Tag Archives: print

New Discount on Canvas Prints

A few months back, I mentioned a deal from Canvas People for getting a free 8×10 canvas print. Well, that offer has passed, but they have another one up for grabs right now.

Canvas People is giving a $25 discount plus free shipping on any of their canvas prints. This evens out the playing field for those of you not living in the US (I’m assuming there are no location restrictions since I didn’t see any on their site). This post contains affiliate links.

8×10 canvas prints start at $50 without the discount, and go all the way up to 18×24 for $100 without the discount. Not bad pricing considering that includes a gallery wrap and protective coating. Frames and photo touch-ups come at an extra cost.

[tweetmeme]Canvas people has also added some features and helpful hints to the upload/order process. They give you a preview of the image as it will appear on the gallery wrap and they’ve added some extra explanations for sizing your images prior to upload.

I don’t know how long this offer will last, but if you’ve been thinking of doing a canvas print, now is the time!

Canvas People Offering FREE 8×10 Canvas Prints!

[UPDATE 7/7/2010] This offer has expired, but a new one has taken its place.

I got an email today from the folks at Canvas People asking if I was interested in giving away some free canvas prints. At first I’m like “ok… what’s the catch?” — but after looking into it, the deal seems to be legit.

They’re offering up a $55 credit for any first time customers! This will get you one FREE 8×10 canvas print, and you just pay for shipping and handling.

You could also use that credit toward a larger size at a reduced cost (an 11×14 will run you $9.99). That’s a pretty awesome deal if you ask me.

[tweetmeme]The prints are also gallery wrapped and protective coated at no extra cost, meaning it will be ready to hang when it arrives. If you’ve been thinking about having a photo printed on canvas, try these guys out — you probably won’t find a better deal out there!

(This is an affiliate link — it costs you nothing, and it helps support Epic Edits)

My Photography Resolutions for 2010

New Year’s Resolutions… so cliche, I know. But you can’t deny that the turn of the year is a good time to evaluate your life and make some goals for the next year. I’m in the process of defining my photography goals and resolutions for the upcoming year, in part thanks to Andrew Boyd and his list of “Photographer’s New Year’s Resolutions” (and it seems as though his goals are very much in line with my own). I find that writing them down helps me out, so here are my big ones for 2010.

TAKE MORE PHOTOS

Shooting the Argus C3

After pulling together my favorite photos from the past year, I realized that I had been very passive about taking photos. Several months were filled with family photos, but no art/commercial photos. The reason for this is because I didn’t make the effort to get out and take photos of new things. So this year, I’m planning on getting out there more often, either by myself or with friends.

I also want to get the kids taking more photos. They both shoot 35mm now, and they love to print their stuff in the darkroom. The problem is that I don’t take them out enough to have a good base of negatives to choose from.

WHAT’S THE PLAN?

At best, I can probably afford to get out once each week with the the cameras. At worst, I should be hitting twice per month. I’ll be making an effort to head out each weekend, even if just for a local walk-around to fire off a single roll of film. I’m also going to be bringing the kids with me more often so they can start building up their archive for printing. And every one or two months, I want to do a bigger outing that requires me to be out most of the day shooting.

PRINT MORE PHOTOS

The Darkroom

I’ve been investing a lot of time and money into my darkroom, so I should make better use of it. At first, I was getting in there a few times each week learning how it all works. Lately, I’ll be lucky to print something once every two months. This sucks, mostly because the chemicals go bad before I can finish them and I waste even more money. And now that I’m almost ready to print color in addition to b/w, I’ll need to be a lot better about conserving money for those expensive chemicals and papers.

WHAT’S THE PLAN?

I think at least one night per week is a reasonable goal. This will allow me to keep producing a constant flow of prints (most of which are for my personal portfolio or living room wall). I’ll probably also have to allot one of these nights per month to develop film since I’m doing my own b/w and color stuff now. The rotary processor will allow me to run more rolls at once, so a month’s worth of film in one night shouldn’t be unreasonable.

NO NEW EQUIPMENT

I Don't Have A Problem...

I have a confession to make… I have G.A.S. Yes, it’s true. I can’t help myself when I see a good deal on a great piece of equipment — I just have to buy it. I do use most of the stuff I’ve purchased, but I also have a cabinet full of cameras that rarely get used because there are so many of them. At this point, I pretty much have all the cameras I could need. The only thing I’ve been craving lately is a large format camera, but that needs to be put on hold for a while.

