Printing Your Photography as Fine Art

Digital photography and the internet are two complementary technological breakthroughs that have fundamentally changed the way photographs are displayed. Pre-digital and pre-internet, film would be processed and more often than not, it would be printed. Today, printing seems to be relegated to wedding albums, holiday cards, and what we’re really here to talk about … fine art.

If you’re reading this blog post you are most likely either an advanced hobbyist, or a professional photographer. I suspect that most, if not all, readers process our images and post them online into some form of social media platform. And I would also suppose that as an enthusiast, printing for fine art is both appealing and somewhat foreign. You might also be surprised to know that many so called “famous” photographers (i.e. internet famous, social media photographers) find printing for fine art as foreign as you do. So, you’re not alone.

But I’m here to help! Let’s discuss.

It's important to understand from the outset that both film or digital cameras can be printed on any of the processes described here. So, film can be scanned and printed digitally, and conversely, digital files can be enlarged on historically analog processes.


Okay let’s break it down into two steps, making the photograph and making the print. Let’s start with the print.

Types of Printing

Silver Gelatin

Everyone remembers Ansel Adams dodging and burning his prints in the dark room. Or maybe you had a wet darkroom in high school. This is silver gelatin printing. This is the process where negatives are enlarged and projected onto photographic paper, and then bathed in developer, stopper and fixer baths. Adjustments to contrast and exposure were made by dodging or burning.

Platinum Palladium

This historical process was traditionally done by contact-printing 11x14 inch glass plates. The platinum and/or palladium are coated onto special papers and then exposed under UV light.



Digital (such as Piezography)

Digital printing coats ink onto specially made papers. Unlike silver gelatin printing, there is no metal left behind on the paper, and light (or UV) do not play a roll in exposing the paper. In fact, it’s not exposed at all …

So, here’s the interesting part …

Irrespective of how you capture the image - film or digital - you can scan or import that image into a photo editing software such as Capture One or Lightroom, then edit your images performing all of the dodging and burning, and then output the image onto a large transparency that acts as a digitally produced analog negative for contact printing.

So, you can make analog prints from a digital source or digital prints from an analog source.

Okay, seems kinda confusing, so check out the series of videos that Ted Forbes recently produced from Hidden Light - the premier B&W fine art printers located in Flagstaff, AZ, USA.

Take a tour walkthrough in one of the best photography labs in the world. Hidden Light have been printing various processes over the 17 years they've been in business. They work with some of the best fine art photographers in the world and their quality is second to none.
Back at Hidden Light for another day of photography. This time I get to print one of my one images as a pure palladium. Want to make a print? Check out Hidden Light: Music from Epidemic Sound: Subscribe for more videos!
Having spent a week in Arizona at Hidden Light, I've made many photography videos behind the scenes at their amazing photo lab. Matt Beaty is not only an interesting photographer, but he is one of the best platinum palladium printers working today. Platinum palladium is a beautiful alternative process that's made a resurgence in recent years.

Want to print with one of the finest historical process photo labs in the country? Contact Hidden Light in Flagstaff, AZ.

Rod Clark