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Saturday, 25 April 2020

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In defense of home printing. Before digital came along I shot mostly B&W *because* I could control how the prints looked. The only control I had over color was to "get it right in the camera" and then the printer printed it how he/she thought it should look. Custom printing with detailed explanation of your vision for each color negative or slide was EXPENSIVE. Of course, setting up a color darkroom and learning all the in and outs of color printing was expensive too so photographers like me stuck mostly to B&W.

When printing B&W I routinely made multiple work prints before getting what I wanted, making tweaks to the process before it looked 'right' (matched the way I thought it should look). I confess that I still do that with digital printing, averaging 2-3 prints before I get the look I want. Working in B&W we also frequently changed our vision over time of how a given negative should be printed. Ansel Adams is probably the most famous example of that.

No print will ever look the same as the image does on your computer screen because the reflected light from paper will never match the transmitted light of your monitor. The trick is to treat the print as an object in itself and make it the best print you can, not as a representation of the subject or of the computer screen but just as a physical print.

i love inkjet home printing, but I spent a lot of time and money in the learning process. It is not as you click a button and "voilà" it is done! No, it is not like thet, there are many things to learn (as it was when you had to print in the darkroom) by the way the experience from the darkroom helps in the preparation of the file.
When I need a large print I too use a specialized lab and they are very good to satisfy all my needs.
But I like to have all the process under my control.
The only negative point is that home printers in the consumer range are not always very reilable...but this is a different story.
And the best accessory is the ...bin :-)

I just don't enjoy sending my photos to a local printer and then picking them up a week later, although I did that recently when my old printer died. It's slow and unsatisfying, and at $20 or more depending on size, not at all cheap. Quality is not the issue. I can match the quality at home, and do it in 10 minutes. I can look at the output and try another version with more or less contrast, maybe a little brighter, maybe some local adjustments. There is no way I could do that with a custom printer in town unless I want to take weeks and spend huge dollars on a single print.

There’s an interesting factoid cropping up in these posts... how nudity control for optimum print head reliability.... I going to see how aI can address that.

Oops, darn auto speller... that should be humidity control... still, wouldn’t hurt to wear pants, too.

I'm with Anthony. If you can't get a good print from one of the current Epson or Canon printers, don't blame the printer, or some mythological learning curve. Blame your post-processing skills or lack of monitor calibration. Because with the newer printers, even with their "canned" profiles, the print is gonna look very, very close to what's on a calibrated monitor.

My first print is almost always a good print. I stare at it for a while and make more versions--to improve my interpretation, not because it lacks print quality.

A related issue is that iMac and other 4-5K monitors aren't always the best for evaluating prints. They are too bright for that, and tend to lose color accuracy if the brightness is dialed down during calibration. Plus, unless they are enormous, they actually make judging sharpness harder, since everything tends to look sharp unless you zoom in to 200% (which is an interpolated resolution in most systems). Most high rez screens are great for the web, or watching movies--but not necessarily the best for making prints, IMO. Still, many photographers figure out how to make great prints using these screens. It might take a little more mental interpretation, though.

The Epson clog issue is mostly in the past. I've been using Epson printers since the earliest photo-capable models, and some of them were real clog-fests. But the recent printers are pretty maintenance-free. Mine often sits for weeks at a time, and then cranks right back up.

There are some fine points about digital print-making to learn, as we should expect. How the ink sinks into various papers, which slightly affects how to sharpen optimally, for instance. Or how to get the last 5% out of a black and white work flow. But these are extreme craft issues for the very pickiest. Just like with darkroom printing.

In general, the craft of digital print-making is a source of joy for me, just as it was in the darkroom. Ink on paper has its own wonderful potential. Just like in the darkroom, it's mostly about the aesthetic decision-making, not basic print quality issues.

I spend at least as much time making a print digitally as I did making a darkroom print. The difference is, most of that time is spent improving my interpretation (in Photoshop), not rocking trays, leveling my enlarger, or cleaning tanks. And I can study and work on a print for days, knowing that I can pick up exactly where I left off, whenever I want, without setting up a darkroom again.

A professional digital printer should be able to produce consistently excellent results using all kinds of media and all kinds of printing systems (software and hardware), with minimal waste of time and materials. Furthermore, the professional should be able to get up to speed quickly with new media and printing systems.

Of course an amateur shouldn’t except to be able to do the same. However, with sufficient effort, I think a dedicated amateur can expect to become very proficient with one or two kinds of media and printing systems. I think where people go wrong is they flit around trying all kinds of different software, papers, inks and printers, not getting good at any of them.

I can consistently and reliably get high quality results on one kind of paper, with one kind of ink, on my one printer, using the one software approach I now understand well. Don’t expect me to be any good with different paper, ink, software or printer! It won’t take me as long to get to proficient again if something changes, but you’ll have to give me time the professional wouldn't need.

In response to Homo_erectus: I have no doubt that all that training and education was invaluable to someone working on commercial equipment, but comparing that to the effort involved in becoming proficient at using a desktop inkjet printer is a bit disingenuous. Yeah, it’s probably going to be a lot more time consuming than you think, but it’s not going to take a 3 year full time apprenticeship to become competent (unless you need to learn way more than just the printing part). I would only recommend printing at home if you are interested in the printing process, and/or have very particular or atypical results in mind; in either case it is well worth it!

That said, there is another big factor to consider when talking about “good” printing results. A more knowledgeable and skilled photographer is both more likely to have high printing standards than a novice, and more likely to be capable of achieving those standards through dedicated practice. And in the case of home printing, we are typically talking about satisfying oneself first and foremost. I believe that both the advanced and novice photographer are capable of achieving satisfactory results printing at home (provided they enjoy printing enough to do it a lot), but they are unlikely to achieve results that satisfy each other.

Any type of work for clients is far more fraught than doing the same type of work for yourself!

It is essential to understand that sending work out to a printer is not necessarily sending your work to Costco or Adorama. There are expert photo printers, as an editor for a writer, who can take your images or raw files and make them sing. They usually provide you with a proof print of their work and leave it up to you to decide to make the final print. If you are going to show work in galleries, it is worthwhile to take advantage of this type of resource. especially if your work is going to be printed larger than 17 inches wide.

These experts print every day, they understand the ins and outs of Photoshop and that is huge and they know the idosynchrises of various printers papers, and inks.

OK Mike since you are home bound as well as most of us, across all brands... what would be the best and most economical home use printer for printing photos. This might be a good open dialog for you to try. See if you can get a good mix of folks to help out here.

As for myself, I am 80 and retired on a fixed income. I do not have any printer at this point in time. I am a hybrid driver so I like economy in all things. Just for fun see what you can come up with.....

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