Which is more valuable, The original image capture or the Print?


Ansel  Adams was a master of both the camera and it’s functions as well as in the darkroom. He saw the images in his head, Previsualized the final look and then used all of his extensive knowledge to capture what he saw on film. He was a meticulous craftsman in the darkroom, Laboring over each and every print until he achieved his ultimate vision for the print he was working on. He is well-known for this in photography circles and his original, signed prints are much more valuable than the negatives themselves. In his day you had to practice both skills in order to become a master and I wonder in this day and age if the print holds as much value anymore. We are faced with a dizzying number of choices for printing our images both on the internet and locally. With this much choice is the Photographer printing his own images dead and would the image still be as valuable if we don’t print them ourselves?

Today with digital capture we are no longer slaves to the countless hours and chemicals of the darkroom. We have more freedom to spend out time Photographing the world as we see it. For me It was a simple choice of economics. I want to have full control over my printed images but at this point I cannot afford the cost of a decent, professional photo printer and their high maintenance costs. I had to make a choice to be a Photographer first, Letting go of some control and have someone else print my images.

The question I ask myself is in our world of we can select a printer online and get professional quality prints for an affordable price, I wonder which is more valuable…The original image capture or the print of the image itself? Ansel Adams did all of this work himself which makes his original prints much more valuable today than his negatives. I do all of the same processing myself within Lightroom but I do not actually print the image myself. The only tangible evidence of what it took to produce the image is the image itself. If an outside company can print an image much faster, with much better quality and a cheaper price then is the resulting print of my work any less valuable? Should there be a new measure in the digital age for placing value on a print if the artist does not produce the print himself?

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3 thoughts on “Which is more valuable, The original image capture or the Print?

  1. Interesting questions. I have never even thought about things like this. It has never phased me to outsource my printing (besides they send me a Tootsie Pop with every order LOL), but my printing needs aren’t necessarily high either. I print for me, and for a few gallery exhibits here and there.

    Good post!

    • Thanks for the comments Heather! I use Shutterfly and have never been disappointed by the service. I was just curious about this question and what we attach value too..The capture or the print.

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