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Author Topic: To print or not to print myself.  (Read 2893 times)
jimf
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« on: October 28, 2010, 09:55:44 PM »
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I'm new to the forum and do mostly video but also some photography.

I recently was at the right time and place and now have some shots will be marketable. probably on a small scale.

Not looking to get rich, but already being asked for some prints and frames by the locals. $40-$100 price range for unframed prints. There are similar prints available in this small town, but these are pretty special and in the same league as what is currently being sold. 

Whether I sell 20,  200  or maybe more at this point is not known.

I've grown tired of doing my own printing during the years. I have a 36" that wouldn't be good enough for this so I'd end up buying another printer which is not high my list of things to buy.

For matt and semigloss printing for framed photo's (mainly living room, lake home settings, and offices)  large and small, what are the current pro's and cons on doing them myself verses getting them done at a local fine arts printing firm?
Is it worth it to find someone who can deliver consistent and good quality prints and pay the extra in the $40-$100 price range?

Would starting with 5-10 of 3 different sizes and then go to larger quantities if demand dictates be reasonable or should I just print on demand and worry later if I get some decent demand?

Any suggestions for a reasonable 16x20 matt print price if buying in small quantities?


Thanks in advance for any advice.



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JohnHeerema
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« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2010, 10:02:45 PM »
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Well, if you're not going to really enjoy making prints, why not farm them out, and do what you love to do?

There's a learning curve to making really good prints, and it doesn't sound like you'd get rich doing it - like you said, you grew tired of printing a long time ago.

Personally, I enjoy doing my own printing, so I do it - even though it might be cheaper and easier to let someone else do it. Oh - plus I'm a control freak when it comes to printing.
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Dan Berg
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« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2010, 06:20:22 AM »
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Well I will try not to give a long dissertation on why you should do your own printing but here goes anyway.
I started in photography with a great passion for shooting and just printed the small stuff. As I got deeper into the printing world my passion grew by leaps and bounds.
As of late a day does not go by without spinning a half dozen prints or more through my machines. The only thing that has suffered through this new found love for printmaking is I rarely go out to shoot.
Just a little background. I owned my own custom furniture and cabinetry business for 25 years doing all the design and custom finishing. I would work with the client through the entire design process then pass the manufacturing off to my employees when it got to that point. I then took over when it came to the finishing . The most important stage in the furniture business at least for me was the finishing. Where you can ruin it,make it just average,or make it something special that will make it have that special quality and last for decades. Not sure I ever had a client say,wow what  beautiful mortise and tenon jointery you guys did on my piece.(Although construction is extremely important.)  What I did hear dozens of time was how did you get that beautiful finish?
Same goes for printmaking. I am sure you have spent years developing your photography craft. Then to turn your work over to someone that may or may not be a hack at the most important stage in the process does not seem to make much sense. Photographing the image,processing,printing and mounting are all of equal importance as anyone of these not done properly can ruin the entire project. If I went to a show I would want to stand and tell prospective clients I do it all myself. The passion will show through!
Immerse yourself in printmaking ,you may fall in love with it like many of us here.
That being said ,a good qualified printmaker should not be that hard to find if you just do not have it in you.
Printer suggestions - Epson 3880-4900-7900 and dozens and dozens of photographic,fineart papers and canvases to experiment with.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2010, 11:12:26 AM by Dan Berg » Logged

jimf
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« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2010, 07:28:53 AM »
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I appreciate and understand both comments. I sold (in the beginning days of digital proof printing) color printers into the prepress and design business as well as large form printers. I was a small shop doing both prepress and video. 

Had good success with the Epson 5000 w/ efi rip when it first came out. At the time, we sold a small amount and most were used for proofing art work for 4 color process inks in printing.  Plus a few artist used them for printing their photo's.  Going back 12+ years.

That being said, I have wasted so much ink because we didn't print on a regular basis and also never felt we made much money selling them as for every good printer we brought in, there were a few turkeys. Hours and hours of printing and testing.

I know things are easier now. However, I'm afraid that the printing would still not be frequent enough and I'd end up with clogged heads and wasting lots of ink...  That's part of my dilemma.   

Of course, I'd like to finish the project off to my satisfaction.  Got to think I can find someone locally to get it done. I'm also looking for some advice on what's a realistic price to pay in this situation.

