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Thursday, 23 April 2020


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I’ve often said that anyone who thinks making “gallery” quality prints digitally is easier than in the darkroom, has never made gallery prints digitally. At least, not on their own printer!

For years I used Costco, since they could make prints for less than it would cost me for ink and paper. That’s getting harder and harder as more and more locations shutter their photo labs.

At home, I finally gave up on Epson after 3 or 4 printers simply clogged up and died. I bought a Canon. It’s not Ultrachrome inks, but it will sit for weeks and then start up and make a print without any trouble.

I switched from film and darkroom, going full digital, in 2009. But I probably wouldn’t still be engaged in photography if I couldn’t print at home. As I commented in the prior post, printing has never been ‘plug and play’, darkroom or digital. The best tools remain between the ears: a good eye and good judgment. And a healthy dose of persistence and commitment. Digital photography, including inkjet printing, offers greater flexibility and convenience than film and darkroom, but the brain part hasn’t changed. And I probably spent more overall in my film days, all told, than I do today (price inflation on camera gear excluded). So yes, Mike, I think it’s your self-imposed perspective. But I wouldn’t call it a fault; it’s just your experience.

When I lived on the Gulf Coast, I printed a lot and had minimal clogging since the humidity was high all the time. When I moved to the mountains in Colorado with very low humidity, my big inkjet printer would clog unless used constantly. So, I gave up. Turns out there is a local commercial printer that does fantastic prints on almost any paper and they are reasonable. I also use a commercial printer in New York that does a great job at a somewhat higher price.

I have no experience- zip, zero, nada printing my own digital prints. But I do know that I am not technically inclined, am thoroughly lacking in disposable income, and don't even have the space to put a printer. That said- I still considered getting one, such is the urge to be responsible for one's work from start to finish. But from reading many a competent person's tales of woe (yours included), I knew I would have caused my life considerable more misery (and had my wife leave even sooner than she did) had I imbibed in the urge.

I'm fortunate to have a lab that can make beautiful prints at a reasonable price. True, I do hold my breath each time before picking them up- but usually (not often), if there's something wrong with them technically... it's on my end. I save all my 'extra' income now for prints, not equipment.

Either way, it ain't cheap- but I have saved myself untold waves of: mind numbing aggravation, wasted paper and ink I can ill afford, along with a few remaining days of life...

I live in the big city (L.A.) and there is no such thing as a 'reasonable' price on good inkjet printing of photographs. "Good', in my reasoning, means as good or better than I can do at home with my Epson 3880. I'd rather pay more and be in control, but I actually pay less AND I'm in control. It's never been better.

When our utility printer kicked the bucket last year we replaced it with an Epson Ecotank model. It does away with ink cartridges in favor of four ink wells. You buy bottles of ink and just pour it in when you need to. Epson claims an 80% savings on ink costs.
Haven't used it enough to say if that is accurate.
So far it works fairly well for routine printing in color, black and white is a challenge but that may be me. Not up to the local service bureau but OK for casual output.
Epson makes an 11" Ecotank model. The catch on these printers is that they are twice as expensive as similar cartridge types.

I have no quantitative analysis of ink pricing, etc., but I have always assumed that much of the progress in the technology and quality of inkjet printing is due in large part to the excess $$ brought in by ink.

The cost of research and testing for these machines must be pretty high.

I have no doubt that some profit is left over for their other needs...

And while I'm at it, I've had probably 8 or 10 Epson printers over the past 20 years and never have had a real clog. And lately I've left a 3880, a P-600, and a P-800 sitting unused for 4 - 8 months several times with no special treatment. No clogging problems. (One data point, granted.)

I sold my inkjet last year and haven't replaced it. Too expensive to maintain.
Now, I just put photos I like on my website.
Any time I do need / want a print, I use a lab.

P.S. My Epson P-600 was left for 8 months over the winter in Montana (dry climate, 5000 feet) last year. No clogs.

My 3880 is now a matt paper only printer a the photo black jet has failed mostly I guess to lack of regular use. I do like to make prints though and the promise is that they will outlast digital files, maybe. I await a reliable review of the new Epsons.

I ran a home colour and black and white darkroom for thirty years, processing all film up to 4" x 5" film and making prints up to 20" x 24" until I switched to digital in 2010. Digital is cheaper. I only recently purchased a large 44" Epson printer which cost me less than a good 4"x5" colour enlarger did 25 years ago. At home I can now make a 20" x 24" for less than CAD $5.25 (US $3.75) on luster paper or about CAD $10.50 (US $7.60) on baryta paper. This is less than the costs of darkroom prints on luster paper and much less than on a premium product like Fujiflex which was my colour printing medium of choice for many years. Not to mention all the accessories you needed in a darkroom from large sink to enlarger aids, trays, rollers, Jobo machines for precise film processing, etc. Darkroom equipment was expensive because it sold in much smaller numbers than computers and digital printers today. But even if you judge the equipment expenditure to be equivalent, digital prints made at home are cheaper than darkroom prints.

Well, isn't "home photography" pretty expensive compared to getting your family portraits done at Sears? Add up all the costs associated with a "good" camera, lighting gear, etc.

I don't think any of us do photography to save money, so why should printing be any different?

Printing with my P800 is significantly more expensive than getting prints from Costco, but I do it because I get significantly better prints than Costco can make -- and as good or better than my local custom lab can do. And the lab is not hardly cheap, either.

"From C to B" is a restatement of the old 80/20 rule.
You can get to 80% of perfection with 20% of the effort, money, time [pick one]
Its the remaining 20% that takes 80% of the resources.

This seems to be a good rule of thumb with almost anything from photo prints to household appliances to racing cars and on and on.
And for you Mike, shooting pool.

Love to see an A vs B comparo of one's best effort at home, vs one's best effort with CostCo.

