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Saturday, 25 April 2020


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I plan to keep on making my own prints, while ignoring the nattering nabobs of negativity.

Hi Mike, I am on my third Canon printer, a Pro-10. It was not too expensive, inks are reasonably priced and do not dry out if used occasionally, good paper is not cheap but allows me to experiment with different presentations. Monitor calibration is critical and not always "out-of-the-box", sometimes it needs further tweaking. 13x19 is mostly ok for me, my wall space is limited due to the number of prints already hanging. My wife is an excellent flower photographer whose prints compete with (surpasses, really) my stuff. For the rare 16x20 print I will go to my local camera store (can I give Englewood Camera a shout out?) where they do a fantastic job for me. I print because I like to visualize my photos as prints, for me it has always been part of the process of photography. Sometimes it becomes frustrating, but making my own prints teaches me (sometime brutally) in how I could have better visualized the scene or exposed it differently. I gave up my color darkroom when Ilfochrome became too hazardously expensive to buy by mail. For B&W I convert color images into reversed transparencies and contact print either on traditional paper or make Platinum/Palladium prints. The digital imaging process allows so much leeway in how the image is presented, or 'performed' as someone famous once said. Its simply what I want out of the experience.

I made the fiscal mistake of buying an Epson 4000 printer when they came out. It seemed that for every good print I got (and they were good!) i donated two prints to unclogging heads and printing test patterns. And I don't live in a arid location. Central Texas in Summer is hot and sticky.

I finally gave up entirely on the printer when it became obvious that I could not use it reliably for client work. I passed it on to another photographer who seemed happy to get it.

I bought a Canon Pro-100 to use for the occasional photo print and the printing of office stuff, like invoices. I still use the "never clogged" Pro-100 now many years later but the frequency of use declined dramatically when all clients decided that printed forms for business were no longer necessary and invoices, contracts, etc. could be sent to them via .PDF.

Without the use of the printer for office stuff I feel like I've taken away a certain subsidy for black ink tanks.

We are fortunate here in Austin, Texas to still have a good photo lab or two. Holland Photo still soups E-6 (all formats) and C-41 and offers custom enlarger prints. Precision Camera has a lab that's good for smaller machine prints and also big Pro Epson stuff on the papers of your choice.

I may cringe at paying for a large 40 by 60 inch print on thick, fine art paper but then I remember I can bill that print to the client and charge a mark-up. That takes all the sting out of letting the pros print for me.

And it keeps me from tearing out my hair and emptying my wallet trying to keep the thirsty home printers sated.

For a great deal of pain, time and money I kept a 24” Epson 7800 going for around 8 years, with custom profiles for accuracy. With a calibrated monitor and controlled viewing light it would match the screen very closely every time.

But when it died recently I threw out most of the prints I had made, as I have only occasionally a real need to exhibit them. But being able to quickly see my work in progress at 20x24 and larger was a transformative experience in terms of evaluating the images, and it really changed the work for the better even if the final output might be smaller. It’s a great luxury, but it can really be valuable too - it can help you see.

When the Epson died i replaced it with a 17x22 Canon 1000. Finally no more clogs, and the canned profiles are so good I haven’t bothered to make a custom one. But I still miss those larger prints even though most will still be discarded.

I'm embarrassed to add my comment to all the inputs from those who really care about their prints and have put in the time and $$ to pursue those skills. Or to explore optimizing some particular point along the cost/quantity/quality manifold. I like images on big screens, even projected (although that is still limited to 2K, and shared on blogs and forums. I have framed a few digital prints, including some from TOP (by Carl W, by Ctein, by Gordon Lewis, and even by MJ himself), but I fight for wall space with others who have different tastes. What I like to see in prints is lots of them, recent work, pinned up or taped up to office walls replaced annually or even more often. I print on the office copier, starting with a good jpeg that displays well, and using the best copier I can find in the building, the one with the thickest ink. They all have pretty good paper now. Now to get out of lockdown and into the office again...

I'm using the current lockdown period to print a set of A2 (16.5 x 23.5") prints of everything decent from the last ten years or so. Everything goes through Exposure's Tri-X simulation, with 4"x5" grain size, and gets printed full frame, 14" x 21" on Epson Enhanced Matte paper - much like I used to do in the darkroom. Epson Advanced BW mode works very well once you get a feel for it.

I've pretty much got the Epson Enhanced Matte paper sorted - I can go from the (calibrated) screen straight to the print with no surprises. They are basically my "Artist's Proofs", for want of a better term.

