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Prints on the wall vs images on the screen
Old 05-17-2019   #1
Dogman
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Prints on the wall vs images on the screen

I've never posted photos online until recently. I tried posting here but the whole process was too involved for my lazy ass to ever learn. Then I joined another forum and their process was simple: resize, drag and drop. So I started posting a few pictures.

And they look like crap.

See, I've always been a photographer who photographs for printing. When I was a kid, living in the country, we mailed our film to Fox Photo and waited for prints. Later, living in town, we dropped it off at the drugstore and waited on prints. When photography became more than a few snapshots to me, I had a darkroom and I made my own prints. Worked for a newspaper for a while, printing photos daily so they could be printed on a press (which usually made them look like crap too but that's another story).

Along comes digital. Prints are passe. Posting online is The Thing. So I look at a lot of photos online and here's The Thing I see: They all look like crap. Even when they look good, they look like crap. I browse through Flickr or some other site and see someone's really excellent work but when I look at it for more than a few seconds all the limitations of the medium overload the excellence of the work. And I wish I could see that picture carefully printed on a sheet of paper because that screen image....Looks. Like. Crap.

Despite all the technological explanations of how much better the image translates on a backlit Retina screen (or whatever), pictures don't look as good as they can look until they're printed on a piece of paper. Hang it on the wall, hold it in the hand or tack it to a tree somewhere in the "back forty"--any which way you do it. I can even accept a well done reproduction of a photo printed in a book. Print it in the darkroom on fiber, print it on an Epson on Arches, just as long as it's printed and it doesn't look like crap.

Okay, I know this is a rant. While I feel very unsatisfied about seeing one of my carefully printed photos turned to crap online, most people are thrilled at being able to post their pictures even when they look like crap.

Am I really the only one who feels this way?
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Old 05-17-2019   #2
CharlesDAMorgan
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I hate seeing my compressed images on screen. They look horrible in comparison to a print. However, a print (unless scanned) reduces the potential to share to irrelevance. Having sat through a 3 hour slide show of a German General's camping trip to Sweden 40 years ago, (I think there must have been close to 100 slides of the midnight sun, or perhaps it just felt that way) the old methods had limited appeal either.

I take photos few people wish to consume, and don't have a darkroom. So, I tolerate it.
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Old 05-17-2019   #3
Erik van Straten
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No, you are not, I feel the same way. I put my pictures on Flickr only to have a summary, a survey of what I have done.

I put my scanned negatives - my best shots - on one account on Flickr and scans of my prints on another.

Of course the original prints are much more beautiful than the scans on Flickr, but, again, to have a survey of them on Flickr is super handy.

I keep my prints at home in a box. Nobody but me sees them. On Flickr they are seen by other people too.

Most people don't know how good an original print can be. It takes years to learn to make them. Printing paper is expensive and nobody sees the prints. It is not surprising that most people are satisfied with the pictures online.

Erik.
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Old 05-17-2019   #4
ptpdprinter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogman View Post
Am I really the only one who feels this way?
Are you scanning and posting from negative or prints? Scanning always involves a reduction in quality. If you think they look like crap, don't post them. Then you can sit alone in your room and enjoy your prints.
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Old 05-17-2019   #5
Ko.Fe.
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BW film pictures only valuable on prints. IMO.
I also like to print from digital cameras, in color on glossy 4x6.
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Old 05-17-2019   #6
davidnewtonguitars
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I like to give prints to people of whom I have taken photographs. Even the 4x6 and 5x7 inkjet prints look better than the things that I can post online.
But as a person who wears a camera as jewelry, I have to maintain online credibility.
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Old 05-17-2019   #7
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Screen images are vulnerable to several technical and practical issues. A detailed discussion of these issues can be found here.
  • Images are compressed to minimize data transmission costs and server resources.
  • Many people don't use calibrated displays when during post-production rendering.
  • Many people don't use calibrated displays for internet viewing. People also view images in different ambient light conditions. When the ambient light changes, the screen color calibration will change. Mixed ambient light sources also cause problems.
  • Many people don't use the sRGB color space for uploaded images.
  • When viewing on-line images color and tonal perception can be OS and browser dependent. Color management in newer browser applications is better than older versions. But it remains an issue. Different browsers still use different rendering intents – perceptual intent vs colorimetric intent. These intents are used to estimate out-of-gamut colors.