CostCo has printer profiles for download online, as well as on-line upload and at-cost mailing of your prints. And some local shops have two different printers in house. Might even be able to get a local CostCo person interested in the challenge.

I live on the Atlantic coast of florida, so humidity issues are not a problem. I have had an Epson P800 since it came out and have not had one clog in all these years. I frequently leave for three months and return to a working printer. What I would recommend is Image Print. A wonderful RIP that will print very close to what you feed it and allow adjustments within the RIP. They have very good tutorials also. I am sure that, given time and money, I could work with a pro lab and get very good prints.

As to the ink ripoff I find it interesting that, the larger the printer, the cheaper the ink gets. The ink in a little desktop office printer is far more expensive per liter than for my P800. I look with envy at the ink prices for the huge Surecolor printers.

I do print a lot, usually at least 3 prints a day, and am very happy with the results.

Sending a file back to a photo lab for a new print because the first version wasn't perfect and paying out of pocket would still be cheaper than DIY. And you don't have to keep extra inks and papers, etc., around the house.

We do keep a simple printer at home for printing documents, etc., and the trick we use for saving a tiny bit of ink is to never turn it off and avoid the repeated unnecessary self-cleanings (or whatever it is that printers do to waste ink when first turned on).

Also, back when I was using a custom lab for black and white prints from film, the lab would ask for a sample print that I thought was really well done and apply a similar approach to the next print, which generally worked great.

I print a lot. Is it expensive? Probably. But I don't sweat the cost because it's all part of the total process. For me, there's no purpose in taking pictures if they don't get printed.

Among all the "technical" sides of photography, I find printing to be the hardest, blackest art. It's dead easy to make a mediocre inkjet print. It's incredibly hard to make an exceptional print.

For those who are striving, I highly recommend Jeff Schewe's book, The Digital Print. There's a man who knows of what he speaks. The Kindle version is available even during pandemics, and can be read using your web browser if you don't have a Kindle.

Regarding the cost of ink, yes, grrr. It's almost cheaper for me to throw my office printer in the garbage and buy a new one, as compared to buying a new set of cartridges. That's obscene.

If you want to save some money, Epson makes a line of four colour Ecotank printers that use bulk ink. Because they're designed for refilling, you don't have to mess with third-party carts if you want to use third-party inks. These won't cut it at your museum, but for casual home printing could be fine.

For black and white printing, my own solution to ink gouging is to make my own using Paul Roark's formulations. Exceptional results on all kinds of papers are possible (but you need an Epson printer that allows third-party cartridges). For around $200 USD I can fill each of my Epson 3880 carts 5.5 times and make prints on cotton rag with tones ranging from neutral-cool to warm.

Mike, I agree with you about the merits of DIY prints. My greatest photo satisfaction are coming from prints. This is what remains from shooting. I print typically once a week. My printer is a vintage Epson 3800; it has been repaired few years ago, for almost the cost of a new one. It works perfectly since.

I am still very fond of wet darkrooms and all the traditional tools, but since it is not possible for me to have on at this time, digital printing is a blessing. Also, it is much easier to redo a print later. It does not come free, but all things taken into account, not worse than a wet process. Also, a printer takes much less space than a sink.

We really do need a company that does refills with highest quality inks, but the printer companies try to defeat that with patented electronic controls that do nothing necessary except protect their right to gouge you on the ink price. I still think refills would be possible, but I'm not sure the market is large enough to go to the trouble -- home printing may be dying, and mostly because of the ink prices. A lot of photographers are gadget freaks, and would enjoy messing around with printers if it didn't cost an arm and a leg. Once you got a wet darkroom set up -- which you could pretty much do for the price of a camera -- each additional print really didn't cost much, so you could experiment. Experimenting with a current high-end printer can send you to the poor-house. I've got a Canon printer, not a great one, and at my skill level, and for my special purposes, taking the memory card to the local photo shop will get me results just as good and in the long run, cheaper. I won't replace the printer when it dies.

I bought an Epson printer back in ~2002 (Epson 2200) and had a blast doing my own prints. I printed many images and did a handful of shows in both local businesses and art galleries. But heads would clog if not used regularly and I went through a lot of ink trying to clean the heads.

I still have the printer but it's unlikely I'll ever use it again. My last set of prints (metal) were done by a west coast lab. Far better results than I ever got from the Epson.

"the conventional wisdom persists that making inkjet prints from digital files is "easy." All you do is "press a button."

This sounds like the standard cliche that you hear from the D crowd when they start their litany of why they gave up film and loved digital so much. Maybe a b+ is good enough. The printer companies certainly did well over the years.

After fighting epson for 20 years I finally got a canon printer with user replaceable heads. Now when a nozzle dies they just print around it and when enough of them die you just swap it out. Going on a year and have't done a single manual cleaning. I am in heaven. Prices are expensive for ink but still less than paying to have prints made. (at least for anything larger than 4x6)

I'm not going back to Epson. I've had 3 different pigment models, and they all gave me a lot more headaches than enjoyment. I now have a couple of Canon printers that don't, at their best, produce quite as good output as the Epsons, but they do produce output. On the same day. With few expletives.

As for digital printing vs. darkroom printing: the only downside to darkroom B&W printing (colour is a completely different thing) is that a dedicated darkroom makes all the difference, and I don't have one anymore. Now it's a hassle, but if I start setting up the stuff and get to it, I can produce a print that I'm happy with the same evening, and there's absolutely no guarantee that that will happen with digital printing. My enlarger is never clogged, and the mechanism I use to develop the paper never crumples it or smears it.

The pandemic unfortunately makes this hypothetical for now, but some of us had, and may have again, the option of communal printing labs, often at a photo or arts co-op, maker space, studio complex, school or community center.

In most cases, there's an up-front membership/facility fee, and then you book and pay for time. In return, maintenance, upkeep and upgrade chores are taken off your hands. Once you demonstrate minimum competence, you're left to your own methods and processes (within reason and house rules), and your own papers if you wish.