I’m also just about there with the darkroom and I don’t anticipate needing any big ticket items. The last outstanding item is a power supply for the dichro head. After that, I’m all set for b/w and color, film developing, and prints up to 16×20″. This is another reason I don’t want a large format camera yet — my current setup is only good up to medium format (large format will require a whole new enlarger).

WHAT’S THE PLAN?

Well, hopefully I can resist the temptation to buy new toys. I’ve been really good about it lately, and the last purchase was the rotary processor for the darkroom. I haven’t bought any cameras for a while, so I think I’m in a good position to keep it up. I’ll have to keep buying film, paper, and chemicals, but the cost of developing my own color film should go down from $4/roll (at the lab) to $1/roll (in my darkroom).

TURN MORE PROFIT

Analog Fruits

There are two ways to turn a higher profit: make more money, or spend less money. So this resolution includes a little bit of both. I’ve been doing the photography and blogging thing for a few years now, but I don’t have much to show for it. My hobby barely pays for itself at this point, but I’m also spending every bit of my free time doing it. I wouldn’t mind making a few extra bucks by the end of the year.

WHAT’S THE PLAN?

The “spend less money” part is basically the point above: no new equipment. If I can manage to follow through, my profits should be considerably higher. The “make more money” part needs to come from selling photos and selling advertising space on the blog (I actually make more with the blog than with my photos). I’ve been slacking on my ImageKind uploads and Fine Art Photoblog posts (I don’t do stock, I just can’t get the hang of it) — so I need to spend more time on those things. I also need to make this blog more profitable because I know it makes far less than what it could. I have a plan for this point, but I’ll lay it out later this month.

MAKE TIME FOR BLOGGING

Brian Auer

I spend far more time blogging about photography than I spend actually taking or working on photos. This thing is a huge time-sink, but I won’t give it up anytime soon. I’ve learned so much and met so many awesome people through blogging. My problem is having enough time to do it. I would love to spend every night with a clear agenda and a head full of ideas to write about, but that just isn’t the case.

WHAT’S THE PLAN?

First off, I need to be more productive and more organized about my time spent blogging. I usually just get around to it whenever I can, writing up the articles right before I publish them. This is not a good way to blog. I need to set aside at least 2.5 nights per week to write content, answer emails, update software, brainstorm, proofread, feed-read, etc. Eventually, I need to work my way back up to having a few finished articles in the queue at any given time.

MAKE MORE TIME OFF

Jake

I have a full time job, a family, plus all this other junk. So I thoroughly enjoy my time off when I can afford to take it. Every once in a while I’ll just drop everything and lay around for a few days watching movies or playing video games… then I spend a solid week catching up on things. This sucks. I need to give myself breaks and nights off here and there so I don’t burn out and go AWOL.

WHAT’S THE PLAN?

It ultimately boils down to the fact that I need to schedule my time better. Work time means work, lazy time means no work. I’ve scheduled my time in the past, but it never stuck because it was either too aggressive or too inflexible. Having a family to look after means that my time comes second, so I have to be flexible with it. But seriously, I love turning off the computer and wasting time with movies and video games.

THE FINAL VERDICT

It’s obvious to me that I need a schedule of some sort. Like I said, I want it to be somewhat flexible, but I also want to cover my bases each week so I don’t put off the important things for too long. What I came up with is a method of blocking off 2 or 4 hours at a time for individual tasks (and the day job eating up 8-9 hours). Some of the pieces can be moved around from day to day so I can adapt to my seemingly chaotic life. Here’s a sample of what my week might look like… keeping in mind that “day job” and “family” time blocks are universal constants and completely inflexible.

I’ll have to give it a shot for a few weeks to see if the time blocks work out for me. But the idea is that each block of time can be moved around to any day of the week to accommodate my life at that time. Oh, and this is also assuming about 16 hours of blocked time, 6 hours of sleep, and 2 hours of “who knows what” time that manages to escape me every day (probably eating food or something else stupid like that).

What about you guys? Do you have any “New Year Resolutions” for 2010? And are you so busy that you have to schedule your time with chunks of paper?

Link Roundup 10-24-2009

Your Guide to Making Fine Art Prints

Your Guide to Making Fine Art Prints

So here it is — everything you ever wanted to know about producing fine art prints! Well… probably not everything, but definitely more than nothing. This is a HUGE topic and it’s difficult to discuss because the official rule book for making fine art prints has been missing from the holy temple of photography for quite some time.