Of all these issues, the first one is responsible for most online viewing problems. However, color management problems can occasionally cause significant losses in color quality and can even cause image banding.
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Old 05-17-2019   #8
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To a very large extent, it all depends on where you live and what you want to do with your pics. Where I live today, developing and printing pictures is very expensive and cumbersome. The process of it all would interfere with my other hobbies, one of which is taking pictures. I'm sure that printed pictures look better than their digital renditions but I'm making the best of the situation and I am trying to be happy with what I have. I am selecting some pics -very few, and bring them to a professional printer in Saigon and hang them on my wall and the others I post online, warts and all. Also consider the alternative: having lots of unseen prints in a sock drawer, knowing that they'll be thrown away when you meet your maker.
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Old 05-17-2019   #9
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I sort of agree. Only porn looks better on a screen, than printed on paper.
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Old 05-17-2019   #10
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With the exception of large-format, museum-quality printing, uncompressed digital almost always looks better to me, especially on an iPad Pro. And when you don't live in a city, it's rare to actually get to see well made prints. My main mode of viewing good art photos would probably have to be in books, and I think uncompressed digital beats them by a mile.
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Old 05-17-2019   #11
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Yes and no.

I have compared my own B&W scans to my darkroom wet prints and the prints definitely look more beautiful to me.

But screens can be good for B&W. If you watch that recent Winogrand film, they show many of his B&W pictures in the film where you can see more detail in the images than in the printed books of his images that I have. But one thing I had to do for his pictures to look "right" on-screen was to turn down the brightness.

But scans of my color negatives, if done well, are a different story. Many of these look very beautiful on-screen, and I follow a lot of film photographers whose work looks stunning on screens. Screens, assuming they are correctly calibrated, are today's slide projectors, except they work for negative film too.

But yeah, obviously almost everyone publishes in sRGB which loses a lot of the color gamut.
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Old 05-17-2019   #12
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Okay, back up a minute.

I think many of you are misunderstanding. When I say "prints" I'm not talking about chemical darkroom prints specifically. I think I mentioned prints done on paper, darkroom or Epson or even a very high quality photomechanical reproduction in a book.

When I print today, I do pigment inkjet prints using rag art papers--some of the paper types predate the history of photography so it's not like this is all new technology. When I printed in the darkroom I was never able to get the quality of prints I currently get using inkjet. But that's neither here nor there. Beautiful prints are beautiful prints no matter what medium.

But I'm not a super great printer anyway and I didn't want the discussion to move into the area of film vs digital and silver vs ink printing. When I say I prefer a print I mean any really well done print vs a screen image (that looks like crap).
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Old 05-17-2019   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davidnewtonguitars View Post
I like to give prints to people of whom I have taken photographs. Even the 4x6 and 5x7 inkjet prints look better than the things that I can post online.
But as a person who wears a camera as jewelry, I have to maintain online credibility.
I do this too. But I use Costco. Most of my prints are B&W film negatives scanned and then sent to Costco to be wet printed on color paper which is not a good compromise. Not very often do people I give them to even comment later. I feel like I'm wasting my time, I guess they would rather have them on their phones.
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Old 05-17-2019   #14
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Can you give more explanations why you think stuff on screen looks like crap? I certainty prefer looking at a print, but screens can look pretty good to me. That requires the screen to be high enough resolution or far enough from the eye so I don't see pixels, and the brightness and colour temperature of the screen to be resonably adjusted the the ambient. Why most people don't adjust the brightness is totally beyond me. When I look around in a library, half of the laptop screens are either blindingly bright or very dark.
Reflections can be an issue just like with glossy prints, especially if the screen is too dark.
My main problem is that I don't have a very large, high resolution screen, and my tablet which is pretty good is of course always smeared by my greasy fingers.
And I have a big problem looking at extremely compressed jpegs. Even on this forum, some photographers don't seem to be visually sensitive enough to see how everything gets smeared and pixelated. Makes me almost feel nauseous.
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Old 05-17-2019   #15
karateisland
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I snagged a 12" iPad pro, and I have to say I really enjoy looking at images on it. It's nothing compared to a print (and I do try to have my work printed), but it at least that beautiful screen makes each image more satisfying to work with.
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Old 05-17-2019   #16
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Wait, you say pictures start looking like crap only after you post them? But before, you must have viewed them on your computer and they look ok? Then that must mean they get shot when uploading, compression- or resolution-wise. Do you by any chance have a very high resolution screen and your browser somehow automatically enlarges pictures that would otherwise be tiny on that screen?
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Old 05-17-2019   #17
Dogman
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They look good on the screen but when compared to the print, the screen image looks like crap.
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Old 05-17-2019   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by karateisland View Post
I snagged a 12" iPad pro, and I have to say I really enjoy looking at images on it. It's nothing compared to a print (and I do try to have my work printed), but it at least that beautiful screen makes each image more satisfying to work with.
I'm with you. I definitely love seeing work printed wet or inkjet on a fine FB paper (just picked up some prints from a fantastic printer for exhibition), but I don't see the fuss over onscreen images. How else would I edit them? Compression from FB/instagram/etc is another story though.

