Interview with James Tan | GBPW Episode 160

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James Tan.

Why did we take so many pictures in the first place? What was going through our heads? [Printing] teaches us how to be considerate and how to exercise better sensibility in the creation of our images.

James Tan

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James Tan printing and photography workshop

In this episode, I speak with James Tan, a printmaker based in Singapore. With over a decade of experience, James is an expert when it comes to photography, editing, and colour. His clients include prestigious photographers, artists, galleries, and more.

We talk about:

  • The life of a master printmaker
  • How photographers can benefit from printing their images
  • Tips for storing physical prints

& much more!

Printing is a very interesting process that requires patience and a very good understanding of photography. James’s approach to printmaking might inspire you to print your own photographs and to value the process of photography even more.

Here is a preview of our conversation with James Tan.

photography prints on a wall by James Tan

Q: What are the benefits of printing your own photographs?

James Tan: Modern cameras nowadays are very high in megapixels. The most high-definition editing monitor that we have is probably 4k, 5k, or 6k. That doesn’t hold up to the kind of resolution that a camera captures. Cameras are 36 megapixels, 60 megapixels, etc. No monitor can hold the kind of detail that these cameras can capture. Only on the print can all these details come out in one shot.

Printing our own photographs is extremely important to our growth. It’s only on a print that you can come face-to-face with the image that you have captured.

James Tan printing workspace

Q: Are there any common mistakes that photographers make in general?

James Tan: It’s more technical, like saving the file in the wrong format or using the wrong colour space to edit.

I do judging for some international photographic competitions. I’m one of the more detailed judges when it comes to how perfect a photograph is. I see masking lines, residue, healing mistakes, and cloning brush mistakes that weren’t done naturally and properly.

I guess that 99% of us are in the digital realm. We do digital photography, and we do digital post production. We need to be very, very aware and mindful that all these things can be seen, especially on print.

James Tan students in printing workshop

Q: Do you ever print your own photographs?

James Tan: Yes, and I am very afraid to. It is a challenge to myself.

I will print images that I took 10 years ago and I will find them unsatisfactory. I’ll go back and re-edit the raw files again and again.

Although it’s enjoyable, it’s also something that I’m trying to balance.

(This transcript was edited for clarity and length.)

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Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
Taya Iv is a portrait photographer, 500px ambassador, and host of Great Big Photography World podcast.
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