As technology becomes more advanced and the digital world expands, our printing should, too. Print empowers visual thinkers to share their inspiration through a tactile and long lasting experience with the ability to discover refined detail. Surrounded by a wide range of papers, photographers are given the opportunity to explore their creative abilities and discover their artistry.
We asked Moab Master, Hernan Rodriguez, why print is important to him. His story says it all...
We often forget what we no longer see. This is such a true and valuable statement in our industry. An industry, because of social advancement, tends to be quick to gratify the needs of their clients. This largely is due to the various outlets available in getting anyone to see an image or any content for that matter, and immediately. This brings a great deal of value to what many people no longer consider the “norm” – and that is a good old fashion print. What’s old is new and what new is old, but the value of a tangible print, still holds a great deal of value. It reminds me of the so many times I hear in the news, of families caught in a situation where they loose their home in a fire. The common responses you often hear is, “Everything is replaceable, but we are happy we saved our photos and albums.
A print is a testament of being at a particular place at a specific moment in time. You see this of iconic images that are displayed in museums and important places, or printed and reprinted in magazines, which are a constant reminder of a moment in history. Without these pictures, we would most likely forget. Even with the incredible digital advancement we have at our disposal, It would be very difficult to display any other media other than a print. As photographers we are blessed to provide those memories to any human being, and a print, whether an album or a wall portrait, should be the culmination of a joint cause. This can be a wedding, a family portrait or even a printed catalog.
My purpose for prints might be completely different than many other photographers, but it serves the same purpose. It’s to entice the emotions. It gratifies us as photographers when we show that print to a client and get reactions of jubilation. It tells us we are doing a good job. The approach to many photographers and “the print” comes from the standpoint of a direct sell. What I mean by that is that they sell prints for profit. It is our craft and we are allowed to do that. My perspective is the complete opposite. In my early career as a photographer, I started as a high school senior photographer. That kept me in business selling prints for well over six years. I had around 400 senior portrait sessions a season, and the purchase rate was very high. It was a very important moment of their lives you shared, and you were there to document it. Many also purchased wall portraits on custom paper, which they still remind me to this day, almost twenty years later.
These days I specialize in commercial and celebrity portraiture. Printing portraits still serves as an integral part in my business, but for different reasons. Before, in which prints were my product supported by my photography, now I am the product and the prints support my brand. Most of my revenue now is generated in the portrait session I provide for my clients. I am hired by publicists, art directors, or celebrities, which may be for advertising and commercial purposes, or creating specifically crafted sets and scenarios for actors, athletes or clients in the music industry. I use prints now to establish and maintain great public relations with many of my clients. The print in their home is also a constant reminder of your brand, and that brand is your experience and skills, which is the reason you were hired in the first place. Your print keeps you in sight and in their mind. A couple of days after the session, I will meet with my client, and that is when I provide a print of my favorite image in the session. This most of the time is the one they choose for marketing purposes.
Years ago I was working with one of the top talent agents in Latin America. We had a photography session for the lead singer of the Gipsy Kings, which was to be used for an upcoming album. The day after the shoot, I printed a few images on 11x17 Lasal photo paper for my client, which was the image used for the back cover of the CD. I also got one signed from the artist to frame in our studio for posterity.
Most of my work is cinematic in style and is done with extensive lighting. It is bold and rich in colors. It is very difficult to show this on a small iPad, and for the viewer to appreciate the full impact, I have created a physical album. This album has served me well in business. I have used it for prospecting new accounts, and people can appreciate all the detail and nuances of my work. I also teach around the world, so it is always greatly appreciated by the attendees. Without having prints, I truly believe my business would not have flourished to the same capacity as it has with printed pieces.
I remember one time I was invited to photograph Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday with Evander Holyfield. The venue was at a makeshift boxing ring at the MGM Grand. I was there as Holyfield’s personal photographer to cover him, and when Ali’s people saw I had a camera, his security approached me to confiscate my camera. Apparently there was a “No Camera” zone where I was. I yelled at Holyfield to come help me, as he quickly came down to pull me from the roped area and escorted me up to the ring. There I found myself next to Ali and Neil Armstrong. “I’m amongst the greats”, I thought to myself. Just then, Holyfield carried Ali out of his wheelchair, as he walked around the ring, and I was there to capture such an amazing moment in time, free of any other photographers, thanks to Ali’s security. No pun intended, or maybe.
Where would this moment be without a print to document and share? A month after, I printed and mounted this image on Entrada Rag Bright 13x19 to give to Holyfield. It turned out beautiful. And when I talk about the power of a print, there I find Holyfield with Mike Tyson’s manager and publicist. They see the print and are impacted by the moment. Not only did they share this moment, but they also saw the quality of my work, which started negotiations for shooting Mike Tyson. Everybody wants to be like that person in the picture. We are privileged as photographers to provide that opportunity.