Thanks again.
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PeterAit
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« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2010, 08:38:19 AM »
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The main question is - can you get the quality you want from a commercial printer? If not, then you have to do it yourself. Otherwise, it would seem to be a matter of how you want to spend you time versus the cost. Of course, when you figure in the cost of a new printer, it may not be cheaper to do it yourself!
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Peter
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Dan Berg
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« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2010, 08:44:59 AM »
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Your profile is empty. Knowing at least what part of the world you are from could get you several great printmakers near your home town. Yes we print for others.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2010, 11:13:44 AM by Dan Berg » Logged

Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2010, 09:14:37 AM »
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I used to routinely recommend that folks in your situation dive in and do your own printing, since I enjoy it so much. I have since seen the error of my ways. To produce really excellent prints that do justice to your images, you need to spend the time and effort required to learn the process in depth. If you enjoy that, it's a great part of the creative process. If on the other hand you have a great eye and take beautiful photographs, but find the process of crafting an excellent print akin to having a root canal, by all means farm out that task to someone else. There's a very good custom digital lab an hour away from my home; they do really nice work and they know their Epsons. If I didn't love printing and consider it a big part of the joy of photography, then I'd go to them and let them handle it. The downside is that you'll have to hand them a sizeable chunk of any potential profit from the sale of your prints in return for their expertise and time. But if that frees you up to take more beautiful pictures, you're ahead of the game.
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neile
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« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2010, 10:54:45 AM »
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I'm likely going to rehash most of what's in this thread, but here's my thoughts anyway Smiley Keep in mind that I'm coming at this from two perspectives: a photographer who loves printing his own work, and someone who prints for others.

I'm a firm believer in the value of outsourcing printing. The key is to find a printing company that does more than just send your file to a printer. You want to find someone who really cares about making high quality prints of your work, and will give you advice and guidance on how to get the best out of your image. If the place offers 1 hour turnaround on your prints, it's probably not the right place. Instead, you want someone who warns you that it may take 2-3 days of discussion (or more!) to get the image ready for print. This way you get the best of both worlds: you get high quality images at a relatively reasonable price, but don't have to invest your own personal time and energy in learning how to be a really great printer.

I'm also a firm believer in the joy of printing your own work. There's something magical about sitting next to the printer and watching your image roll off the machine, knowing you had total control from image capture to image output. But it takes committment to learn how to do this well, and it takes time away from learning how to do other photography things well.

By the way, if you're in the Seattle area, I do prints Smiley

Neil
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Rob Reiter
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« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2010, 11:47:55 AM »
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I'll agree with Neil's posting. I'm also someone who loves printing-whether I'm working with my own images or those of my clients. You can certainly get excellent work done by others if you are willing to work with them. One thing I'd like to separate out here is the actual printing vs. the prep work. Do you do your own Photoshop work and is that something you enjoy enough to want to continue with?

At the risk of letting out a big secret, the actually printing is not that difficult. A top of the line printer from any of the leading manufacturers, Epson, Canon or HP, will produce fine art quality prints with little need to fuss with it beyond the initial setup and calibrations. Custom profiles for your printer and papers of choice are  critical but can be done by yourself or a third party. So, whether you own the printer or not, it should not be the factor that determines the quality of your prints. That is more properly the work that goes into the file.

If you enjoy doing Photoshop work and you own a good monitor (not one designed for games) and keep it calibrated, you should find that monitor proofing shows you, oh, say, 90% of the potential of your image. If that's all you need (and that can be very good) then you need simply to find a printer whose color management policies are up to date and you may be very happy with simply submitting files and leaving the rest up to them.

If you want to squeeze out a few more percentage points of quality, you'll need a hard copy proof, like a 5x7, to get there. Find a printer who provides you that option. If your final print size is small, you may have to pay something for a proof, but for larger prints it should be included.

The key to top notch print quality comes in the preparation and if you don't have a knack, or the patience, for that, look for a lab that offers it and try them out. You may need to try several places, because at this point, it's not just about the technical aspects of the work, but about the relationship between you and another individual. If you enjoy Photoshop work and are good at it, not one will produce better files for printing than you can. But working with a custom lab and developing that relationship can produce excellent prints and you should definitely give it a try if you want to keep out of the production end as much as possible.
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neile
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« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2010, 11:55:13 AM »
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with little need to fuss with it beyond the initial setup and calibrations

I agree with everything Rob said above (and by the way, if you're in the Berkeley area, Rob does printing Smiley), but "initial setup and calibrations" is a bit of an understatement. I personally found it took about 6 months of learning before I could reliably output a perfect print every time from my printer. I had to learn what types of feed methods worked best with each paper, how to avoid scratches on the prints in dark areas (stupid Canon design decision!!!), etc. Now that I have it dialed in I agree, the printer produces excellent prints from a monitor proof, but it took a while to get there!

