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Sunday, 26 April 2020


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@Will Rabinovich, ‘a small test shot’: Right, that’s one of the miracles of digital printing, a small test print has exactly the same density, contrast, colour etc. as the later larger print, very handy and quite unlike small test prints from the wet darkroom, as the light intensity on the paper changes with the distance paper - enlarger.

I think this has been a great series of posts, it really does explain at least some of the reasons people don't print their work when they would otherwise like to. I've made several comments, and hope I haven't discouraged anyone. That was not my intent.
Nor was it my intent to say everyone SHOULD print, that is a personal decision.
For myself, I really want to hold a finished print in my hands. I want a physical object that represents both my subjective vision, and 'The best work I am capable of doing" -no excuses.
Here are a few realities /suggestions based on my experience:
>Good printing is not cheap in terms of time or money. Photography is generally not an inexpensive avocation if you aim to do it at a high level
> Read Bruce Fraser, Jeff Schewe, & Mac Holbert
> Develop a calibrated and profiled color workflow
> be careful of overly bright, glossy displays, they look great, but are not ideal tools for a digital printing work flow (although they certainly can work if you are mindful of their biases)
> have a dedicated print viewing station (just like the darkroom) -it doesn't have to be an expensive viewing booth (I use 4 Solux D50 track light fixtures to illuminate part of a Munsell gray wall to the appropriate brightness.
>your viewing illumination should match the color viewing profile in the paper profile you use.
>If you can, invest in Color Byte's Image print RIP - it completely eliminates Epson's drivers, controls the printer, does layout, and scales and interpolates image files if necessary. All paper profiles are free, and every profile is available with two choices of viewing illumination.
> Lacking that, standardize on one paper (at least for a while) and for an Epson printer I would use one of their papers and profiles.
>Cover the printer when not in use (I use a $0.99 'space blanket) under which I place a glass of water with a kitchen sponge in it. ( local humidity) In winter in the Northeast I use a cheap humidifier to keep humidity above 45%
>Prepare your print files as 16b TIFFS, and prepare a bunch so that in weeks when you do not need an immediate print you just print one of those.
>Epson's Professional wide format printers use their best ink set, and use 200ml or larger cartridges, which are far more economical as long as you USE the printer. (I currently use the P5000)
>When you buy the printer, buy a full set of replacement ink, then order one at a time as cartridges run out.
> Roll paper and image Print's layout function makes printing any size up to the capacity of the printer easy and convenient.
>since doing all this, my first print matches my intentions 90+% of the time. I may still tweak it after living with it on the viewing wall, but never get an unacceptable print.
I know it seems like a lot of steps, but it is not unlike trying to describe any activity which you have worked to understand and arrived at a personal workflow.
The Quality available from Epson's best Printers and Ink Sets is simply astonishing to me. I am a Canon User and CPS Member, each year I go to some canon function where they offer a free print from any of their printers. They are also very good, but I have yet to get one that matches the quality I get from EPSON. It could be the paper or that ir might need a slightly different print file, but for my money Epson seems to win the printing battle.
I guess what I am saying, is any skill based endeavor has a learning curve and a set of best practices involved. Once you get those down, the process simply works.
The process is not hard -- Dye Transfer is Hard --- Printing on modern ink jet pigment printers simply requires attention to certain details.
It , for me at least is SO worth it.

And to further Will’s last point, it’s wonderful that there are still suppliers for mats, mat cutters, glass and framing supplies, etc, for those of us that not only print at home, but enjoy completing the job. With bulk glass purchase from the distributor, I can mat and frame a print, all costs included, for under $30, that would cost over $200 at the local frame shop (the museum glass alone might cost that or more). But I do it as much for the creative control and satisfaction as for any cost savings; to know that a framed and displayed print (on my wall or a customer’s) resulted from my efforts from beginning to end. To each his/her own.

The reader comments have been really helpful to me, a novice for printing, and semi-retired hobbyist for photo-taking.

I purchased a Canon Pixma Pro 100 about 3 years ago, a result of reading TOP, and other discussion here on printing. It was a good deal at B&H, after the rebate it was $130 and B&H included a $50 box of photo paper. What to lose? (other than my mind, haha).

I took some advice found here at TOP, and bought a Spyder Pro to calibrate my monitor. I settled on one paper (Red River Ultra Satin Pro 4.0 with the Red River ICC Profile) and embarked on a journey of a strange combination of fun and frustration.

The printer has been a very good investment overall, it has improved my photography, such as it is (i.e. hobbyist). As others have mentioned, and I will agree, it is very problematic to match a print to the screen, a back lit screen compared to a print is never going to match up exactly right, the print dependent on whatever light shines on it and all that. But I've figured out how to get close (i.e. I have to brighten the image in software), and the colors match.

Anyway, I've learned a lot. But I won't buy a more expensive printer and will roll with the Canon 100. Not sure what I will do when it expires. I print on 8.5x11 and 11x14 paper only. If I ever need something bigger, I'll send out to Bay Photo Lab, they're really good. Or maybe try a lab locally, if I can find one.