Maybe I'm lucky with an iMac that's been pretty accurate color-wise for the better part of a decade, but images look great, if different than on paper. As for the iPad, at least the Retina models, it's gorgeous for display. I've been trying my hand at editing on mobile and the workflow isn't exactly intuitive but there's no want for quality.

Load a few TIFFs onto it and you've got a very nice dynamic portfolio.

But I suppose this is more about viewing online specifically rather than onscreen generally. I do agree that it's no match in quality, but I don't really get all the hate I've been hearing here lately about sharing work online or social media. I mean, how many of us were posting on the thread about Flickr's problems?

I guess I'm mixed on that front. I have no problem with posting digital images since I don't expect you all to come into my home and look at prints on the wall, but I know they're no substitute for the real thing, which is why we all still enjoy visiting galleries and museums.
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Old 05-17-2019   #19
Dogman
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One of my points here is that a screen image only looks good for quick, cursory viewing. It encourages the viewer to look and move on. A printed image can hold your attention and invite close inspection and study. At least that's how I see it. That's one of the reasons why, when compared to a good printed image, the online screen image looks like crap.
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Old 05-17-2019   #20
Michael Markey
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I see a lot of prints every week at my local Photographic society.
Many of them made by accomplished printers and successful in international competitions.
I still prefer to see them on a screen.

I have two prints of mine on my wall and the only reason that they are there is that the printing was supervised by Stewart (Sparrow) at his local lab.

Other than that I only have stuff printed for archive purposes and those are done by Ilford and are filed away.
I never or very seldom refer to them.
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Old 05-17-2019   #21
retinax
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogman View Post
They look good on the screen but when compared to the print, the screen image looks like crap.

Ok sure, I've never considered the screen as a final presentation medium for fine art, for documentary work it has been for better or worse for a long time of course - most of us look at newspapers and photo features online.

It is mostly fine for editing, critique, looking at others' work for inspiration...


Progress has been pretty fast in this regard, in the last couple years phones and tablets have got very decent screens... some competition for photo books (which don't always have great print quality, either), perhaps, but certainly not for the print on the wall.
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Old 05-17-2019   #22
olifaunt
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dogman View Post
One of my points here is that a screen image only looks good for quick, cursory viewing. It encourages the viewer to look and move on. A printed image can hold your attention and invite close inspection and study. At least that's how I see it. That's one of the reasons why, when compared to a good printed image, the online screen image looks like crap.
I look at image on screen for a long time sometimes. It is not cursory for me.

I don't quite see why what you say needs to be the case though. Do you have a high-resolution retina-type screen (whose pixels are too small to see) whose color calibration is up to date? (One needs to recalibrate typical monitors every few months with special software/hardware.) Is it a high-gamut screen? Are you maybe looking at the images only in sRGB instead of a larger gamut space? Is the screen much smaller than your prints maybe? Do you have an ICC-profile-aware viewer? Does the viewer not allow you to fill the entire screen with the image without borders or menu bars? Is you screen somewhere without a bright or distracting background and without reflections?

For color work, screens are more like slide projectors, which are usually considered a better way of viewing slides with than via prints. You can approximate prints by turning the brightness way down.

Film scans often don't have the full dynamic range and detail you can get out in prints, they can have a different curve, they can have sharpening turned on (a pet peeve of mine) causing artifacts, and can emphasize grain that prints tend to smooth out. Te color profile or correction of the scan may be wrong or different. But one can do better scanning in that case.