They run the gamut, but typical benefits are equipment and facilities (and therefore options) that would be unaffordable for most hobbyists and freelancers, techs on hand or on call, bulk rates on materials, and often classes, tutorials and critiques, opportunities to show, to network, to stretch, to teach, and a supportive community.

It's not for everyone, certainly, but for many, especially learners, the costs and benefits will compare favorably.

I had great hopes for the Epson Ecotank range of printers, which use refillable ink reservoirs for a much lower cost per print. But so far every review has said that the quality of photo prints is mediocre. Does anyone know if this is to do with the nature of the ink, or if Epson could in principle do better and just hasn't made it a priority?

Corporate bean counters love consumables, and have for years. It's a form of a "pay for use" model that keeps the revenue stream going. I'll bet Kodak's camera business was never a big money maker, but film certainly was.

I'm sure I've spent WAY too much for paper and ink over the years. But the fun of seeing a finished (?) print pop out of the printer has kept me going. Several printers (all Epson) and gallons of ink later, I've come to, for me, and interesting compromise.

I've begun making books of photos using the online service, Blurb. Making books instead of prints forces me to cull, edit, and edit some more before anything is put on paper. I did far less of that editing before printing at home. Since I almost never make prints for display, printing at home is becoming less and less necessary. And I enjoy the process of creating the book themes far more than just printing piles of prints at home.

I shoot artsy-fartsy landscapes. Sometimes I think that they're pretty good photographs and that I'd like to make a side business selling matted prints to the tourists up here. To do so I would need at least a printer like the P800 or P900 at minimum and one set of inks to learn the printer and another set to start selling prints up to 16x20.

BUT first I have to get the money for that printer and two sets of ink...

So i share online instead in threads like this: https://cameraderie.org/threads/the-april-2020-challenge-day-22.50629/post-377485

The time factor for using a commercial printer—Costco or others—applies in waiting time, especially if one uses a printer that has to ship or mail the prints back to you. That’s magnified when one has to make multiple versions to “get it right”—a final print could take weeks using a commercial printer. The other, unseen, element is that few of the photographers I know who print at home/business take the effort to be a printer. That is, they don’t refine the image based on a print and rely on what they see on-screen as the final image. When you’re printing, the only image that counts is the image on the paper. So, most of the photographers I know are satisfied with the one-button print aspect, whether they print locally or commercially. And that’s sad...

I was an early convert to digital because of the difficulties I was having dealing with labs for my prints. I was shooting color negatives and was interested in the way color shifts under different lighting, for example, how everything turns green deep in a forest. The labs, of course, would always correct for that green cast that I wanted to keep. With digital I could finally make the prints the way I wanted them.

A couple decades later I'm using an Epson 4900 that I've had since they came out. It's a constant struggle with head clogs. Epson replaced it 3 times under warranty because of clogs. It's long out of warranty now and repairs would cost more than a new printer, so I'm on my own. I've learned several tricks to fix clogs and have a program that fools the printer into thinking it's doing an initial ink charge. That has always fixed the most difficult clogs, though it uses a lot of ink.

I like making my own prints. I like that I can knock one out today if I want to. I like that I can keep trying and adjusting until I get just what I want. I do that with small paper and when I have what I'm looking for, I move on to larger paper. It's expensive, yes, but less expensive than I true custom lab and less frustrating going back and forth to get what I want because the lab doesn't quite understand.

The P900 has my attention. If my 4900 does finally give up the ghost, that's what will likely replace it...unless it lasts long enough for the next model to come out.

PS: A major factor in my choice of the 4900 instead of one of the lesser models was Ctein's analysis of ink costs that appeared here. The big cartridges are the way to go if you look at cost per print. It also helped that Adorama had a major sale on them just when I was about to buy, so the initial cost wasn't much more than the "cheaper" models. I didn't have to buy ink for years because every time Epson sent a replacement printer they had me remove the ink carts, and then the new (actually rebuilt) one would arrive with a new full set of ink.

The Epson R2880 did an excellent job for our intended use: printing my wife’s artwork for sale up to 13 X 19. Watercolor prints could not be distinguished from the originals if hung side-by-side. Clogging problems were few and infrequent. A simple color test sheet run on plain copy paper once a week was all that was needed to keep it happy. After she switched to an on-demand service which provided printing, shipping, and credit card transactions we sold it. Current owner has no complaint. My point is that experience may vary.

Your talk about the HP B9180 brings home memories. I documented my struggles with my B9180 here:

As you say: that printer could produce some really nice prints. When the planets was aligned just so, and the sun was shining on a moonless night, and tide was high. Otherwise: crap or worse!

I bought an Epson 3880 8 years ago, when the HP stopped working, and it has been trouble free printing forever after. Sits by my side now and produced some perfect prints for me yesterday. Never had problems with clogged heads or colour management.

I do print my own images, but not to save money, I do it for complete control and the satisfaction of striving for perfection and having control over the whole photographic process. My work with an images i done when I hold the print in my hands. And that will often take several tries to get it right in print after the image is looking great on screen. The process would be to time consuming if I had to send the image out for test prints.

Having had a bigger 8-inks pigment print before 2 office-like dye printers, I'd say one shouldn't dismiss too fast the 4- or 5-inks dye printers : permanence has evolved from laughable to (just) passable, and print quality is really not that far from a real printer (and maybe better on glossy, depending on tastes).
On the practicality front, you can nowadays buy good and relatively cheap dye inks in bulk to refill those tiny cartridges, which is, if not pleasant, not that complicated either.

I totally enjoy being able to print at home. I find the whole process from capture, to editing to printing fascinating, and although I'm hardly an expert, I have managed to get consistently decent prints from my Canon Pro 100. At least I think the prints are fine. I'm not sure what the pros would think. Yes, it is expensive, but I do enjoy it and I'm always looking to improve my print making skills.

