Discovering what you want to do with your work is a fun and challenging process. Keep in mind the importance of maintaining high quality and a consistent theme. The results will have a stronger impact by applying these principles.
Fine-Art Prints. For many photographers, the ultimate expression of their art is a high-quality photographic print. I've used many options for making the fine-art prints I sell in galleries—from making Cibachrome prints in Ansel's darkroom in Yosemite to using high-end custom labs to finally having my own gallery-quality printer in my studio.
Much of the fun of photography these days, especially with current digital technology, is the ease with which we can make excellent prints from even the less-expensive printers available. Even if you have no interest in marketing your photographs, making a few prints for yourself, family or friends is a great reward for all your effort. Besides, if you wish to improve your skill in Photoshop or any other digital-imaging software, making a series of proof prints really helps you see how your adjustments translate in print.
Whether you make your own prints or use a custom lab, the matting and framing formalizes your imagery, making the whole process more rewarding, and states clearly to all that you're an artist! The following are some good options for custom printing.
Portfolio Binders. I've used high-quality binders for many types of presentations over the years. Prints can be assembled in a binder and left with galleries for display or sent to art consultants for presentations. This is a great way to show many images at once, and the binders are easy to update. The binders work especially well if they're printed on the same material as your final prints so that viewers can clearly see the quality they can expect if they purchase a print. Since the pages are removable, the images within can be customized. I've used Prat Display Products (www.prat.com) for my portfolios.
Posters. For small-scale publishing, the modern inkjet printer offers great flexibility, allowing you to design your own layout and print on demand for presentations or sales. If you don't have your own printer, some labs offer poster printing with volume discounts. If you design and prepare the file for the printer, a print can be ordered that includes your graphics, and at your customized size. If you have, or are establishing, a market for your photography, such as arts-and-crafts fairs, this will give your customers some price-range options. Remember, you can always print just one! If your self-published posters sell well, you might develop a market and find a publisher for them. I've mocked up poster designs in Photoshop, like the poster shown here, to show my poster publisher how the images might look if they were to be published.
As it does for posters, the modern inkjet printer offers great flexibility for greeting cards, giving you the ability to design your own layout and print on demand for gifts, holidays, presentations or sales. If you don't have your own printer, some labs offer greeting-card printing with volume discounts.
Slideshows. Although some people still present film-based slideshows, the trend is strongly in favor of digital projection. Many computer owners have PowerPoint as part of Microsoft Office, and so PowerPoint is the most commonly used digital presentation software. In Photoshop, which most digital photographers have, you can make PDF presentations quite easily. Select File > Automate > PDF Presentation and have Photoshop put all your selected files into a PDF document. PDF documents can be presented as slideshows by choosing Window > Full Screen View. PDF slideshows are easy to show on your computer, share via e-mail or burn to a CD.
Online Book Printers (a few at a time). Along with the growth of Internet commerce, photographers now have numerous ways to have their own books printed. The quality is very good from what I hear, and the options, such as size, page layout and hardcover or softcover, are expanding as demand increases.
Self-Printable Books. One exciting way to present your images, if you have an inkjet printer, is to print a book yourself. You're in control of the design and the quality of output. These books can be offered for sale, given as gifts or presented to potential customers as a catalogue for print sales. The quality of the printing should closely match that of your fine-art prints. Your custom book can be designed, with text for captions, essays and page numbers, using page-layout software, such as Pagemaker or InDesign, and even in MS Word or Adobe Acrobat.
Self-Publishing. Another intriguing option for photographers, if one is a pro and/or is serious about producing and marketing books, is the self-publishing option. I think that this option will only grow in popularity as more and more power is concentrated in fewer and fewer book buyers, such as Barnes and Noble and Borders. This trend strongly affects the number of book titles offered each year, lowering the public's choices and photographers' chances of being published. Several photographers I know, already having a specialized market, invested their own money in making their own books in order to have total control over both the production and marketing of their projects. Some online services handle all aspects of self-publishing, from applying for ISBN numbers to copyright registration and full-service marketing.
I do have a book idea for a collection of my "On Landscape" columns. After laying it out in Adobe InDesign, I'll use it to help market the book proposal to book publishers. By designing the book myself, I'll have the option of self-publishing if a deal doesn't work out with a regular book publisher. In any case, I'll have developed it with my vision for the book, whether it's ultimately self-published or published the traditional route.
I hope that these ideas for sharing your photographs get you motivated to organize and edit your images. Put them out there so that others might see your efforts and share your vision!