That is easier said than done; I have been known to post pictures taken with a digital camera of darkroom prints instead of posting scans of the same image, because even the picture of the print was better than the direct scan of the negative.
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Old 05-17-2019   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by olifaunt View Post
For color work, screens are more like slide projectors, which are usually considered a better way of viewing slides with than via prints.

I think that`s the reason why I prefer screens .
For thirty years I shot nothing but slide film .
Had a brief hiatus and picked up again twelve years ago ,again with slide film and a Leica projector.
Never really got into prints .
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Old 05-17-2019   #24
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Nothing better than a good rant.

I hear you though. A lot of folks don't really put an effort into processing before posting images. These are really small, starting from in-camera jpgs and most folks use the same software with the same presets. Not surprisingly a lot of stuff has the same "look" and if you don't like that, all looks like crap.

If you have a carefully calibrated monitor ( a glossy retina screen supposedly isn't the best choice for image processing) and carefully adjust your image how you like it, there should be no reason that the posted image later looks like crap by default.

I agree that a monitor image doesn't even hold a candle to a large high end print (e.g. 24x36" ConeEdition Piezography on Hahnemuhle FA Baryta). I have a few images that I tought might be worth printing but to have the physical print infront of me, almost knocked me out. What a difference.
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Old 05-18-2019   #25
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prints will continue to shrink in their use... digital images will continue to increase if only because it is easier and more ubiquitous. they will also improve.


having said that, i believe the end result of photography is the print.... especially as the number of prints shrink. it will also become a measure of what the artist thought of his or her work - valued/important enough to go through the "labor" of producing it. it may, or may not, be "better", just that the artist thought it so.
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Old 05-18-2019   #26
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Eventually, all information will be shared digitally. Within my lifetime, it will be 5G and who knows what will happen after that. In the meantime, lets hope that we'll take better care of planet earth.
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Old 05-18-2019   #27
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In the meantime, lets hope that we'll take better care of planet earth.
It means no consumerism and population grow.

While G5 and after it, will not stimulate population, but consumerism for sure.
My iPhone 4c is still better than any newer phone and our two old iPads works fine.
I'm typing it from one of them now.
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Old 05-18-2019   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Takkun View Post
...
Maybe I'm lucky with an iMac that's been pretty accurate color-wise for the better part of a decade, but images look great, if different than on paper. As for the iPad, at least the Retina models, it's gorgeous for display. I've been trying my hand at editing on mobile and the workflow isn't exactly intuitive but there's no want for quality.

Load a few TIFFs onto it and you've got a very nice dynamic portfolio.

...
I have found a 27" Apple Cinema Display does an excellent job with a reasonable amount of color management. I'm very pleased with monochrome rendering as well. I do all my printing using commercial labs and I just follow their file preparation directions. Honestly, I have never had an issue with color fidelity or tonal rendering. However, it takes a lot of work to go from a color negative to an optimized JPEG or TIFF image. I have never used an out-of-camera JPEG or semi-automated scan image for a print.

I recently started to display my photos on a 60" VIZIO TV (2160 pixels). Using LR Classic CC high-quality JPEGs (sRGB IEC61966-2.1). I stayed entirely within the Apple eco-system. Sets of images are streamed in real-time from my iCloud account using a Gen. 4 Apple TV following standard OS X and tvOS procedures. At a reasonable viewing distance (~ 6 ft) the results are surprisingly good. They certainly don't "[i]look like crap[/I"] unless the source negative or raw file is crap.

No digital display can possibly have the same aesthetic as a physical print. Very different digital technologies could negate this conclusion sometime in the future. But right now
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Old 05-18-2019   #29
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Quote:
It means no consumerism and population grow.

While G5 and after it, will not stimulate population, but consumerism for sure.
My iPhone 4c is still better than any newer phone and our two old iPads works fine.
I'm typing it from one of them now.
Who knows... Let's hope our children will do better than we are doing today.
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Old 05-18-2019   #30
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There's a disconnect between the quality of an online image and how much someone likes it, at least on this forum anyway. There have been so many, many really lousy shots praised to high heaven because they were taken w/ a fanboy favorite camera or lens. What I'm saying is, who cares what someone else thinks about a photo? There is obviously little to no value in something like that. If I gave any credence to what strangers said about my work, nothing would ever get done. And that's still the thing...... there's making the image, and there's talking about it. Photographic prints have become passe? Hardly.

Thanks for a good early morning rant though! It gets the brain moving a little faster.
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