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Author Topic: Getting Started In Printing?  (Read 2768 times)
Smo
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« on: May 20, 2006, 12:23:11 PM »
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I've been shooting digital for a couple of months now (and film for a couple years before that), and I've fallen in love with the digital darkroom.  But now I want to get into printing, and there's a dizzying array of options:

-buying a printer
-using a photo lab
-using an internet photo lab (e.g. ezprints), etc.

And then the whole can o' worms that is color management.

So I'm wondering, what are the advantages/disadvantages of each of those options, and how much would it cost to get started?  I doubt I'll be making any really huge prints, probably not bigger than 13x19 (although I may want to do panoramas on occasion).  I also want to do black and white as well as color.

Also, if I can get the brightness, contrast, and gamma of my display set up without a color management device, is it worth it to get one?  I'd like to avoid the expense, if possible.

Thanks for reading and responding.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2006, 12:24:19 PM by Smo » Logged
DarkPenguin
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« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2006, 12:59:11 PM »
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Not really answering your question.

But you have to start out by doing the math.  How much are you willing to spend?  How much are you going to print?  How often?  Are you willing to wait for prints to arrive in the mail (or driving to your local shop) or do you want to be able to see the print right now?  How long do the prints have to last?  Are you selling them or are you just changing the prints on the wall?  Do you want to use third party papers?

If you can pull off calibrating your monitor to a standard you've little need of a calibration device.  Good luck with that.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2006, 01:26:29 PM »
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Also, if I can get the brightness, contrast, and gamma of my display set up without a color management device, is it worth it to get one?  I'd like to avoid the expense, if possible.

I should have mentioned that if you are using an LCD you'll want to buy a spider of some sort.  You really want to profile LCD's more than you want to calibrate them.
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Smo
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« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2006, 02:07:39 PM »
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Not really answering your question.
Doesn't matter, you asked some enlightening questions.  

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But you have to start out by doing the math.  How much are you willing to spend?

And this is the tough one . . .I don't really know.  Off-hand, I'd say between $400 and $800 (naturally they'd better be good reasons for going up to 800, that's quite a bit for a college student, although I could definitely manage it).

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How much are you going to print?  How often?

This is a problem, since I just recently went to digital.  If I go by history, not a lot, but now that I have a digital (and also a job) I may be making a lot more, since the capture cost is zero.  I guess I'll have to wait some more and see how often I come up with stuff to print.

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Are you willing to wait for prints to arrive in the mail (or driving to your local shop) or do you want to be able to see the print right now?

I'd say that's a function of the price.  Naturally I'd like to get them right away, but if I can get good results from mail-order and save a lot of money then I might go with that.

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How long do the prints have to last?  Are you selling them or are you just changing the prints on the wall?  Do you want to use third party papers?

Ideally quite a long time, since I might be giving some as gifts to friends/family.  I doubt I'll sell anything.  I don't know about 3rd party papers, that's something I haven't yet researched much.

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If you can pull off calibrating your monitor to a standard you've little need of a calibration device.  Good luck with that.
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Heh.  A better way to phrase my question is; is there more to CRT calibration than contrast, brightness, and gamma?  I think I have them set up correctly.  No real way to tell for sure unless I do a softproof + a print, though.

Thanks for the reply, and sorry that I left (and still am leaving) too many variables free.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2006, 02:11:07 PM by Smo » Logged
Peter McLennan
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« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2006, 03:48:43 PM »
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I'd start off by using a service bureau for prints.  Most of them are price-competitive with do-it-yourself costs, not counting the investment in the printer itself, and you'll avoid the relatively steep printing learning curve.  It also eliminates one (large) variable from the digital workflow.

Once you have everything else in order, operating your own printer is the final, essential link in the chain from viewfinder to wall.  If you love photography, you'll get one eventually, it's just a matter of when.
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Lisa Nikodym
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« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2006, 10:08:35 AM »
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One more important question to ask is, "How fussy am I about exactly how the prints look?"  If the answer is "not much; I don't care if the print is very slightly magenta/green/whatever sometimes", then skipping the hardware calibrator and sending them out somewhere inexpensive to be printed is OK.  If you are fussier than that (or if you intend to sell any), then you'll save yourself a lot of annoyance by getting a spider-type calibrator and your own printer so you have control over the whole process yourself.  I don't know how good internet photo labs are these days, but I went to using my own printer about 5-10 years ago because I couldn't get reliable, reproducible results from consumer-grade photo print labs.  On the other hand, there are a few pro-level print shops (I use Calypso for the occasional print larger than 13"x19") that will give you profiles for their printers that get spot-on.  Maybe consumer-grade shops now use profiles and do a more consistent job these days; I don't know.

You can get pretty close color-management-wise without a calibration device, but not as close as you'd like if you're at all fussy; on that subject, I'd recommend giving it a try without, and, if you find that you have trouble getting the print colors as close as you'd like to those on the monitor, you can then get a device at that point.

If you want to get more involved with color management and/or your own printing, there are a couple of good reference books on the subject: Harald Johnson's "Mastering Digital Printing" and Peter K. Burian's "Mastering Digital Photography and Imaging".  I got them a few years ago, but hopefully one or the other has been updated since then.

Lisa
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Smo
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« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2006, 02:48:06 PM »
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I'd start off by using a service bureau for prints.  Most of them are price-competitive with do-it-yourself costs, not counting the investment in the printer itself, and you'll avoid the relatively steep printing learning curve.  It also eliminates one (large) variable from the digital workflow.

Could you recommend any bureaus for me to use?  Ideally I'd want to do something over the 'net, as I don't think there are any good labs in my area (there are 3-4 independent photographers or so, that's about it.  Houghton, MI is a pretty small town).
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2006, 06:47:47 PM »
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Mpix.com and whcc.com are pretty well liked.
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