Printing is an intrinsic part of the photographic process. For many of us, a photograph is not done until it is a print. In the Instagram and Facebook era, "screen" images have largely taken over but part of that is because there are just too many of them. Most, including many of mine should neither have been taken nor shown. Do folks remember what it cost to have a darkroom? First... one needed a room, then plumbing, then gear, enlarger, lenses, tanks, trays, Jobos, and on and on. That does not include the ongoing cost of chemicals and paper, and the staggering amounts of water to wash the prints to archival standards. Now one needs a computer, some software, a printer, and some paper and ink. It all fits in a relatively small space and can produce some striking images. Does anyone remember printing color in the darkroom? I do. My people photos were either always too yellow or too magenta. It took many iterations and even then it was usually awful. Cibachrome chemicals were so toxic that even long before the EPA, the bleach-fix had to be neutralized before going down the drain. Even the relative simplicity of black and white required many iterations of prints before one got it right and then, one had to spot each and every print, and repeatability was a joke.We live in an incredible era (ignoring Covid for this discussion) of photography. We have almost unbelievable cameras, almost magical processing software, and wonderful paper and printers. It used to be a pretty good challenge to make a decent black and white print in the darkroom; it took time, skill, patience that not everyone had. Now, almost anyone can make a decent print, even from a phone. Truly great work is still being done by masters like Charles Cramer and Jack Dykinga, but most of us do reasonably well for ourselves. Yes printing can be a pain, but...

I really like printing. To me photography is a print not a file on the computer or website. It's just not the same. However you are correct, it's way too expensive. I have a Canon Pixma Pro 1. A set of ink tanks costs $359. It's cheaper to print in the darkroom even if you factor in the cost of setting up the darkroom. Good inkjet paper is no less expensive than darkroom paper. The chemicals are the cheapest part. Once you buy three sets of ink tanks which don't last long if you are printing on 13 x 19 paper you have bought the printer. All that said, I print a lot and don't have a website for photos because I don't think photos look good on the internet. Leica M10 or a phone for the internet it really doesn't matter.

It's not only the ink that is expensive, but the prices of the so-called "fine art" papers are absolutely unreasonable, too. How come that even the cheaper "fine art" papers are an order of magnitude more expensive than comparable, but uncoated artist (e.g. water color) papers? This can't be explained with the ink absorbing coating, since coated office inkjet papers (Color Lok, e.g Clairefontaine ClairAlfa) are way cheaper than "fine art" papers, too.

Another issue I have with "fine art" papers is that I found most of the ICC profiles provided by the paper vendors to be unusable (too contrasty, too saturated, color casts). This can be fixed by having custom profiles made, but this is costly, too. I suspect that bad ICC profiles are the reason that many users are not satisfied with their prints. Please note that I'm not a pedant who checks his prints with a loupe - the difference between two prints made on the same paper, one with a custom profile and another with a vendor-supplied profile was immediately obvious even to my wife, who is not into photography.

Best, Thomas

Mike—CD sound quality today is virtually as perfect as promised; see… https://classicalcandor.blogspot.com/2020/01/on-cd-quality.html

The problem was primarily with D-to-A conversion, and the solution is now pretty standard.

I agree with Mike's point about reiterating and refining a print (and of course the print is never going to match what you see on screen), so I mostly view my printer as a way to make test prints. Once I have the file where I want it, I can send it to a professional for the final version. There are still going to be differences between the canon print and the professional, but I think (hope?) the gap is significantly smaller than the one between the screen and the professional print.

All that said, even that mediocre printer is capable of making prints that I'm not embarrassed to stick in a frame and put on my desk.

I have an inexpensive Canon printer (TS9020) that makes perfectly ok-ish prints and takes reasonably priced third party inks.

I must admit I find the comments from today and yesterday a bit alarming. I have been a lot luckier with my Epson R260 and 7800. But my desire to get a little more modern got a bit of cold water thrown on it by the comments.

I do print more than most commenters here, but I recently let my 7800 sit for almost three months and was a bit worried. But after doing the head and pad cleaning explained on a youtube video from InkJetMall I got a clean nozzle check. Lucky? Would I have done as well with a more modern printer?

I would love it if there were some information on the relative reliability of various printers.

I know anecdotally that the HP B9180 was a disaster and the Epson 7900 series was troublesome. But is there any data out there on the various makes and generations?

When I print a lot I print quite a lot more than your average reader, 29 liters of ink and 2.9 kilometers of paper through my 7800. And yes, I make money on this.Before that I did all my own printing in my own lab with fairly serious equipment, so I have done a lot of color printing. Mostly my own work, but a little for friends.

So do you or anyone know of a source of data on these beasts?

Mike, last year I upgraded my computer with a new I Mac and low and behold my printer, a Canon 9500, wouldn't work with the new computer and I could not get the firm wear update for the printer, it was too old. I went to my local camera store, and they had a Canon pro 100 on sale for $150 after the rebate. That is the cost of Ink. I bought it and lugged it upstairs to my work area and set it up. It only has 8 cartridges rather than 10. I was a bit concerned about that but bought it anyway. I have printed on it almost weekly since I purchased it. Mostly I print for my camera club generally only 13 x 19 size, and small hand prints for family. The copies are great, I am very pleased and since I bought it I have only filled the printer up twice with ink. I just ordered ink today and the total cost was $124. 00 without tax for a set of ink. Of all the photographic stuff I have purchased this past year or so, this has been the most useful purchase, and the one that has given me the most pleasure. Printing does not have to be expensive, but it needs to be done on a regular basis, say once ever week or so. I am a Fuji and Nikon user with cameras, but I love this printer. Canon does a very nice job.

