000’s by a gentleman who was getting out of darkroom printing and going to inkjet. It is an Omega with the Chromega B66 dichroic head (he obviously did mostly color printing) and a Schneider enlarging lens in addition to the Omega lens that came with the unit. I had negative carriers for 35mm, 127, 6×45, and 6×6. So I was all set to go. I understand that dichroic heads are not quite as sharp as condensors but I never have to worry about contrast filters. And besides, free is free! So all I had to do is get paper chemistry, paper, and trays. I already had tanks and reels for the film since I developed E6 from 1990 to 2006 or so. Sadly, having my job outsourced and other things put the darkroom on hold.

        The unit languished in a damp basement for nearly 15 years until I decided to see if it still worked. It did so I finally got my darkroom made and have been printing for almost a year. So for me, the wet darkroom was actually the more economical way to print since I had the enlarger. The cost of chemistry and paper for darkroom prints was better than the cost of ink and mid to middle-upper range photo paper. Errors in printing are less costly than with inkjet printing when they do occur (I think many more than are willing to admit have forgot to close down the enlarger lens to exposure aperture after focusing wide open). And personally, I still prefer the look of black and white film on photo paper.

        Now what I currently do is after processing, I scan the negatives on an Epson V850 and that’s my “proofing.” I do not make contact prints. And when I do print, I use 5×7 paper (with the enlarger at the height for 8×10, of course) to make my test print and then go to 8×10 for the final print. I’ve found that darkroom printing is quite forgiving, especially on the development end of things. And my results after just my second session ever were quite good to me.

        So for me, the traditional way is the best way. But like everything else, it’s just a means to an end.

        • Welcome to the Darkside! It’s hard to explain to the uninitiated how deeply satisfying traditional printing can be. For me it’s a journey that is as important as the destination. You are not likely to see a difference in sharpness between a dichroic and a condenser head – what you’re seeing is actually a contrast difference which can be easily compensated for by adjusting the yellow and magenta settings. Dust control will be more of a challenge with a condenser. Make sure someone shows you the secret handshake.

  • We take more photos now than we ever did but how many digital pics will survive when our grandchildren are grown up? We have boxes of my photos taken between 1973 and 2005 when I went totally digital. None from the early digital years 1998-2005. Fewer photos that my mum took when we were kids and fewer still taken by my grandparents. Prints are precious things, physical memories.

    The large animal you saw stuck in the swamp was likely to have been a Red or Fallow deer stag. There are no other large antlered animals in UK other than deer.

  • an article about printer options would be great

  • Did no one photograph the dead moose?

  • I don’t see how I could ever disagree. With the fact that not having seen a dead animal makes you entitled for rabbit fur.

    But on printing…. yes. Of course. Being lucky with a darkroom setup and good photo printer, I can only agree. It’s a bit a shame you’re mostly preaching to choirs here, as your message needs a wider audience. Between an image on-screen (not matter how good the screen) and a good print, there is no contest. Prints have a magic that screens are missing.
    And that’s not even getting started on the lovely world of different papers….

  • It’s not a high-end printing option, but if you’re just looking for a quick and easy way to get cheap prints of your favorite images to hang at home or share with family and friends, nothing beats Costco photo center. Not all Costco warehouses have in-house printing anymore. I can tell you that my local Costco recently did away with the photo center at my warehouse. Should I want Costco prints now, all orders need to be done via their website, with digital files uploaded online, and prints shipped to my door. As I said, this isn’t the case at every Costco, just the one closest to me, so you might be able to walk in and get prints at the warehouse nearest you. In terms of value I don’t think you can beat it. 4×6 prints cost $0.11 each, 5×7 are $0.59, 8×10 are $1.79, 11×14 are $3.99, and 16×20 are $6.99. I’ve even had massive 24×36 inch metal prints made for around $100. If you’re a Costco member, it’s worth considering.

  • Since most of my pictures are of my family, I compile a photobook of each of my kids every year. While they’re presented as a Mother’s Day gift to my wife, they will eventually be passed on to the kids for their memories.

  • James,

    As usual, a wonderful piece.

    I can’t say I’m a filmista, but much the same as you I’ve got a lot of imagery sorry up that until recently have not done much with.

    With the recent quarantine, I had the opportunity to parse through some 70,000 images and cull that down to about 10,000 which I stored in albums on Google Photos and sent links to my family.

    Retirement is literally around the corner for me, and the next plan is to start creating photo books to have printed and give away to the family.

    I’ve also got the Canon Pro-100 that I print on occasionally that I will use to create images to hang string the house, etc.

    Thanks for an amazing website.


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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop

All stories by:James Tocchio