Find Yourself a Local Printer

When it comes to printing, there’s a HUGE difference between producing something on a cheapie inkjet printer and having a professional print your photo on a sophisticated piece of equipment. Don’t get me wrong, printing your own photos is fine and dandy for the family photo albums and whatnot. But when you want to hang something on the wall (especially if it’s somebody else’s wall), there’s nothing better than working with a professional to produce exactly what you want.

Print Room LIght
Creative Commons License photo credit: jhhymas

Some weeks ago, I needed to print a photo that was destined to be signed and shipped off. I found a local printer, went over to his place, and spent about an hour or two preparing and printing the image. I’ve purchased my own prints from places like ImageKind in the past, but that doesn’t even come close to the experience and quality you’ll get from sitting down next to the person printing your photo and working through the details.

We talked about the different papers he had to offer, looked at sample prints on each medium, popped open the image on his computer, sized it with Genuine Fractals, and put the finishing touches on the noise and sharpness. When we were ready to print, we ran a test strip just to make sure that everything looked perfect. Once I was happy with the outcome, we ran the entire image. The little white gloves went on, the photo was trimmed, dried, rolled, and packaged.

In the end, I walked away with a much higher quality image than I could have gotten from any online shop, and it didn’t cost me any more than I would have otherwise paid. The actual print was a little more expensive, but it balanced out with the fact that I didn’t have to pay for shipping (or wait for it). So if you’re considering having some of your work printed for display and showcase, I’d suggest you find yourself a local printer who you can visit in person and work with.

I’ve chosen to go with Oscar Medina from San Diego Photos and Prints. Oscar is a photographer and artist who purchased his own printers because he wanted that extra level of control. Since he doesn’t use the printers 100% of the time, he opens up his services to local artists in need of fine art prints and giclee reproductions. His prices are fair, and he definitely knows what he’s doing with the hardware and software. If you live in the San Diego area, I’d suggest you give him a try — you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t, you can still give him a try — he’ll ship orders too… you just won’t get the one-on-one interaction with him.

What’s your experience with professional printing? Can anybody else out there relate to what I’m saying?

9 thoughts on “Find Yourself a Local Printer

  1. Jim Goldstein

    Working with a printing specialist is always of benefit. I’ve identified a few in my area, tried them and now use one primarily for special projects. Working with print professionals is an experience unique unto itself and of great value to a photographer. Nice write up.

  2. Gowri

    Hi Brian,

    Makes a lot of sense…..the challenge is to find some one who understands our requirements and does not take it as just another job.



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  4. Brian Auer Post author

    If you’re looking for super-high quality art prints, I’d give Oscar a call (I mention him in the article above). For anything other than signed prints, I typically go through a POD service such as ImageKind or MPix.

  5. Stephen Bolts

    Very true. A professional with professional equipment is always going to do a much better job.

    My old boss used to insist on doing printing in-house – it drove me mad to see the results when for a little more we would have been perceived as far more professional. Luckily my new boss sees the same way I do.

    As you say, printing yourself is fine for family photos, but for anything on display or commercial, you need that extra expertise.

    Well worth the money, if you ask me.

  6. Oscar Medina

    Hi Brian,

    Thank you for the positive feedback on my services. I’m glad you had a good experience. That is what I strive for in my business. The voice of the customer comes first.

    Here is some follow up info your readers may find of interest.

    As a professional photographer and digital artist selling "open edition" and "limited edition" fine art prints, quality is a major requirement for me. Reproduction consistency over time along with color fastness, color shift resistance and fade resistance are also high on my list of quality requirements.

    Prior to purchasing my own giclee printing system I tried several local printers and several online printers with varying degrees of success. The main failure, on their part, was consistency over time. The same image file printed at two different times a few weeks apart would look totally different.

    As an artist I want each print to be exactly the same as the previous print. With off-set printing all of the prints would be created at the same time so consistency was less of a problem but when printing only 1 or 2 and then a few more a few weeks or months down the road, consistency over time can become an issue.

    Lack of consistency over time drove me to purchase my own equipment.

    I get consistency by "calibrating" my printer every 15 days. My printing system has a built in spectrometer that allows me to calibrate the system quickly and provides a level of consistency that results in identical prints created months apart. When searching for a local printer this is something I would seriously look at as a criteria for evaluating their services.

    My printer is an HP Designjet Z3100 (for those that are going to ask) and uses pigment based inks.

    Other items to consider when evaluating a printing company:

    Do they use pigment based inks or dye based inks? Pigments have long term color fastness and fade and color shift resistance. Dyes begin to shift and fade in as little as 5 years. Some of the better dyes can last 25 years or more but you have to know what is being used in order to predict how long your prints will last.

    Do they have a process in place to calibrate their printers for the media you will be using. (you’d be surprised to learn how many have never even heard of an ICC profile)

    My recommendation: look for an artist with his own equipment. His approach will be totally different than a shop that does only printing. Personalized service will be the norm.

    Oscar Medina
    San Diego Photos and Prints

  7. Brian Auer Post author

    Great advice for any photographers looking to print their work, Oscar. I’m definitely sold on having my work printed by another local artist rather than a big company designed to handle lots of orders very rapidly. I’m pretty sure that places like MPix (and other online PODs) don’t spend the time that you do making minor adjustments, cleaning up any missed spots, running test strips, etc. Your services are definitely appreciated.

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