Why print when you can Instagram? – Harmeet Gabha

Welcome back to another entry in our new blog series on Fuji X Aus. If you have been playing along at home, then you will have seen a steady stream of blogs containing insights, opinions and experiences from a diverse and talented range of members of our very own community. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know these photographers and furthermore teasing out their personal stories and experiences. We have all taken up photography for various reasons and we all have varying skill levels. But often the best bits are the journeys we each undertake.

In this new series, I want to take a look at why many of us choose to only keep our images on digital platforms. Why don’t we print anymore? I remember the days of dropping off a spent roll of film at the local chemist and having to wait days and days for them to call to say it was ready to be picked up.  And the experience of seeing how many of your 24 negatives turned out to be ok prints.  I also remember being in art school and shooting, developing and processing my own film in poorly ventilated dark rooms.  A mate and I even took the time to make our own darkroom in one of the bathrooms in his parent’s house. Plumbing and the ability to black out a window was essential.

But today, we obviously tend to utilise digital and social platforms to showcase our work. Granted it is cheap and quick to drop an image with some hashtags and see it off into the cloud of social media. But we don’t hold on to our best images for our own pleasure as much as I think we should.  And that is a shame and a lost part of the art form. You don’t have to go to the trouble to take up a film camera and process your own images.  But why not take a small step back into an analogue world and print some of your favourites.  Even if you don’t frame and hang them but rather just flick through an album or collection now and then.

I have been a big fan of printing my images and often printing large sizes. Our cameras these days are power-houses that capture insane amounts of detail. Why only use that for an Instagram opportunity on a tiny screen. After returning from each of my trips from Japan I have chosen my favourite image and printed it large. From my trip there in 2017 I printed an image taken on the streets of Shinjuku. 30×40 inches with glass and a frame. And I love the feeling it gives me every-time I see it. Or any of the other printed images I have around my home. I also love the creative process and end result in making photo books. You can read more about my personal experiences with printing here. Riveting stuff.

But don’t just take my word for it. We are going to be chatting with a number of our group members about why they choose to print and how they balance that out with their social media presence. We have already spoken with the legendary Anirban Chatterjee and you can read about his journey here. Then we spoke to Justin Curtis and his story is here.  Today we get to speak to the original inspiration for this blog series.  Harmeet Gabha has his own YouTube channel where he talks all things photography.  In a recent video, Harmeet talks about why he prints.  I encourage you all to check out Harmeet’s YouTube channel right here.  And you can see that video in question here.

Harmeet Gabha

Can you please tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from and what is your photography background?

I am originally from India but have been living in Australia more than half of my life. I was always fascinated with photography and I think I got this spark from my Dad who always had a camera with him and was taking photos of us on our travels or family celebrations.

I purchase a Fujifilm FinePix as my first camera which was 3.2 Megapixels beast and then eventually moved to Canon DSLRs. I was re-introduced to Fujifilm in 2013 when I met Leigh Diprose at Varina and Jay Patel’s Landscape photography workshop at Port Stephens. Later in 2014, I purchase X-T1 and now use X-T2 for all of my photography. I generally shoot Travel and Landscape but occasional Portraits as well.

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Have you ever had the opportunity to process your own films and print them in a dark room?  How did you / do you find that experience? 

By the time I got into photography, Labs were easy to access and cheap enough that I never got or needed to get my hands into printing my own photos in the darkroom. All the photos were done at the Lab.

What are the key reasons that you choose to print your images? 

My main and first most reason is the emotion or memory that it envokes when I look at the photo. If its special to me or my family I will print it. Focus and sharpness are not even in consideration, honestly. I have 16”x24” print of a photo of me and my wife that I asked someone to take at a wedding but when I saw the image on the computer it was clear it was out of focus, I blamed the 56mm F1.2 lens and X-T1 for missing the focus. But still, it was a great photo, celebration and moment in our life so I printed it. 99% who have seen the photo don’t even realise its out of focus they just admire the print.

Another reason is that when I print, I have a photograph in my hand and I can touch it and feel it. It’s really important to me that I can hold a print in my hand. Even though there are 1000s of photos sitting on my Drobo 5N2, I can’t touch them.

Finally, the amount of megapixels we have in the camera these days are no good if we just print 6×4 inch images. I print my photos BIG to realise what these pixels have captured. I know some of us are put off by the cost of printing big but this should not stop us. When we want the next best camera, we splash out thousands of dollars on it or the next lens you “need”. So why shy away from printing, its something that is going to last beyond the current camera you have in your hand.

Photography is an expensive hobby, passion, profession or whatever you call it, period.

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What do you do with your printed images? Do you display them? Put them in a folio? 

I generally will frame my prints and put them up around the house. I also have two framed prints at work. When I print, I’ll print many different photos as I will rotate them in my displays. So after a few months, I will remove the frame and swap the photo with another and put the frames back up on a wall.

Until then the photos would be rolled up in a plastic to keep them away from dust and dirt. But I’ve been thinking of getting a big folder so that I can keep them in there as flat prints. I gave a couple of my prints to my parents as well so they could hang them up at their home and gave my “The Louvre” print to my manager as a Christmas gift (it was printed 32”x 24” and framed). He loved it as he’s originally from France and this was a piece of home!!

Have you ever put together a photo book and had it published? What was that process like?

A few years ago I did get the bug to create photo books and did create a couple using Lightroom + Blurb. The process was quite easy and mostly these were for personal memories. I haven’t considered creating photo books to have them published.

My idea was to create a book for one year’s worth of photos of trips and moments with my family and have them sitting on our bookshelf. I have to say that I’m quite behind on my photo books and as I write this post, I think I need to allocate some time to catch up on creating more recent photo books. As all of my photos are catalogued in Lightroom, its a fairly easy process to create a photo book. I think I will do a blog post and YouTube video on how to create your own Photo Book soon.

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Have you ever had your prints on display in a gallery?

Nope, not yet! I don’t feel that my skill level is at a level yet that, I’d be comfortable displaying my prints in a gallery. If I was doing photography as a full-time job then I would build that skill level to eventually be worthy of displaying my work in a gallery.

What social media platforms do you prefer to use for displaying your images and why? 

I share my photos via my own Blog, Instagram, Facebook, Google+ (although that’s dead now) and via my YouTube channel. I believe that we need to find our preferred home on these social platforms and share where you feel comfortable. There is no right or wrong platform, just the right platform for you.

What are your printing goals for the future? 

As I mentioned, that as I respond to this post I realised how behind I am on my Photo Books so I will catch up in the coming weeks and print some more photo books which my family and I can enjoy.

What advice would you give someone considering getting images printed for the first time?

Definitely do it!! There is no reason to be scared. There are plenty of online labs and local labs accessible for all of us. You don’t have to invest in a high-end printer. Don’t worry about, if your “photo is good enough to be printed”. It is!!

In the days of film, you had no idea which were good prints or not until you actually developed the film, we don’t have this dilemma anymore so just select the best photos that “YOU” like and print them. Start with 12×18” size prints and then work your way up to bigger ones. Print on different styles of paper as well, there are so many choices.

All that matters is that YOU!! If you like the image, you will love the print.

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