So we did our best to discuss the important aspects of the subject, and the fellow artists leaving comments on the articles have been more than helpful. If you haven’t read through the entire series of articles, take a stroll through the archive. And definitely read through the comments at the very bottom of each page — they probably contain more content than the actual articles. I offer up a big thanks to all who participated in the discussion — you guys are great!

INTRODUCTIONS: Making prints sounds simple at first — just hit the print button, right? Well… yes and no. Prints can actually be quite involved depending on how far you want to go with them. Once you cross the line of producing a signed print, you’re basically putting your integrity on the line. A signature is a “seal of approval” when it comes to prints, and this is something you shouldn’t take lightly. This is an intro to an upcoming series.

PREFACE: Before we dive into the main topics for this series, I wanted to mention a few things to set the tone. These are things that should hold true for the length of the series, and I don’t want to waste precious real estate on repeating myself with each article.

PREPARING: With fine art prints, preparation is probably the most important step in the process. So many things are dependent on other things, it’s imperative that you have a clear path defined. The end product is your goal, but the process is the path you must take. If that path is ill-defined, your final product will be something less than fine art. In this article, we’ll simply talk about the preparation that must take place before producing your final work.

PRINTING: I think we’ve covered the bases for general preparations, so now it’s time to start making that print! This is really the first step in producing a fine art print, but it’s not any more or less important than the other steps. If I could give just one piece of advice in this article, it would be to make the final print at the highest quality humanly possible. Here’s a few tips and advice for making that happen.

SIGNING: Finally, we’re getting to the less discussed topic of producing fine art prints: signing. I’ve had a few people ask the same questions about where to sign, how to sign, what to sign with, etc. If there existed an official rule book, set of laws, or holy parchment that contained the answers I’d direct everybody to the web page. But I don’t think something like that exists, and I know the process of signing fine art is less than defined.

FRAMING: We’re really coming along on this series! Almost to the finish line now! In this article, we’ll be covering the topics of matting, mounting, and framing your fine art prints. These are really the final steps in producing the artwork, and they’re equally important as the other steps. Read on for some tips and guidelines, and be sure to share your thoughts and insights in the comments!

SHIPPING: This article will dive into some of the discussion about packaging and shipping your fine art prints. With each step in the process of print making, the piece becomes a little more complete. At the end, you might have to send it to a new owner, and all that hard work is out of your hands during the transit. Here are a few tips to keep your print safe!

WHAT DID WE FORGET???

Speak up if we left out any topics that you’d like addressed! This is a big subject, so I’m certain that some things have slipped by.

Making Fine Art Prints: Shipping

Making Fine Art Prints: Shipping

I think we’re finally winding down on this series of articles — maybe just one more to pull it all together at the end. This article will dive into some of the discussion about packaging and shipping your fine art prints. With each step in the process of print making, the piece becomes a little more complete. At the end, you might have to send it to a new owner, and all that hard work is out of your hands during the transit.

So I’d like to discuss the various methods for packaging prints depending on their final state: print only, large prints, small prints, mounted prints, and framed prints. On all of these points, I’d like to hear from those who have packaged and shipped prints of their own. There are a lot of little ins-and-outs when it comes to this topic, so I’m sure we could all learn something from each other.

PRINT ONLY: SMALL

Packaging and shipping prints without the mount, mat, or frame is generally the most cost effective. If you go this route (also assuming that the recipient is ok with the idea) there are a few options for packaging the print. Smaller prints, such as 8×10 or 11×14 (or smaller), will fit into things like photo mailers. These are reinforced envelopes that resist bending and folding. They’re inexpensive (on the order of $1/envelope) and you can find them at most office supply stores or other stores online.

The downside to these envelopes is that they can be damaged rather easy depending on their construction. I had a few prints go out only to arrive all chewed up and bent because of poor handling at the post office. The lesson here: use a photo mailer that’s large enough to house the print sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard. The extra material will help protect the print.

For small prints, you can also use things like shipping tubes or boxes, but it’s often not necessary if you take the extra steps to protect the print.

PRINT ONLY: LARGE

Any print over 11×14 will be more prone to damage if packaged in a photo mailer or envelope. In this case, shipping tubes provide a good means of protection at a fairly low cost. Yup, prints can be rolled up without damage — they’ll just have to be flattened upon arrival. If shipping via tube, I’d suggest getting a 3-inch diameter tube with the thickest wall you can find. Tubes will get crushed pretty easily, and it doesn’t take much to damage a print that’s rolled up inside.

