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Author Topic: Prints - deciding what to offer  (Read 3053 times)
Paul_M
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« on: September 02, 2011, 01:37:58 PM »
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Hi Everyone,

Sorry for the lengthy post.  Iíll start with a short summary so you can bail out early if youíre not interested.  Iím planning to offer prints for sale for the first time and Iíd like to hear from other photographers about how you decided some of the details of what you would offer.  I know there is no right or wrong way to do this.  Iím just having trouble making some decisions and Iíd like to know your thoughts.

My background:  I did some B&W darkroom printing about 5-6 years ago, but once I figured out I was spending a ton of money printing mediocre (at best) photos, I decided I needed to re-focus my efforts on improving my photography.  Since then Iíve taken some photos Iím proud of, but Iíve hardly printed anything.  My goal for this year (call it a resolution if you like) was to finally go through the last five years of photographs and start printing the best ones so that I might get them shown somewhere.  After struggling with proofs from online print labs for the first half of this year, I decided Iíd have more control and less frustration if I printed at home.  Now I have an Epson R3000, Iíve made some test prints, Iíve picked a paper that I plan to stick with, and Iím very excited by the preliminary results. 

Before I offer anything for sale, I plan to finalize my proofs on 13x19 paper so Iíll know which images Iím happy with (and so Iíll have a portfolio to show off).  The images come from a variety of sources (6, 12, and 21 MP dSLRs and a few 35mm transparencies).  I will make sure the quality is at least good enough for nice 12x18 prints or else I wonít sell the image at all.  Some can go bigger.  I also want to put together a website where the photos can be viewed and probably offered for sale.  This is where the questions start.

1.   For the prints you offer, do the sizes you list represent the actual image size or the paper size?  For example, if I offer a 6x9 image printed on 8.5x11 paper, would you expect that to be described as a 6x9 print? 

2.   Do you only offer matted prints or do you also sell the print un-matted?  I like the idea of selling everything matted, but that means more work for me and I would have to sell them at a higher price to make up for it.  I want my prints to be affordable (but not cheap) and I donít want to complicate things with too many options. 

3.   Do any of you print small sizes at home and have larger prints made at a lab?  If so, are the larger prints made with the same ink and paper as your smaller prints?  Iíll be using Ilford Gold Fibre Silk at home but my local lab only offers Epson Premium Lustre.  Iím not sure how important it is to maintain consistency across the different sizes.

4.   Iím also not sure how big I can print and still be satisfied with the quality.  It would be expensive to make large test prints of each image to find that limit, but that seems like the right thing to do.  How do you decide the biggest sizes to offer?     

Please feel free to expand beyond these questions if you have any other advice for someone in my position.  I realize this is all very optimistic and I probably wonít sell much, if anything, but Iím trying to plan things as if Iím going to be successful.  Donít worry, Iím not going to quit my day job. 

Thanks in advance for all your help, and for all the help Iíve received already.  I only recently joined this forum, but Iíve learned a lot from reading existing threads over the last few months. 

Thanks!
Paul
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mediumcool
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2011, 10:05:25 PM »
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Surprised that no-one has bothered to answer your questions, so here goes.


1.   For the prints you offer, do the sizes you list represent the actual image size or the paper size?  For example, if I offer a 6x9 image printed on 8.5x11 paper, would you expect that to be described as a 6x9 print? 

State that itís a 6" x 9" image printed on 8.5" x 11" paper. Talk about how great and archival the paper is. Check Henry Wilhelmís website if necessary.

2.   Do you only offer matted prints or do you also sell the print un-matted?  I like the idea of selling everything matted, but that means more work for me and I would have to sell them at a higher price to make up for it.  I want my prints to be affordable (but not cheap) and I donít want to complicate things with too many options. 

If youíre posting, a print in a tube will be much cheaper to send than a flat-packed print and mat, but you get to choose the mat colour and also the ability to sign or print your authorship info on the mat. Itís not too hard to offer both matted and unmatted pricing. But if you offer only unmatted, you have little control over how your prints are displayed (eg a client could mat over your signature made on the border of the print).

3.   Do any of you print small sizes at home and have larger prints made at a lab?  If so, are the larger prints made with the same ink and paper as your smaller prints?  Iíll be using Ilford Gold Fibre Silk at home but my local lab only offers Epson Premium Lustre.  Iím not sure how important it is to maintain consistency across the different sizes.

Consistency rules, in surface, paper tint and colour reproduction. Any reason to prefer Ilford over Epson stock?

4.   Iím also not sure how big I can print and still be satisfied with the quality.  It would be expensive to make large test prints of each image to find that limit, but that seems like the right thing to do.  How do you decide the biggest sizes to offer?   
 
Only you can decide if it is good qualityóyou could ask other photographers or other visual artists, but I find civilians insufficiently critical in judging image quality. Re test prints, you can do test strips, as in the darkroom of old; though I am not sure if you are referring to your prints or lab prints. And is your computer screen hardware-calibrated? Can you get consistent day-to-day and week-to-week colour from your lab?

Please feel free to expand beyond these questions if you have any other advice for someone in my position.  I realize this is all very optimistic and I probably wonít sell much, if anything, but Iím trying to plan things as if Iím going to be successful.  Donít worry, Iím not going to quit my day job. 

Good luck.
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« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2011, 01:20:57 PM »
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1.   For the prints you offer, do the sizes you list represent the actual image size or the paper size?  For example, if I offer a 6x9 image printed on 8.5x11 paper, would you expect that to be described as a 6x9 print? 

Paper size is unimportant.  What people are paying for is the print. 


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2.   Do you only offer matted prints or do you also sell the print un-matted?  I like the idea of selling everything matted, but that means more work for me and I would have to sell them at a higher price to make up for it.  I want my prints to be affordable (but not cheap) and I donít want to complicate things with too many options. 

Print only.  Matted (single or double).  Framed. 

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3.   Do any of you print small sizes at home and have larger prints made at a lab?  If so, are the larger prints made with the same ink and paper as your smaller prints?  Iíll be using Ilford Gold Fibre Silk at home but my local lab only offers Epson Premium Lustre.  Iím not sure how important it is to maintain consistency across the different sizes.

Yes.  If you don't intend to sell anything any larger than you can do yourself then it's not important.  If you do, then find a printer that can reproduce high quality work that you'll be happy putting your name on.  If there are some print shops locally you can strike up a relationship with, that's great.  If not, there are several online shops that produce great work.  Find one that has profiles available to download for softproofing.  Find one that accepts images in something other than sRGB.  Find one that offers a colour managed printing workflow.  Using the same paper for everything really isn't necessary.  It's the quality of the output that matters.  The other benefit to finding a local shop is that you can more easily do some proofing (at a cost) than with an online printer.  With online options, you really do need to understand and maintain very sound colour management practices because you really only get one shot at getting it right.

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4.   Iím also not sure how big I can print and still be satisfied with the quality.  It would be expensive to make large test prints of each image to find that limit, but that seems like the right thing to do.  How do you decide the biggest sizes to offer? 

That's really up to you.  How much you're prepared to rez up your files for larger prints is something only you can decide.  Keep in mind that larger prints are typically viewed from longer distances so can withstand a bit lower quality than a small 8x10 that will be viewed from closer.

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