It was nice seeing other readers have a positive opinion of the Canon 100. It seems a good compromise overall, inexpensive, and easy to print "proofs" before sending out to a lab for final copy.

I wasn't going to post anything but all the negative comments about home printing have goaded me into action.

I was a good darkroom printer. I got my associateship of the RPS with a panel of 'wet' prints.
Then I went digital.

In the UK we still have a healthy number of amateur print exhibitions, many international.I print around 40cm wide for those and up to A2 for various walls. I would say that if you only make the very occasional print then buying a high end printer probably does not make sense.

Please don't base your judgement on experiences with old Epsons. I had a 1200, 2200, 2400. They all had their problems. The latest generation are a different breed entirely. For three years now I have owned a P800. I can hardly remember the last time I experienced a head clog. I have left the printer for two weeks and it does not clog. Very occasionally I will get one when I swop the black inks, but it never takes more than one cleaning cycle to clear it. Not only that but the printer has never misfed the paper.You have to spend a lot of money to get a professional hand made print that will better a P800 one. With the earlier models,a large part of the problems that I had were caused by using third party ink systems. I would advise very strongly not to go down that route. If you do you will get clogs and other problems, your warranty will be void and don't expect any help from Epson. Make sure that your monitor is properly calibrated.I am afraid you will have to buy a clorimeter to do this, Spider or X-Rite. Then learn to use the printer. it is much easier than learning to do wet printing. Start with Epson papers and let the printer manage the colour. Then, when you go to other papers make sure to download the relevant profile and know how to use it. You will find that there will still be differences between the screen and the print but once you know what they are you can save a preset to use on the same paper. The soft proofing in Lightroom helps.
I print an A4 proof first, stick it on the wall and live with it for at least a day. I will often see some aspect that can be improved before I make the big one. Why I don't see that on the screen I can't say but I know other photographers that have the same experience.

Your prints will be better than Costco's. If they are not you are doing something wrong. You can start with a Prophoto or Adobe RGB file. All the cheaper commercial printers only work from srgb files. This means that in some cases your colour will be better, especially saturated reds. You will have the possibility of tweaking the result as you go and the pleasure of and convenience of not having to wait days to see the result. Also you will have a greater range of papers to choose for each image.

Finally, were darkroom prints cheaper? Certainly not! Sometimes, when complex dodging and burning was needed, I went through as many as five or even ten prints before I got what I wanted. With the P800 I usually only have to make one proof and sometimes none. All that wastage was with black and white. The paper is just as expensive as inkjet paper and then you have to factor in film and chemicals. Colour printing? I tried Cibachrome (later called Ilfochrome) for printing from slides and other systems for colour negatives and nearly bankrupted myself before I gave it up. How easy colour is now, and with the new P700 and P800 you don't have to swap the black inks over. I am sure Canon printers are just as good but I don't have any experience with those.

I forgot to add that with the P800, and so presumably with the new printers, if an ink runs out part way through printing you can replace the cartidge and the printer will resume printing. There will be no evidence on the print!

Just when I was doing so well managing my blood pressure. Digital printing and printer manufacturers are a raw nerve ending for me - a lot of money and effort just so I could keep poking myself in the eye. I ended up building a darkroom and moving to film (I shoot black and white only)

Having said that, I was hoping to try some salt prints and kallitypes but to print larger than 4x5 I need to produce digital negatives and once again I'm looking at Jon Cone's piezography inkset on Epson printers.

Epson doesn't play well with others and my first experience wasn't great but maybe this will be different.

I love to print my own photographs,(having bought a refurbished canon 9000 II for less than the cost of the ink in it) the effort to get the print right compares with that to 'optimise' the image on screen (I use Affinity. I like Picture Window, and I usually print with Qimage). Ink is so expensive but I've been pleased with the cheap stuff from E-Bay or Amazon - it has worked better than I would have hoped. Good paper is hard to get at a good price (in the UK). Is there any software that makes the digital equivalent of a test strip to save the cost of trial and error?

I'm coming into this conversation late but I do have something to say.

I haven't read all the comments so I don't know if my argument has been brought up before. But here it goes.

I have only three color printers. The first was the Epson R1900 and that was a terrific printer. It had all the pluses and minuses of more expensive Epson printers but for far less cost. I used that printer for 10 years. It finally started overflowing the ink well and I had to get rid of it.

The second and third is the Epson P600. The first one ended up with a clogged print head and was replaced by Epson. The second one is working just fine and I use it on a regular basics.

My problems with printing has never been with the printer but with the Print module in Lightroom.

I'm not going to cover ALL the problems I have had with that dam module but they can drive me straight to the local bar.

But one constant problem I have had with LR is where it actually holds ALL the Print Templates. Especially the User templates. I can find some of the user templates but never ALL of them. That means I can never get all my Printer Templates backed up.

I could go on and on about the LR Print module but just thinking about all the problems I have had with that module gives me a great desire for another beer.

And with the temperature in Palm Springs exceeding 100 a beer sounds just about right.