I actually had a tube (and print) get damaged in the mail recently. So my professional printer, Oscar Medina, suggested a packaging technique to me: roll the print between 1/2-inch to 1-inch smaller in diameter than the tube, then use packing paper to “float” the print in the center of the tube. This method allows for the tube to encounter some amount of damage without harming the print inside. And if you really want to be careful, double-tube the print with something like a 2-inch tube floating inside of a 3-inch tube.

FRAMED PRINT

Airfloat Systems

Whether the print is only mounted or completely framed, you now have a rigid piece to work with. Smaller prints can be packaged inside cardboard boxes with lots of packing material to keep it away from the edges. But larger prints will require heavier box material, foam liners, and other safeguards. Just doing a quick search, I found a company that produces boxes and sleeves for fine art shipping: Airfloat Systems. I haven’t tried their products, but it looks promising.

I actually haven’t packaged and shipped any framed work, so I’m going to have to lean on you guys for this part of the discussion. Anybody out there have some tips for what to use and what not to use? At any rate, I know that larger framed prints can cost several hundreds of dollars to package and ship — so be aware of this extra expense if you plan on doing this.

SHIPPING

air mail
Creative Commons License photo credit: ‘smil

Once you have your print all packaged-up and safe, it’s time to get it in the mail! I won’t get into the differences between the USPS, FedEx, UPS, etc — they all ship stuff. I find that the USPS tends to be the inexpensive option, even for international shipping. But I also find that they’re pretty rough with the merchandise.

So no matter what shipping service you decide to use, there are a few things you should be doing with your prints. First of all, insure them! The cost isn’t usually outrageous, and it’s an easy way to help recover the cost of a damaged print. Sure, the claims process is painful and your print will never be damaged if you pay for the insurance (half joking here, but it always seems to be the case). But it’s good for peace of mind. Insure the package for at least the cost of the materials — that way the damaged print won’t be coming out of your pocket.

Another thing to do is cover the package in stickers and stamps that say things like “Fragile”, “Photo Inside”, “Do Not Bend”, etc. This isn’t a safeguard, but it might help catch the attention of a careless mail handler and make them think twice about what they’re doing.

WHAT ELSE?

Do you guys have any further tips and suggestions for packaging and/or shipping prints? Like I said, there are a lot of little tricks to this stuff and I’m sure I don’t know all of them. What have you had success with? And what has failed? Any horror stories on this topic?

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
BACK — FRAMING

Making Fine Art Prints: Signing

Making Fine Art Prints: Signing

Finally, we’re getting to the less discussed topic of producing fine art prints: signing. I’ve had a few people ask the same questions about where to sign, how to sign, what to sign with, etc. If there existed an official rule book, set of laws, or holy parchment that contained the answers I’d direct everybody to the web page. But I don’t think something like that exists, and I know the process of signing fine art is less than defined.

Even if these things aren’t defined in a strict technical fashion, there are some traditional ways of doing things. Tradition is fine and dandy, but there are also alternative methods to every aspect of signing prints. In this article, we’ll explore some of the options and discuss a few of the things you might think about while producing your fine art prints.

WHY SIGN A PRINT?

The biggest reason to sign a print is to show that you approve of it. Your signature is the thing that states “I made this print. It is of the highest quality, and it deserved to be viewed as fine art. I stand behind this print and I put my name on the line.” OK, so not everybody is quite so dramatic, but signing a print is a really big deal! It’s like signing a check — if you didn’t write the check, and you don’t have the funds to back it up, you wouldn’t sign it. Right? Same thing with prints — if you didn’t make the print, and you don’t have the confidence to back it up, don’t sign it! (Of course, “making the print” can mean many things. But basically, it means that you know who made it, how they made it, and you trust them — so this could be yourself or a third party.)

Another reason you might sign a print is to increase the value of the piece. Since the signature states that the print was truly produced and/or approved by the artist, it becomes more desirable to art collectors. Unsigned reproductions can work fine for decoration or personal admiration, but they won’t hold the same value as a signed print. Add in the option of limiting your work (which we’ll cover in a moment) and you introduce scarcity, which in turn produces a higher (perceived and/or real) value.

One more reason you should think about signing prints is to promote yourself as an artist. A signature is easily recognized by people viewing the print. Whether it’s legible or not, your name is still on the print and you’re promoting your brand. It doesn’t matter if the print is in a gallery, a private home, a bank, or a diner — the signature (brand) will be seen.

BEFORE YOU PRINT…

One thing you’ll want to think about is “extra room” when you print your photo. That means leaving a border around the actual print, whether it be white space or a printed color (including black). As you read through the rest of the article, this will make more sense. We’ll also talk about this idea of “extra room” in the next article when we cover mounting, matting, and framing.