I'll probably go back to Hahnemuhle Photo Rag for the best prints after that. I haven't actually used any other paper in 15 years - but then I only used one film and two lenses for about five years. Zen or laziness - take your pick :)

Now whether there is any point making prints in this day and age is another question for Mike to address :)

While we are talking printers and inks..I have a particular problem that maybe someone can assist with. I need to print a couple of hundred 6x4 prints a week. They need to be high quality photos and they need to be very fade resistant. Occasionally I need A4 size. I have tried different printers and ink solutions. An Epson XP 960 with claria inks gives me the quality and permanence I need. The problem is, ink costs are crippling. To get better ink economy I need the bigger tanks that come with much bigger printers. Or maybe the ecotank models. The ecotank models have less colours and I dont think will have the permanence of the claria inks (Epson is very vague about the permanence of eco tank prints.) I have tried non OE inks and CISS and these have always ended in blocked heads and reduced print permanence. Do I need to get a large format printer just for volume 6x4 prints just to keep ink costs down? Any other suggestions?

Also use an EPSON 4900. Heads were seemingly always clogging up for me. Then started to print the same "test print" image at least 3 times a week. Since doing this have yet to have the heads clog up on me. Recently have changed from printing my "test" print to printing historical images for our town's museum. They sell them and make money. I now never have to waste inks from that dreaded clean cycle. We both come out ahead.

I have a printing problem first on an Epson 3880 and now P800. There have been panorama (any print taller than 22" on the 17" wide 3880 and P800) problem threads on both Luminous Landscape and DPReview which never got resolved- the printer will not print the last few inches of each pass across the print. With panoramas this is the top of the image. In photoshop's print preview everything shows, the image size is the desired footprint, size ratio is 100%, ppi is 360. Anyone had and solved this problem?

Re the two Comments
They seem to perfectly summarize the issues around printing:
If you like to print, and take it seriously enough to go through the learning curve, maintain your printer by using it and watching humidity chances are you will have a good experience
If you like printing and pursue it for a while but then stop using it long enough for the ink to expire, & don't pay attention to humidity, chances are your printer will clog and you will enjoy it less.

Printers need to be used, and it is a mistake to buy one if you don't intend to use it enough. So if you like prints, but only need to make one occasionally, or if you are likely to occasionally go long periods without making a print, you are better off using a custom printer.

But blaming the printer for clogging when it sits unused in dry environment seems a bit off the mark to me.

Rather than buy a $1000.00 printer, I rent a $60,000 printer. By the minute. It costs $3.99 to print a 12 x 18 on decent standard paper.

Am I making a mistake, losing out on ultimate quality, or being smart? If my results would not satisfy you, do you think they might if I invested the number of hours you have invested getting your personal printer perfected?

"...and it cost me a C-note to boot to have the garbage company come do a bulk pickup."

Well, damn, that just kind of sucks.

I want to thank you Mike and all the commentators for saving me money. This year I started to think about buying another printer. It seems I had mostly forgotten the problems I have had before. I had an Epson 2100 some 20 years ago when it was new. It made wonderful prints when it was not clogged or didn’t run out of one ink in the middle of printing. I printed many panoramas on roll paper, about 1meter long (40”) prints. (Often one ink ran out about 2/3-4/5 of the way causing maximum damage). I had to travel a lot for my work. As a result the printer was often clogged up and took a lot of effort, and ink, to clear. I eventually gave up and went through four Canon printers. They didn’t clog up as much but didn’t seem mechanically as durable. When I had a problem after 2-3 years of use, I sent the printer to Canon service and usually they suggested that I should by a new (Canon) printer at discounted price instead of making a costly repair. Eventually I gave up on that as well and for some three years now I have not had a printer at all. I started to feel that I am missing out. After reading all the comments, I remembered what I was missing out on: Continuous expenses and trouble. Thank you!

I had an Epson 2200 for over 10 years, and I've had a P800 for a couple of years. I had occasional clogging problems with the 2200. I haven't had any with the P800. I do make sure to do a print at least once every three weeks, and I live in the humid Washington DC area.

I print for myself, mostly for a rotating set of prints I have framed and hung around my house.

A big advantage of home printing, for me, is being able to adjust the print to its lighting conditions. It's certainly true that modern printers can produce a print that looks very like the screen image, as long as the print is being viewed under a bright light. But my goal is not to match the screen, but rather print something that will look good under the decidedly non-optimal lighting in my house.

I've learned that when I'm post-processing I need to turn my screen brightness way down and make a variety of adjustments for the printed version of my photo. Even so, I really need to do a small test shot that I can look at under the real-world lighting to get it right. I guess I could do that with Costco, if I did two rounds of print orders, but that sounds pretty tedious.

As to the cost of ink, I look at it this way: Given the fact that most people don't ever print these days, it's a miracle that we have companies making, and improving, photo printers. And also great supplies of a variety of different kinds of paper. If the high price of ink and paper are what's needed to keep these companies in the market, I can live with it.

I use my printer to make mostly small prints, even though it can handle up to 17 x 22 inches. The truth is that yes, it can make fantastic large prints, but those are costly and hard to store. I save them for special needs, like when my wife wanted a couple large prints for a project the other day. But it can also make very high quality 4 x6 prints (which I would never bother a custom printer with). These look a definite step up from online printer results, and way better than Walgreens. My other preferred size is 8.5 x 11 with a border. Great size for hand holding, and I can keep a box of finished prints on good paper around for occasional browsing.

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