Still using my Epson 3800 printer that I bought in 2009 printing black and white for an exhibition where I did both darkroom prints and from the epson.

Just printed, signed and framed a print last week and its going strong. Needs cleaning once in a while, other than that just fine. Price of inks - high yes but the chemical and paper costs in the darkroom where probably higher.

I print from Photoshop using Ctein’s «null profile» setup described here a long time ago with very good results. I basically get what I see on the screen this way - both for colour and black and white. I mainly print on Canson matte papers - I love not have the reflections and live well with reduced DMax.

At the time I bought it the difference in cost between the 3800 and the smaller model was equal to the included ink. I would not buy anything with small cartrigdes as the price per ml increases dramatically.

The ink cost per print square inch drops significantly as you go to larger printers, with printers like the P800 (80ml cartridges) being less expensive per print square inch than smaller printers using even smaller cartridges.

As you move up to a larger printer like the 24" roll printers using 150/350/700 ml cartridges, the cost drops further.

My concern about the new P800 is the smaller cartridge size, which suggests that ink will be more expensive per square inch than the P800.

It seems to be a vicious cycle. As users print less, costs go up, further deterring more casual printing, or even printing at all.

Three points/opinions:

1. Photography is my hobby. I pour a lot of money into it, besides my time and attention. So, printing costs money. So what? It's what I want to do. Were I a golfer, would I balk at greens fees? Would I farm out my swings to a contract golfer who likely could turn in a better scorecard than I could? I think not.

2. I have an Epson P600. I found that if I perform a nozzle check and a test print on plain copy paper once a week, no clogs. If I let the machine sit unused for a year, clogs aplenty. Heck, if I sat unused for a year, I'd get pretty clogged up too.

3. A darkroom is magic, but also a massive pain in the butt. I think people forget about the dirty side. The prep work, mental and physical. The setups. The test strips. Dodging and burning. Develop, stop, fix, ugh!, repeat. Finally, something decent for hours of futzing around. Break down the setup, clean it all up, put things away for the next time. Waddaya know, it's 3 AM!

I’ve been using an Epson P800 and Piezography DN inks to print digital negatives to print on Adox Lupex, a silver chloride contact printing paper. It’s reverse Panglossian - the worst combination of all possible worlds.


I'm also in Oz, and did the numbers on the cost of P800 vs running a darkroom. Even with punitive ink prices, it's a no-brainer for the inkjet once the cost of the space of even the smallest dedicated room is taken into account. But then, for me, photography is all about creating prints for exhibition (whether private or public). If I'm not shooting to print, I lose interest quickly; so the printing process is an integral cost, whichever way I cut it.

I have a P800. I rarely print anymore. Therefore, I have the Qimage app scheduled to print a weekly nozzle print. I no longer worry about clogs and rarely have to do a cleaning cycle.

Photography with out printing on fine paper is like wine tasting without wine.

In late 2003, after I began to photograph digitally, I bought an HP7960 (I think). It made absolutely gorgeous prints, and I think may have been the one another commenter referred to as making beautiful black-and-whites. Unfortunately, maximum print size was only 8.5x11. I used it for more than a dozen years before it became unreliable.

I’ve never really used a true photo printer at home (except for one of the Kodaks you mentioned,) but knowing some of the intricacies and upfront investment costs, I can’t be bothered. I have a local printer who is very good - you’ve seen one of his prints, Mike. When I had a darkroom I enjoyed making my own prints because I didn’t have local access to a really good printer, so it seemed a necessity for me to hone my craft. And my recollection, which could easily be influenced by nostalgia, was that I could afford it even though my income was not as great as digital printing. Granted the costs of optical printing has risen dramatically and the costs may have tilted in favour of digital - I don’t know.

But the bottom line is that, for me, I’m much better with the controls I learned to use in the analog/optical realm than the digital. So I suspect there may be quite a few others who feel the same.

INK free to good home - Epson R2400

I have the following 2011 stock for anyone with an Epson R2400 printer free to good home: 1 x Light Magenta, 1 x Magenta, 1 x Cyan, 1 x Light Black, 1 x Light Light Black, 1 x Photo Black 3 x Matte Black (1 opened but tape still shut on ink). All purchased new from Epson Australia. First in best dressed. Please email mybearman.ink@gmail with only the words Free Ink in the subject line, and with only your full name and postal address in the body of the message. I will bear postal costs but take no responsibility for any import duties, taxes etc. at your end. Goods will be uninsured and marked NCV.

I use my Epson 3800 for mostly small prints, color and B&W. Once in a while, I do larger sizes. But I found to using it on an on-going basis, standardizing the size of my prints, paper and process, keeps the costs down and the printer happy. It also helps that when one ink is really low, I replace that one, rather than a whole set, to spread out the cost.

I certainly share the frustrations that others have expressed about inkjet printing, and the problem of clogs in particular.

I live in a relatively dry climate, and I have been guilty of not running the printer often enough. But, I have always been able to clear the clogs. Here is a link that describes a few escalating approaches:
I have used the paper-towel method a few times, and it has worked. But, sometimes it took a few soaks over the period of a few days.

For this, and for use in refillable cartridges, I have made a cleaning solution containing (I think) 20% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and 1% Kodak PhotoFlo (for those who remember!), diluted in distilled water. If you are don't happen to have a bottle of PhotoFlo handy, I have seen dishwashing liquid detergent suggested; or no detergent at all may be fine.

As to the costs of printing, here is what I tell myself: I find it truly amazing that devices capable of such high precision can be manufactured at a cost that makes them available to consumers. I don't have any inside knowledge of the economics of the printers and the inks, but it seems pretty obvious that there is a big markup on the ink. An alternative model would be that the manufacturers increase the price of the printer and lower that of the inks, and Epson seems to have done that to an extent with its EcoTank models. But, given the propensity of the printers to clog and otherwise fail, would you really be happier with that solution? The way things are, there is some rough correlation between the amount that you use a printer and the total amount that you pay for it.