To watch a black-and-white image appearing in the developing tray was to experience magic, pure magic. From the first time I set foot in a darkroom I never grew tired of it.

Seeing a 30" panorama print roll out of my Epson P800 gives me the same thrill. Every time.

For me practicality and good sense don't enter into it; this is love.

I've been using a Canon Pro-100 printer for just over six years. Canon ink, Canon Pro Luster paper, usually 13x19. Box of 50 sheets cost about $50, uses eight ink carts for about $125 total. It has never clogged even when I have gone several months without printing. Had planned to move up to a more expensive printer but can't see the point. I'm very happy with what I get from the set-up I'm using.

Getting a good print is a learning curve, no doubt. I've read everything I can find to understand it and can't explain back to anyone. I use Photoshop. I've tried letting the printer handle colors and then Photoshop to handle them. I've stayed with Photoshop. Calibrated monitor is brighter than a printer will print so I need to adjust the image on the screen to be brighter by 20 or more than the screen. Experiment from there. Most of the time I can get a very good looking print, to the point I sell them in galleries. But to be honest there are images I have never been able to print to my satisfaction.
Black and white is not such a problem for me. I really enjoy having prints. Long live prints!

Love this discussion, and I'm curious about why there is no mention about the significance of presentation ? I've been printing, non-commercial, for about 10 years (PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II, then Pro-100, then Epson P800). Mastering all the components for an effective printing workflow was a steep learning curve.

The print is not done after it rolls out of the printer. The effort to present it, while not as significant as the printing, is quite substantial. Canvas wrap ? Gatorbaord backing ? Matted and framed ? I have many more options to weigh, because just giving someone a print can be a white elephant gift.

Your financial considerations and the post of Ilkka (always enjoy his posts) motivated me to present my thoughts. On one side, financial considerations seem to be of great importance, on the other side the technical reliability.
Technical realiability:
I use Epson 3880 since a couple of years and experienced no cloggings etc, even although my travels can easily take a month or two.
Puchase price of a printer is one time expenditure only, so the price difference to a cheaper printer is from my point of view less importance than big ink cartridges. In the long run at least.
Where I live to let files for print is either of very bad quality or very expensive (E.g. A3 Swiss Francs 50, if "more" (=?) postprocessing is needed, 100/hour additionally). Without any postprocessing it is the cost of one cartridge of ink.
Collateral to financials:
How could I describe to the printer (if I see him and not only a clerk) what I exactly want without a print to show him?
How reliable would be to prepare and postprocess the files at home "on screen"?
What paper would do for this particular image? Let's try matte for another 50?

I think if one is trying to achieve some degree of mastery in photography, own printer is a must.

Btw: Yours and Ctein's recipe to become a Master Printer would be very difficult to pursue with printing services out of house;-)

In my case the huge nail in a future printer's coffin is Samsung's The Frame.

I just got an new iPad Pro. Its screen is pretty well calibrated and predictable, I can't see a reason to print small.

Samsung's The Frame just finishes the idea off.

There is a difference of media between emitting and reflecting light, and I have never found a print close to the beauty of a large format E6 on a light table.

The screens are maybe not there yet, but close and will only improve.

A little bit late, but my story.

I bought an Epson 3800 about 12 years ago. It was expensive and supplies are expensive as well. So over about 12 years of on and off use, I've spent about $2000. Maybe $2500...

Over most of that time I collected about a hundred or so large prints in a box. Every once in a while, I'd show some to some family member, or some other photographer. (note: other photographers generally don't like looking at other photographer's work, unless in a publication. Like most of us artists, we all like to talk about and show off... ourselves!).

Then... about 2 years ago I attended an excellent gallery show by a colleague, and chatted with the gallery owner a little bit. Off handedly, he suggested that I come by sometime to show him some prints.

I edited the boxed collection of prints down to about 60 prints and stopped by the gallery during off hours. The gallery owner started to shuffle through the box and started sorting the photographs, eventually laying out about 30 prints over a couple very large tables.

After about an hour he said, "Here, this is a show". "What do you think?"

And that's how I began my first gallery show.

There's something about seeing, and handling prints that can't be rivaled by an LCD screen. There just IS.

In the end, I made 34 17x22in prints on my old Epson 3800 for the show, at about $10-$12/print, on the very best paper. Sending out to a professional printing service would have cost over $2000.

The prints from the Epson 3800 rival the best that any printing machine can make.

Just after completing printing of the show, my print head died and my printer is now ready for recycling...

But... I had a blast at the show opening and even sold a few prints!

Cost wise, printing on the Epson, I think I came close to breaking even vs. professional print studio prints.

But I did get a show, had a great time, and now have a nice pile of the beautiful prints ... that haven't yet sold :)

Worth it? Absolutely!

And if... I had never purchased that printer, I'd never had had that box of prints when opportunity arrived :)

And now... I need to decide whether to buy a new printer to replace my dead Epson (which often clogged). And I'm thinking like Mike now!

While the show is now in quarantine... if you'd like, you can see it online here:


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