WHAT TO SIGN WITH

Above all, if you decide to sign a print, the stuff you sign with should be of equal or greater archival quality to the print itself. There’s no point in producing a print to last 200 years, only to sign it with a Sharpie or something. Once you sign, that ink or paint becomes part of the print, and you want it to last. Art stores typically carry archival pens for signing various mediums. Some are ink and some are paint. Either way, make sure the contents of the pen are acid-free and archival quality.

I sign my prints with paint pens (archival of course). These things are easy to find at art stores, and they’re quite reliable. They lay down a good amount of liquid and the tips are quite gentile on the print surface. These things take a bit of getting used to, but they’re not impossible to use.

Another thing to think about is the color of your pen. Black is an obvious choice since it works for almost any situation, but it’s not the only option. I usually sign my black and white prints with a silver paint pen and my color prints with a black pen. Sometimes I’ll break that rule, depending on the situation and the particular print. The color you sign with can be as recognizeable as the signature itself, so find something that works for you and stick with it.

Pencil is also used by some artists, especially when signing on mats rather than print material. I don’t have much experience with this, but I can’t quite get into it because it seems so temporary compared to paint or ink — but to each their own. I’d be curious to hear the thoughts of pencil-signers in the comments below.

WHAT TO SIGN

We have a lot of choices on what we write when signing a print. The most obvious thing would be your signature or autograph (or whatever you want to call it). This is the part that really matters — it’s your “seal of approval” and only you can put it on the print. Some people like to sign their real name, while others like to sign a pseudonym. Some like to sign in cursive, some with a crazy autograph, and others in plain text. How you do it is completely up to you — there’s no rule saying you must do it a certain way. I’d only suggest that you keep it consistent as much as you can.

fountain pen
Creative Commons License photo credit: [phil h]

Another common item found on a signed print might be the title of the print and the year it was taken. This goes beyond the “seal of approval” and is more of an artistic preference. A title is often important to the meaning of the print and if you feel your titles are important, by all means, put it on the print! Year of capture is another preference item — usually just adding a little extra context to the photo.

If you decide to offer your print as a limited edition or an otherwise limited print, an edition number is something you’ll want to show. If you have a predetermined number of prints that will be (or have been) produced, it’s a good idea to show the number of the print in relation to the limit number — so “5 of 40″ or “5/40″ might be a feasible option. Some artists also have open editions (so no limit), but still like to number their prints. This is totally okay too! Just be consistent.

There are other things you could include in the signed portion of the print, but it’s usually best to keep them to a minimum to avoid clutter. But as the artist, you can decide what is important to you. Things like date of printing, location, copyright symbols, camera used, etc. I don’t know… whatever you want to include on the print. Like I said, it’s totally up to you.

I choose to sign the title of the photo, the date taken, the print number and limit number, and my name. I’ll get into where I put those things in the next section.

HOW AND WHERE TO SIGN

The most common question that new artists have about signing prints is probably where to sign the darn thing. I think there’s some kind of misconception that there exists a book of rules and regulations for fine art photos. There’s not (as far as I know). Like the content that you sign to the print, the location of signature is totally up to the artist. Many people have strong opinions on this topic, but just remember that the signature is part of the art and you can do what you want — you’re the artist.

If I could give one piece of advice about signing prints, it would be this: PRACTICE! Use the actual pen or marker on the actual paper (but not the final print) and pretend like you’re in 6th grade again. Find your signature and write it over and over and over and over again. I go through this ritual before I sign each print because I don’t want to mess up the real one.

Back to the topic at hand… the most popular place to sign a photographic print will be below the print, outside of the actual print border. This is usually done on a section of white space and is clearly visible to the viewer. From what I’ve seen, this is a traditional method used by many artists. You’ll find many “old school” photographers condemning the act of signing directly on the print, and this is the method that they’ll likely suggest. The only thing about this method is that you have to allot extra space below the print — no 1/8″ borders will allow you to sign the print this way. I’d say that an extra 3/4″ to 1″ of space should be sufficient (depending on your personal style of signing). Here’s an example of this method — click to see the signed portion larger. Print by Joseph Szymanski