But, it's completely different from the old darkroom model, where you spent a sizable sum for a high quality enlarger, and you could expect it to last a lifetime or two. But, you also have to have a stock of paper, and that goes bad with time, too!

In the end, yes it is worth it to me. But, that does require not thinking about just the supply costs for each print.


Printer makers have to make money on slow moving professional items, otherwise you will not have any pro printers at all. The general marketing technique for any asset which requires a steady use of consumables, for the past 120+ years,ever since King C. Gillette first thought about it, is to sell the main asset at cost (or below) and overprice the consumables for the profits. It has been brilliantly used by Xerox, and the entire photocopy industry for decades now. If you want pigment ink at a reasonable cost, you must be willing to pay three times the current price for a printer. There is really no free lunch. Which do you prefer?

From my perspective, printing is part and parcel with the art. Does, did, Ctein whinge on about cost and complexity of dye transfer? No, he reveled in it. For any real control of your output (unless one considers screen images as output) prints must be made. Learning to do it well, yourself, allows full expression by the artist. Second best is having a personal relationship with a fine art printer who knows what he/she’s doing and who literally sits down with you and includes the photographer in each decision: paper, ink set, soft proof, rendering intent, layout, hard proof, correction, final approval.

Sure, “good enough” is “good enough” but that’s a lousy way for an artist to live.

I'm coming to the conclusion - after having several high end inkjet printers die on me - that the best printing solution may be photo books. Both from a satisfaction viewpoint and also for longevity. I'm about to dip my toes into that pool.

Unless you're selling prints, sooner or later everyone runs out of wall space. Archive boxes and albums full of prints rarely get looked at. Books force you to think carefully about selections and sequencing, and are more likely to be retained after you've gone. Most boxes of negatives or old hard drives end up in a dumpster.

The joy of the [B&W] darkroom... I can make a print as black as I want and it doesn't cost me extra! I hate inkjet printers (the printers not the output) so much I've got a laser printer for home duties.

After much deliberation and waiting for a long time for the prices to drop (which they never did) I bought an Epson P800 last December. I cannot adequately describe the immediate happiness I get from producing prints. I did print using labs in the past, but the process has been frustrating, with much waiting and often the crushing feeling of defeat when I got a print where I made some very obvious error. Also, I was reminded of the prices I was paying every time I placed an order, and that hurt. Having a printer at home allows me to forget about that at least from time to time. And while agree that producing wall worthy prints is challenging, I already printed close to three hundred small prints of this and that that I have been handing out to friends. And finally, I am truly amazed how differently photographs exist as prints to their electronic version. I guess it's like the old days, where we had a monthly film-and-processing budget.

In UK price for P900 ink is £38 each which is about $47 and holds 50ml (=94cents/ml) each as compared to the P700 cartridge which holds 26ml and is £20 =$24.50 (=94 cents /ml).

Surely my biggest photographic fail too !
I acquired that same HP B9180 after being inspired by ... T.O.P. :-) and some beautiful prints at photokina.

Roughly the same trauma as you. The daily ink cleaning routine associated with the imaginary $ counter, the bloody complex double driver issue, the tiny trails, the calibration... and sometimes a beautiful print.

The funny thing is that I eventually decided it was time to part from it, nobody would even take it *for free* and I wasn't even allowed to dispose of it at my local waste disposal facility ("send it back to the manufacturer", I was told). Every now and then, Epson comes with a product annoucement, I'm tempted for a second then it doesn't last long before I get PTSD.

Maybe I'm just lucky but head clogs have never been a problem with my R2880. I've had it about ten years, and after the first year, for good reasons, it had to be packed back in its box and stored in my shed for two years. When I put it back into service I expected trouble, but it worked first time. It's kept working, despite very infrequent use. Maybe it's because I leave it powered on at all times.

I like to print because I really enjoy seeing a nice screen image go down on paper. I frame a few but I'm no good at mat cutting and there's no service around here.

As I said, I bought the printer about 10 years ago and things didn't seem quite so expensive then. But I've been retired for 20 years and money's tighter now.

I really should try a commercial printing service. There's one 15 mins away. It's just that it wouldn't feel like my work.

I'm a home printer and have to print my own photos. I'm doing a degree course and it's part of the process. However, there's so much trial and error involved even though I have a decent IPS monitor and a calibrator and use printer profiles. It's an expensive business perfecting your craft particularly with Canon's tiny cartridges on the Pro 10. So I've gone down the refillable route. I can practice and practice with cheaper third party inks and save my Canon cartridges for the specialjobs. On printing I highly recommend Jose Rodriguez's YouTube channel and the PrinterKnowledge website. Sites like these remind me how good the Internet is in our lives.
Always look on the bright side of life - even in lockdown!

I don't really care about small prints, but I get a few big (2'x3' or bigger) prints made, so I could never do this at home.

Can we discuss services for big prints? Costco was mentioned, and I get B+ or A- quality from a local mass-market service.

I made my own B+ quality beer many years ago, but nowdays I can buy A+ mass-market hoppy ale way cheaper.

I have a P600 on which I print all “art” shots. It costs me around $500 per year in ink and paper. I honestly don’t find it expensive or hard to do. Process the picture in LR and hit the print button. If the printer clogs, which it will occasionally do when not used for several weeks, just tell it to clean itself.

I like prints, so I print.

I print (inkjet) because for me it's as much a part of the creative process of image-making as pressing the shutter button.

So all the printers, Epson or Canon are great and or are all crap.
Ink is expensive, paper also. But all this is known. Lets go down a new rabbit hole. Canon? Epson? Best for B&W printing?

No fancy RIPSs or other add on stuff. Out of the box with OE ink/dye/pigments

Are pigment inks more prone to clogs than dye based inks?