Neil
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Neil Enns
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Mussi_Spectraflow
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« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2010, 01:59:34 PM »
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I think a lot of good points have been made and I'll throw in my 2 cents. I've been both a printer and a photographer and at various points as a photographer both worked with a lab and then later moved to doing my own printing. For me I think the decision comes down to cost, specifically the the return on the investment, in terms of time and money required to get a print that meets my criteria. Keeping in that the criteria for the decor market will be very different then for fine art gallery prints.
There are certainly a number of excellent printers out there who will likely have their whole system dialed in and have an accumulated experience using that system, and there is a value to that that is worth a lot more then the sum of it's parts. In many situations they are likely to be able to take the technical burden off you, and help you efficiently generate high quality prints. Certainly there is a cost associated with outsourcing prints, but when you factor in the time and energy of simply maintaing a really first rate printing system this is sometimes a pretty reasonable fee. Factor in acquiring a good stock pile of media, extra ink, profiling software, etc the time involved in getting everything to actually work the way it should, it's not trivial. In effect you're basically paying someone else to take ownership of a certain number of problems, and in many ways that can be well worth the price.
The other side of the argument I usually make is that any printer SHOULD have the technical stuff down, the real skill of a printer in my mind is in their skill in interpreting the request of their client and helping them to realize that goal. Communication is a huge skill that is not easily taught, my schooling was working with artist who had no experience it inkjet printing and half of what my job eventually became was setting realistic expectation for them as to what could and could not be reproduced. The other issues is that sometimes it's really hard to express to another person what you really want, and this is the reason I think a lot of people are moved to do their own printing. If you really want final control over how your print looks, and are committed to mastering all the skill required to actually make that work then doing your own printing will likely be the right move. I agree with another poster that getting "dialed in" is not a minor process, but one you get over that mountain, you should be able to really crank out prints.
So when it comes down to it there really is a cost associated with both options. A good printer that knows what you want can save you time, in return for a fee. Doing it yourself can yield lower cost, higher quality prints if you do everything right. If you don't you might find you've invested a bunch of time and energy into making a bunch of of lower quality prints.
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John.Murray
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« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2010, 03:01:36 PM »
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For me, it ended up being about the ability to control what my images looked like.  A shop that I did business with aquired an Epson 1180, and naturally i was interested in having them do large prints.  After asking about getting a color profile, in order to softproof my images in photoshop, I quickly found out they really didn't know what they were doing.

My recommendation is this:

Find a printer who *will* share color profiles with you and learn how to use them.  You're going to need to know this stuff *anyway*, and who knows?  maybe farming this part out will be sufficient
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jimf
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« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2010, 03:09:28 PM »
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All good advice.  I'm still undecided, partially because I know the time it will take to dial in a new printer.  Right now I only have a handful of images and they are all similar, so I will probably head to some local art shop printers and get some samples.

Thanks for the advice everyone.

I'm located in Rochester NY.  Ya, know the old yellow box town.

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robgo2
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« Reply #13 on: October 31, 2010, 09:51:29 PM »
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As one who made the leap into the world of ink jet printing one year ago, I say "go for it."  Although it may seem intimidating at first, the process is really not terribly difficult.  There is great pleasure in seeing your images go from screen to print in a matter of minutes, not days, as is the case with commercial labs.  And having that immediate feedback is crucial to getting the print just the way you want it.

Be prepared for a fairly steep learning curve, including testing various papers and profiles, before you will really be proficient.  From then on, it will be smooth sailing.