Sign on the paper, below the image

Another feasible method of signing is directly on the print. This allows you to frame or mat the print right over the edge of the photo without requiring extra white space or border. Like I said, some artists condemn this method, but that’s their own opinion. The upside to this method is that you don’t have to use a border if you don’t want one. The downside is that the signature is typically much more difficult to see. Black ink will work well on light prints, silver or white ink will work well on dark prints, but midtone prints and busy scenes will hide a signature quite well. Here’s an example of this method — click to see the signed portion larger. Print by Bryan Villarin

Sign on the print, over the image

The previous two options involve signing directly on the print material. Yet another feasible option is to sign on the mat if you happen to be producing a print with a mat included. This method allows you to sign below the print without producing and displaying an extra border or extra white space. It can be more aesthetically pleasing, but there are a few things to keep in mind if going this route. The mat is generally not a permanent addition to the print, so your signature may not mean much if the two become separated. Also, permanent adhesion of the mat to the print or the print to a mount will likely lower the value of the print in the eyes of a collector, so be careful how you do these things. Here’s an example of this method — click to see the signed portion larger. Print by Tom Webb

Sign on the mat

One final method that I’ve come across for signing prints is less visible. Writing on the back offers a way to be less obtrusive to the final display while also stating your approval of the print. Some collectors might like to have clean prints with no visible signatures, but I’m guessing that most would like to have it visible as part of the display (I know I do). Then again, not all collectors or exhibits will want or allow a signature on the front of the print, so this may be your only option for these situations.

SOME THOUGHTS ON “EDITIONS” AND “LIMITS”

We’ve talked before on the topic of limited editions here on the blog (and we even had a follow-up article), so I won’t get too much into this discussion. This terminology is defined by law, so just be aware of that if you decide to offer your prints as limited edition.

hidden despair
Creative Commons License photo credit: *MarS

If you don’t want to get tangled up in the legal stuff, you might think about offering your prints as “limited signed prints” rather than a true “edition”. This method seems to suit digital photography better because of the technology associated with making a print. In my case, I like to offer these limited signed prints which I can produce one at a time as needed. Whatever limit I choose for a particular print will be the maximum number of signatures that image can have — so if it says “37 of 50″, that implies only 50 prints of this image will have a signature on them, and this is the 37th one produced.

An even simpler solution is to offer “open editions” where there is no limit to the number of prints, signed or not. This method doesn’t produce the same scarcity that a limited set does, but at least it shows that the artist produced the image and they approve of its quality.

“Unsigned prints” have their place too, but one concept of fine art (photography or otherwise) is that the work has been produced by the artist and the artist approves of the final output. Without that signature, you can’t lay claim to these statements. I also offer unsigned prints of my work, but for decoration and enjoyment rather than collection or investment. I know this is also a heated topic among artists — do unsigned reproductions devalue the signed works? I tend to think not (and I’d use Ansel Adam’s photos as an example), but others will strongly disagree on this point. To each their own!

NOW YOU GO

I’ve covered quite a bit of stuff here, some of it probably long-winded and unnecessary. If you’re still questioning any of the topics on this subject, do ask! Also, if I skipped something that you wanted to know about, bring it up in the comments.

In addition to questions, I’d like to hear from the rest of you “print signers” how you do it. What method do you use? What type of pen or marker? Where do you sign? How do you sign? What do you sign? You get the idea… let’s hear it.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
BACK — PRINTING
NEXT — FRAMING

Making Fine Art Prints: Printing

Making Fine Art Prints: Printing

I think we’ve covered the bases for general preparations, so now it’s time to start making that print! This is really the first step in producing a fine art print, but it’s not any more or less important than the other steps. If I could give just one piece of advice in this article, it would be to make the final print at the highest quality humanly possible.

Before we jump in, I should make my own printing situation very clear so there are no misconceptions. I use a local professional printer to produce my digital prints: Oscar Medina of San Diego Pictures. He’s the real brains behind the whole printing thing, and he provides me with a top notch service. I don’t handle any of the technical aspects of printing — I just bring him the files and give him the thumbs-up to press the go-button. So any technical information I provide here may be somewhat or completely wrong. As for darkroom prints… I do those myself, so I can speak to it with more confidence.

And again, we’re just skimming the surface of this topic in this article — please ask specific questions and discuss technical stuff in the comments below.

The following tips mostly apply to digital printing rather than traditional darkroom printing.

PREPPING YOUR DIGITAL PHOTOS

Fine art photos are all about “high quality” — and that starts before you even see the image. Make sure that you’re shooting at the highest quality available with your equipment. Shoot RAW, AdobeRGB, no downsizing, no compression, etc. Use high quality glass if you can, and avoid camera shake by shooting at a fast enough shutter speed, etc, etc.