I am one member of a particular subset of inkjet printer users who use them to generate either a negative or positive for doing alternative process printing. For us, these printers do not represent the final step on the way to making a good print, but rather a frustrating intermediary. For those using printers for this purpose, these printers can be expensive, unpredictable, troublesome, and unfortunately, also necessary impediments to producing the prints we will make.

The things I prize are durability and economy of operation over just about every other factor. I have owned an embarrassing number of these printers over the years, and one trend I have noticed is that the build quality seems to be getting worse. My workhorse printer is a wide format Epson I bought in 2007. It is still going strong with only a reasonable amount of attention from me. The 3 subsequent models of this same printer line have been bedeviled by problems. In fact, I have a neighbor who has been through 2 printers that are subsequent generations of the 7800 that he bought after mine had reached 6 years of use! Maybe I have just been lucky, but my cynical side suspects that manufacturers are no longer interested in making products that are durable. I have been through 3 desktop photo printers in the the same time period that I have owned the 7800, and they all end up non-functional after a while.

I remember 30 years ago that spending money a good enlarger was deemed to be a solid lifetime investment. I'm doubtful manufacturers would have sold many if purchasers had been told that they probably would not work well after six years. I never had an enlarger with a permanently clogged head!

Depending on how you look at it printing is probably costly, but then again, so is Starbucks. Photography is a hobby for me and like all other hobbies/interests, it costs. Cars, boats,travel, booze, cigars, pool - you name it, it all adds up. If you want a print and like doing it, when you want it, then you have to pay some price for it. Depends on what you want. I always find it amusing that some guy with a $15,000 Leica carries on about the cost of a camera bag.

I started off in a dark room back in high school in the sixties and had one in every place I lived for a number of years until my family got so big that we really needed that second bathroom. I eventually sold it all off and went into digital kicking and screaming in the early 2000s. I went many years without a printer and found digital images viewed on screens to be increasingly unsatisfying. I went back into printing about 10 years ago and have never look back. For me, there is something so inherently satisfying about having an idea, successfully capturing it with my camera, processing the file, printing it, cutting the mat and putting it into a frame, sometimes during the course of only one day. I just love holding the print in my hand. I also have a small home gallery that is always in a state of flux and change so I do have a forum for my work that ranges from greeting cards to large prints. Sometimes I even sell something, but for me photography is about the print and about the conversations with people who come in off the street. Well, if we ever get back to that way of life again. Bottom line is I would not want to be a photographer without the ability to follow through with printing the image. And yes, it is hard, and yes, it is expensive.

Printers are an instrument of psychological torture. Printed photographs are a fabulous byproduct of this infernal instrument.

People keep mentioning the cost of buying a set of inks. But you don't really run out of all the colors at one time. Usually it's one or two that start getting low before the others, depending on what you print. I never buy a complete set. I watch what's getting low and order it from any of several sources depending on price and stock. Spending $28 to $35 at a time is a lot easier to handle than $250 and up.

I used to print quite a lot -- at one time, I was churning through $250+ of paper and ink each month! -- but that is no longer the case.

Not so much because I can no longer afford to spend that much money on my hobbies (which, sadly, is true) but because I have run out room to store any more prints.

At last count, there were more than 1,100 prints stored in boxes underneath my bed, another seven boxes of large prints stacked against the wall / hidden behind a chair in the family room, and my hall closet has another 6-700-ish medium-size prints stored inside yet more boxes.

I'm curious about what those who still make prints -- at home or by others elsewhere -- actually do with them.


I tried selling them, without much success, and even giving them away has proved to be surprisingly difficult.

In the end, my only option was to store them for now and wait for fame to find me -- yeah, right -- and as you might expect, I'm not optimistic about that ever happening, hence the reason I stopped adding any more prints to the pile / eventual bonfire.

This is only a vague thought/suggestion, as I've never tried it myself, but have you ever thought of/tried the digital negative > darkroom route? I don't know if this would help in any way at all, as it still involves a printer stage, but... I'll just leave this [purely as an example] link here:


But how does your thought process regarding high-end inkjet printing at home compare with the darkroom days? You could maybe make the same quality and monetary case? Looking on Digital Silver Imaging for example, they charge $16 for an 8x10 and $31 for 11x14. That's probably representative for "custom" lab giclee/inkjet printing at this point.

If one WANTS to do inkjet printing at home and develops a level of expertise that satisfies them, they are certainly able to print more efficiently at home than paying a custom lab. I'm guessing my Epson prints on my 3880 on MOAB paper might be costing me $2.50 for an 8x10?

You could certainly send in your files to Costco and get good RC prints for much cheaper - $1.99 and $3.99 respectively. My guess is that if you are really into printing yourself, the costco prints are not going to get your juices flowing?

My question is - hasn't this always been the same dynamic? In 1985, what did it cost you to order a custom 8x10 bw print at a pro lab? What did it cost you to do in your home darkroom with quality equipment if you had the expertise? I'm guessing the price dynamic is similar.

I've only ever paid for one digital picture to be printed and they turned a nice sunny day picture into one that looked like it'd been taken through a sock. So that was that and I never went back.

I try not to worry about the cost of home printing but I don't trust my Epson so I always do a thumbnail sized print before committing an A4 never mind an A3.

The big advantages for me are being in more control over the end result and being able to have a print in my hand within minutes of turning the printer on.

Come on.
I love my printer. You can print gorgeous print in both bw and color. And the cost for each print is relatively low. And you can print big if you want to. Well I don't have a printer right now, but I had an Epson 3800 for many years. And I'll probably get The new 13 inch from Epson.

In the old days, you had to dedicate an entire room. Rooms doesn't come cheap where I'm from. Then you had to buy a truckload of big and crazy expensive equipment. And you had to spend a good portion of your life isolated in this dark and stinking room. And if you wanted to do color, you had to multiply the cost and time spend by an unknown amount. And who had the setup to do A2 size print or bigger?

