As a photographer I am all about visual stories here at Dash Kitten. Photographs are our most precious way of saving our memories so how do we do the best job honouring the memory of the pets we love when they leave us behind?
As many of you know, we lost Harvey and Dot close together this year and the loss hit my family hard. The wish to value their memory as pictures prompted me to wonder. What are the best ways for all of us to preserve the many memories we have of our pets?
I want to look back briefly to life ‘Before Digital’ and tell you the reasons why printed photographs matter to pet lovers as much now as they did ten or twenty years ago.
Before Digital Photography
Life ‘Before Digital’ meant that every photo taken by you, the enthusiastic pet photographer, was taken with a film camera and these had to be printed, either by a local shop or sent away for developing and processing.
You never knew what had worked and what hadn’t, but every photo on a roll was printed off regardless of its quality. Not only was this discouraging for the photographer who received back 20+ burry cat photos it was a waste of environmental resources.
But, on the upside, you did end up with plenty of pet photos, something we don’t to have in 2020.
You could not edit any of your images before they were printed unless you were a professional with access to special facilities like a dark room. If you had access to these facilities, you would have the opportunity to create a contact sheet* of small images to choose successful shots for development. [* = resources below]
A digital photo is given a physical existence when printed. When it is displayed at home or in our studio, it becomes part of our daily life.Digital Photography School
Digital Devices and Cameras
What are the best ways to curate and preserve the memories that are a huge part of your life, your pets, and your family’s collective memories?
Backing up your devices is a big help and printing is even better. The worst possible thing you can do is leave your images on a camera or a smartphone. Drop your ‘phone in water or find it mangled in the jaws of a puppy and your shared memories are toast.
Digital Device Disaster
Let me give you some statistics about our favourite digital devices according to the Professional Photographers of America (PPA):
- 4.5 million mobile phones were stolen in America alone in 2014. This is six years ago and smartphones are now even more desirable. All those pet photos – gone!
- Only 33% of people back up these devices and their digital photographs.
- 53% of people haven’t printed off a photo in the past 12 months.
- 70% of people do not have photo albums at all.
So, if you believe your digital images are safe, think again. Unless your computer and digital devices are backed up consistently, a very real part of your life and your treasured pet memories could disappear forever.
Photography is Best Enjoyed in Print
Images aren’t meant to be temporary, keep them around a lot longer by printing them. Printed photographs matter more than you think, and you have no excuse with online printing services available everywhere.
Ephemeral digital images flash by in a moment and are forgotten. They disappear and have limited value or resonance to many of the people who view them on Instagram or Snapchat. But, a printed image can be looked at, loved and create memories for years to come.
Before you wave your hands in the air in protest, I do not suggest a return to the ‘print everything’ days but I do want you to pause and think about your favourite images of your cat, or dog, rat or rabbit. Not as you the viewer today but as a future you.
Look back as the adult with loving memories of the puppy who goofed around with a slipper or the tiny kitten who is now a frail senior and make this memory more real. Add to your life and your family’s heritage and protect at least some of these memories in a solid printed form.
The Best Ways to Print Off Photographs
First, you need to ensure the photograph you want to print looks its best.
This means opening your photo editing program and making slight adjustments to lighting and colour. If you feel your photo is great but perhaps a touch too dark, adjust exposure or contrast. Ensure the colour is bright, not weak and washed out and see if a little subtle sharpening might help enhance fur.
Whatever you do, remember ‘less is more’. Small adjustments are usually all you need. Adjusting your photo in very small increments, and knowing where the ‘undo’ button is, allows you to fine-tune your picture.
If it needs it. If you are happy with the photograph, leave it alone.
You have two options. Ask for professional photographic help or print your own images at home. If you choose the online route, a search will help you find the best online photo printing service for your budget and display intentions.
A Combo of Print and Digital
Not sure how to display your best and favourite photos? Try these suggestions:
- Snapfish has sites worldwide and offers online options such as canvas prints, framed photos, prints and collages. Your country will have its own companies offering these services.
- US company Shutterfly not only prints but also stores your photographs according to the tabbies o’ trout towne. Check them out if you are in America.
- Canvas prints collected together can create a feature called a photo wall. This is a great place to show off your favourite pet photos.
- Have a lot of images you love? Collate them into a photo book. This makes the perfect pet memorial to look at and remember happy times.
- Many local shops may offer printing services for you. In New Zealand, I have a Photo Centre who created Harvey’s canvas print. You will be able to visit in person and discuss your options with a real person.
- Get a recommendation from a friend who is happy with their own printed image.
- For an important shot, say a prize-winning image or a photo of a cat winning a ribbon, look into Giclée* printing by a specialist. Here in New Zealand Print Art provides Giclée printing on a variety of specialised papers. As your number of prints will be limited you can invest in one or two really special prints.
- FINALLY. Shop local if you can. Supporting local business in 2020 and its tougher times is a good thing to do.
Print Your Own Images
If you want to print off a handful of precious 6 x 4 pet photographs for a brag book, or an A4 sized print. Your own home photo printer should do the job very well.
Print quality will depend on your printer make and model but these days most printers will produce a good print for you. The print doesn’t need to be framed or given fancy treatment like I suggest (see above), you can pin it to your noticeboard or the fridge where you see it every day.
TOP TIP: Ink is expensive!
So make sure the quality of your printer is adjusted to match your paper (matt/glossy/specialist photo etc.,) and your resolution is high enough to produce a quality print.
- Always check your printer’s details online for accurate settings to avoid wasting ink and paper.
Taking your time and mastering a few basics can quickly improve print quality, reduce waste, and boost confidence.Northlight Photos
Printing A Photo Gives Your Work Integrity
Finally, something to consider.
To really own your image to the fullest extent, especially if it resonates deeply with you – print it off with the colours you want, the editing you want and the cropping you want (if any). Let people know what the picture says and what the story of the image is.
Why? This quote from Photoworks Pro nails it.
You spent a tremendous amount of effort and patience to get that amazing shot. The color is sublime, the exposure is perfect and the composition is impeccable. What if someone tweaked the colors, blew out the highlights and cropped off part of your masterpiecePhotoworks Pro
The importance of printing some of your photographs cannot be underestimated. A printed image will add life to every day you look at it and it is admired by others.
This is why your printed photographs matter.
Have you had a print made of your pets? Did it come out as well as you hoped?
BONUS: Photo Printing Resources*
- Giclée Prints. The term giclée was coined in 1991 by printmaker Jack Duganne for fine art digital prints made on inkjet printers. The name originally applied to fine art prints created on a modified Iris printer in a process invented in the late 1980s. It has since been used loosely to mean any fine-art, most of the time archival, printed by inkjet. Wikipedia
- The contact sheet (also called contract proof) is a positive print of all the negative images from a roll of 35mm film or medium format film. Contact sheets are typically made to allow the photographer to view a mini-preview of all the film to determine which photographs are best to print. Guide to Film Photography
- Northlight Images has an in-depth article on the technical aspects of printing.