Rob
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Robcat
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« Reply #14 on: November 01, 2010, 07:59:29 PM »
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Lots of good thoughts posted already, but maybe a couple extra cents.
Aren't you going to want to do some printing of your own? Do you really want to wait a couple days to see what every image looks like on paper, like we did in the days of film? How will you print one for a friend? For your portfolio? Your mom? To see what a different paper looks like? It's fine to engage a custom shop for a couple sale prints a year but do you want to pay the custom shop every time you want a photo quality print? Will you be satisfied with your old 36" or an office-quality printer? I doubt it. Thus, it's hard to imagine that you wont at some time end up with at least a 13" desktop from one of the big 3, so you might as well get one now and dive into the process. You will likely need fewer large prints at first and those can be shopped out while you see how it goes. Or you could go w. a 17" right away and be good for a long while.
One reason I give this advice is because I just went this route myself. Although the making of the actual print is hassle-free when using a custom shop, the rest of the process is not always so. If you want to see it before you accept, you'll have to travel to the shop---or ship it back if it's wrong. If they have to redo it, there's another trip/ship. YMMV but it didn't take me long to get tired of this.
For your $$ questions, I was paying about $60 for a 16 x 20.
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Bill Koenig
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« Reply #15 on: November 04, 2010, 02:31:38 PM »
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I have a Epson 3800 and its a great printer, but the 17 inch max width isn't wide enough now that I'm into pano's.
I wanted to print one of these 42x28, so I checked around and found a shop that has 60" Canon inkjet printer (I'm not sure what model) The price they quoted me printed on Museo Silver Rag was $0.12 per Sq inch, that comes to $150.00 per print.
If I were to invest in a 44 wide printer, It wouldn't take to long for the return on my investment to pay off.
The longer I wait, sending my printing out, well, you get the picture.
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jimf
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« Reply #16 on: November 05, 2010, 09:31:19 PM »
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I appreciate all the advice and can that all the advice received is pretty much a decent summation of the pros and cons.   You guys pretty much nailed the issues. time/effort/ cost /quality/managing the printer, etc.... they are all part of the decision process.

I have visited with a local printer and am comfortable I'd be happy with their quality.  They have a full range of papers and do museum quality and archive printing.  The consultant I visited with seemed competent and we seemed to communicate pretty good although I did not get all the answers I wanted as she said it was my decision as the artist. It's more than I want to spend per print, but considering all they are doing and what some people have said they pay, it's not unreasonable.  They are $1/ foot for a basic mat and go up from their.  I find  $5 dollar price difference for many paper types a bit nonsensical. The waiting 2 days to see the print/proof is more of an issue than the price at this point, but pricing is always an issue if any quantity is involved.

I've had plenty of experience with printers and plotters so that is not an issue.  I just got so pissed at the clogging and the subsequent additional costs when not using them.
In my research this week, I'm finding some nice reviews on the Canon large format printers and they don't seem to clog or have problems with inactivity.  They also have some nice rebates so the 24" looks pretty inviting.  I just bought a new lens that cost what the printer does, so it's something to think about.  The 600-800 replenishment for all the inks is a little intimidating, but I'm assuming, that would come after many prints that should bring in something to pay for them. 
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neile
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« Reply #17 on: November 05, 2010, 11:33:58 PM »
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The Canon printers are pretty much clog free. I've never had a clog issue with my 5100.

The 6300 is very attractive at the moment. They have both a cash rebate and a rebate you send in for a second set of starter inks, which means you can go even longer without having to replace them.

Also, while the total cost to replace all the ink looks intimidating, remember you won't be replacing them all at once. The expense gets spread out over time which helps.

Neil
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Neil Enns
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jimf
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« Reply #18 on: November 07, 2010, 09:35:24 AM »
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I have almost talked myself into the 24" Canon. Nice rebates.  I have been researching papers and also trying to find out ink cost per print. Yes, I know it depends on coverage, but I haven't got a clue as to the cost per square foot.   

For the 960  dollars to replace all 12 cartridges, how many square feet of printing can I get for landscape and people photography?  Also how many prints before you have to replace the $450 head times 2 ($900). Are their any guidelines?

Almost seems like the razor business. 
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chez
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« Reply #19 on: November 07, 2010, 06:06:28 PM »
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The Canon printers are pretty much clog free. I've never had a clog issue with my 5100.

The 6300 is very attractive at the moment. They have both a cash rebate and a rebate you send in for a second set of starter inks, which means you can go even longer without having to replace them.

Also, while the total cost to replace all the ink looks intimidating, remember you won't be replacing them all at once. The expense gets spread out over time which helps.

Neil

Yes, but if you purchase a full set at one time, you get a discount. Sooner or later you'll replace every cartridge and your overall ink costs will be cheaper if you buy a full set at one time rather than shelling out every month.
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