No, I would say the printer are dirt cheap, they are easy to use, and the running cost is probably less than a darkroom. You dont have spend hours and days in dark solitude, and health and safety issues are a bit more maneagble. If you use the printer every few days it'll probably run like a clock. If you don't, you may have some clogging issues. But if you did't use the darkroom that often, you also had to get rid of expired chemical too. And taking about chemicals. Where do you dispose of them? And why on earth does people always compare the price of ink with milk or something like that. It may be that the real cost of ink is very low, but if count it in liters, they don't sell much of it. Even if the price was lower, they still wouldn't sell much. And the fact that ink is used to unclog the heads. What should they use instead? I can't imagine any other solution that would cost less in total.

That was a Long rant.

A great scene about printers from a great movie:

To print or not to print that is the question. I advocate printing. It is the proper final state for a photograph. It is not that hard. Calibrate your monitor to the light in your room, learn about ink-jet-photo papers, and don't buy a pigment printer. I hear this from all my photography colleagues. I hear from my friends who all own Epson printers that the newer printers don't clog as much. Friends have gone on vacations for weeks and came home and printed images with no problems. Myself? I have a Canon Pro 100, a 13x19 dye ink printer. I have had it for years, never had a clogging problem. I have shown my work in many venues, but I have a rule, if my work is for sale, I get a pigment print made by a good local printer and it is usually larger than 13X19. Printing pictures is an important step in actualizing an image. Printing takes your photography practice to a new level. I doesn't have to be avoided.

The big divide in amateur photographers was those who did their own darkroom work, vs. those who didn't. If you didn't, you weren't getting the best out of your shots. (For professionals, custom printers were possible; my impression was that even paying "exhibition-quality" rates at a pro lab, 5x or so what a "normal" print cost didn't get you anything like what a "real" custom printer did.)

The successive approximations to get the print "right" simply aren't possible working through a normal lab, and it showed in the results.

I think that's still true. (You can come close to getting it right on-screen with modern color-managed workflows, but there's really always some fine-tuning at the end.)

And -- printing paper was pretty expensive, particularly if you correct for inflation. And color materials were a LOT more expensive than B&W.

I had an Epson R2400 at a local, small university where I taught Photo 1 and 2 after a long day of shooting news pix for newspapers. Color prints were always a challenge. No matter how I calibrated my monitor, my students and I aways had to use "Kentucky windage" to get an acceptable print. B&W photos were gorgeous, however. I nearly wept the first time I made a B&W print on Canson barytra paper. It was as good as any I'd printed in the darkroom with 40 years of darkroom skills.
Alas, the university rebuilt their Mac lab and a local camera store donated 2 Canon printers. They never worked right and the store refused to send anyone out to repair/instruct us about the Canons.
The U was going to junk the Epson that I had used. I asked and they gave it to me, complete with the 4 sets of ink I had ordered. I got another 3 years out of it, but eventually it died.
I've had decent results from Costco, using their printer profiles. I still have to send them a color file that looks slightly cool and light, but it works. B&W is a problem. Printed on color paper, (Fuji, I believe.) there is always a hint of magenta in the highlights and shadows, that I can't seem to filter out.
Every photographer I know who uses an online printing service has similar issues.
I suspect that I'll have to take a look at the new Epsons and see what their B&W output looks like. B&W will always be my first love.
It should not be this difficult.

What a great discussion. A few thoughts:

I took the Alan Ross Silver-Only workshop in Yosemite last October. Fantastic. I fell in love with analog printing once again and decided to build a darkroom. Until the buzz wore off. Now I just. don't. know.

On that note, many folks including Phil Penman and even Peter Turnley are having print labs burn silver gelatin prints from digital files. If Peter Turnley is turning from enlargers, that's a nail in the coffin you cannot ignore. Then again, maybe it's just for his digital Monochrom images.

I read a great description contrasting inkjet vs silver gelatin prints: Silver prints look like the image is in the paper. Inkjet prints look like the image is sitting on top of the paper. I couldn't agree more and if someone has a way to bridge this with inkjet BW prints, I'm all ears.

Finally, when color is involved - Abso-friggin-lutely print digitally.

I'm quite confused by the things I'm reading here. My experience is nothing like what most people are suggesting and I simply cannot see why you would prefer sending your prints out instead of doing them youself, unless you go the CostCo route to get maximum cheapness.
I had an Epson SP-2100 for about ten years and made a lot of prints (which I sell). It gave me almost no trouble at all. A handful of clogs which cleared easily with a head clean. Whether used regularly, or left idle for months. It wasn't too difficult to get going when I first bought it and once set up it is literally a case of press the button and print. I now have an Epson SC-P600 and its even easier. With the 2100 I used custom made paper profiles but with the P600 the canned profiles are as far as I can see perfect.
It seems to be that all the skill and artistic interpretation is NOT in the printing stage, but in the editing/processing stage. Whether the final result is just on screen or a print, it's the same - you edit/process the file until it looks like you want it on your calibrated monitor. That's the reference - the image on the monitor. You then press the button to print and assuming your system is set up well it should come out on the print pretty much like it looks on the monitor, albeit with a little less contrast and the paper white might make a difference. If you send it out to a pro lab you are expecting the print to come back looking just the way it does on the monitor.
I honestly can't see what skill the pro-print labs put into the matter apart from setting up their printer to work. You send them a finished file, probably a JPG, that you have edited yourself. The file looks the way you want it. They receive the file and press a button to send it to the printer. They don't manipulate the file in any significant way, they just press the button.
Yes, buying a good inkjet printer is expensive (about £600 for my latest Epson SC-P600). Yes it hurts every time you have to buy a load of ink and paper. Yes it costs money for every print but the satisfaction is easily worth it (for me).

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