Digital vs Print: When Reality Bites

I learned a harsh lesson in portraiture this week:  Digital is not the same as Print.

It’s a surprising realization that after four years of photography I’ve never actually printed my pictures.  I’ve been satisfied with sharing them here, on Flickr and  other social media. That changed when I committed to mailing prints back to the folks in Cuba.

But let’s rewind a bit.

The highlight of my recent trip  was the opportunity to take pictures of people.  I met members of the Chivirico community and with their gracious consent, took some wonderful portraits. As an additional bonus, on the last day our group had a full day model shoot with a troupe of professional dancers. It was an chance for composed shots with enthusiastic and ‘malleable’ subjects.  As a gesture of appreciation I agreed to send printed pictures back to the community.

And here is where reality bites.

Portraits that looked perfectly fine on screen showed up harsh and unflattering in print.  So many of these folks had been charming in person; I hated sending back ugly photos. I hastily adjusted the images, dialing back on clarity to soften the details and smoothe out natural skin imperfections.  Softer, toned down images resulted with improved print quality.  On screen the visual effect was almost as dramatic.

My lesson learned?  For close up portraits, particularly those slated for print and people you’d rather not hate you, hold back on the clarity.

On the other hand, for my model pictures I allowed for more dramatic license.  There were some pictures where I’d scaled back on the clarity, reprinted the image and then decided that I preferred the original.

For example this portrait of Graciano.   I think the hard lights on his face adds a gritty edginess to the picture.   It elevates it  from being a nice shot to being an interesting one.

Or so I think.   What about you?


Photos taken Cuba. March 2018


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