When you process the image, workflow is important. Use 16-bit color depth and a high quality color space (I use AdobeRGB for color and Gray Gamma 2.2 for b/w). Watch your histograms while processing, and don’t let your colors, blacks, or whites jump off the scale — you’ll be throwing away good information. Obviously, make the photo look how you want, but don’t go crazy on the adjustments if you’re trying for a “natural” photo.

Calibrate your monitor so that you see a true representation of your image as you process it. Whether you print yourself or if you have somebody else do it for you, the printer will assume that your photo was processed with a properly calibrated monitor. When I take my digital files to Oscar, they look perfect on his monitor and they look perfect when they come out of the printer. We both use a color managed workflow [pdf 4.5MB].

My typical image prep involves processing RAW files via Adobe Camera Raw (same thing as Lightroom), and occasionally some Photoshop work if needed. I’ll work with the colors, highlights, shadows, and midtone contrasts to get the image looking the way I want. I also put on a very small amount of sharpening and noise correction — just enough to make any artifacts go away.

In the last article, Andrew Ferguson asked “I don’t know what needs to be done to prepare them for print, workflow wise. I’m reasonably sure I need to convert to CMYK, but I don’t know how else to optimize my files (both b&w and colour) to ensure that what I see on the monitor is what I see on the final print.

Maybe we can touch on this more in the comments, but I always shoot, process, and print using AdobeRGB for color images (I process and print black and white images with gray gamma 2.2). From what I understand, printers will do their own conversion from RGB to CMYK or grayscale. The important thing is to have a calibrated monitor and a calibrated printer — I know Oscar spends a good deal of time keeping up with this stuff to ensure that what we see on his screen is what we see coming out of the printer.

I could probably go on and on about this stuff in more detail, but we need to talk about other things! Chat-it-up in the comments.

PRINTER, PAPER, AND INK

After your digital file is prepped, you’ll need to decide on a printer. There are so many different types of printers and inks out there, I’m not even going to try speaking to the technical side of this. Just do your homework and find a system or method that suits your artistic needs. Chances are, you’ll either have your own printer or you’ll need to find a printing service (including PODs) or a local professional with the right equipment. With the current technology, any professional printer should be using top-notch equipment capable of producing archival prints ready for any gallery wall.

Paper, on the other hand, is more of the artist’s decision than the printer or the ink. There are a lot of different papers out there, and each of them has a unique visual quality suited for different applications. You’ll need to decide between gloss, semi-gloss, matte, metallic, canvas, watercolor, and other fine art papers with varying textures and colors. Even with all the choices available, keep the quality and archival life in mind — fine art prints are supposed to last a long time. Oscar actually has a book of the same image printed on various papers so you can see the different effects and outcomes. This is super-handy when deciding on papers!

I usually go for the glossy paper because I like my prints shiny, but it’s an easy paper to damage and scratch. I’m considering trying out a few canvas prints at the suggestion of Oscar… I just need to find the right photos for it.

SIZING, SHARPENING, AND NOISE REDUCTION

Print size is a big decision — don’t underestimate it! If you want to go really big, you’ll need the pixels to back it up. As a rule of thumb, I try to keep my stuff above 100 pixels per inch. So a 12MP digital photo can be printed up to about 20″ x 30″ without a huge loss of quality.

065 (lms)
Creative Commons License photo credit: heather

Once you get at or below 150 pixels per inch, you’ll want to consider upsizing the image on the computer so you can get a better quality on the printer. So for that same 12MP photo, once I go above 20″ wide on the long dimension I’ll probably resize the image to larger dimensions to avoid printing artifacts. This can be done with Photoshop (or other post processing software), but something like Genuine Fractals will do a better job for you.

If you need to up-res your photo in order to print at the size you require, it’s best to do your sharpening and noise reduction at the very end. If you’re printing from the original (not resized) photo, just make sure to apply these things at the very end of your processing. And don’t go overboard… make sure you view your digital file at 100% before finalizing the sharpening settings. Over-sharpening will definitely show up on the print.

[UPDATE] Gary Crabbe left a good comment below: it might be a bit clearer if it read, “You should *Always* do your output sharpening *After* the image has been (re-)sized to the final output measurements.” I think it might also be good to squeeze in a comment warning of over sharpening, and checking for sharpening artifacts at both “Print Size” and at “Actual Pixels”. Agreed! Thanks Gary!

One last thing on print size — know what size you want to print and WHY you want to print at that size. Take into account things like viewing distance, intended border, where you’ll be signing the print (if at all), how it will be matted and framed, and how you’re planning on transporting the print to the final owner. Most of these things will make more sense to some of you as we proceed through this series — so stay tuned for the next couple of articles.

PRINTING, HANDLING, AND SHIPPING

When you finally get to the point of printing, most of your prep-work should be done. If you’ve done you job right, you shouldn’t have any problems. But no matter how much preparation you’ve done, it’s always a good idea to print a test strip in order to evaluate the quality. Choose a section of your photo that contains critical information such as deep shadows, bright highlights, important colors, or people’s faces. Print that section and make sure everything looks right. If it does, go for it. If it doesn’t, go fix stuff. You’ll save a lot of time and material cost if you work with test strips before making the final print.

After the final print comes rolling off the printer, make sure you handle it like a newborn baby. There’s nothing worse than putting all that effort into a print only to bend it, crease it, or put a fingerprint on an otherwise perfect print. Use lint-free gloves to handle the print. Lay it out on acid-free paper. And don’t force it into any position that it won’t go naturally.

Larger prints can be rolled without damaging them — they can be flattened later. For anything larger than 11×14, I lay them face-down on acid-free paper and roll them into a 2″-3″ tube. Before rolling these prints, be sure that they’ve had time to properly dry so the ink doesn’t smudge. Other than that, use common sense!

When it comes to shipping, be careful how you package things. If the print is fairly small, you can use photo mailers available for 8×10 or 11×14 prints. Anything larger and you’ll probably want to send it in a tube. Even with tubes, some extra precaution should be taken. I actually had a print damaged recently because the Post Office just doesn’t care that you’re sending sensitive material. After talking with Oscar, he mentioned that he likes to roll his prints about 1″ smaller than the diameter of the shipping tube and float it in the center by placing extra packing paper at the ends. So even if the tube gets crushed or bent (which mine did just recently — sorry Mom), the print will likely survive due to that extra buffer of airspace.

FOR THE ANALOG FREAKS

Out of developer
Creative Commons License photo credit: adrenalin

Probably not the most popular topic, but I know at least one or two of you are interested in my darkroom workflow. First of all, I use high quality enlarger lenses and easels. Enlargers are no different than cameras, only opposite — so use good stuff. Also, for signed prints, I use fiber base paper and I tone with selenium for archival longevity. Proper fix and wash are also key in the quality of the print. I don’t have actual data points to back up my suspicions, but I’d expect my darkroom prints to last at least 100 years, probably more.

At any rate: print on fiber, don’t skimp on the fix and wash, and tone your prints. These things take FOREVER to print and finish, but it’s totally worth it. If you analog printers have any specific questions, hit me up in the comments — I could talk for days on this stuff.

SO WHAT DID I MISS?

The topic of printing requires a huge series of article on it’s own, so I’m sure we didn’t cover everything here. If you have specific questions about printing methods, techniques, and theories — do ask!!! I spoke with Oscar (my professional printer and fellow artist) about this article and asked him to chime in on the technical stuff. He’s more than willing to answer our questions and take part in the discussion. This guy is a fountain of knowledge on the topic, so don’t pass up the opportunity to tap into him!

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BACK — PREPARING
NEXT — SIGNING

Making Fine Art Prints: Preface

Making Fine Art Prints: PREFACE

Before we dive into the main topics for this series, I wanted to mention a few things to set the tone. These are things that should hold true for the length of the series, and I don’t want to waste precious real estate on repeating myself with each article (plus, it’s really boring to hear over and over).

If you’re planning on following and participating in the “Making Fine Art Prints” series, be sure to read through this stuff at least once. I’m just trying to lay the groundwork for what’s to come so there’s less confusion and more interaction.

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND

First and foremost: this is a discussion, not a lecture. I’m planning on learning a few things from the rest of you, so participation both ways will be key. With that said, keep in mind that we all have different opinions and different ways of doing things. This group has always been awesome at keeping things civil and educational, so I’m sure we won’t have any issues.

THE COMMON THEME

Throughout the series, there will be one common message: Do what you want. We won’t be getting into the legal complexities of “limited edition” fine art prints, and there’s really not a standard set of methods out there for producing fine art outside of that scope. The downside to this — there also aren’t a lot of guidelines or suggestions documented. The upside — you can pretty much do what you want and it won’t be wrong.

The final test for a fine art print is that it passes your criteria for approval. This means that you have to think about your standards of quality and how you want to present yourself as an artist. It doesn’t take long to gain a bad reputation if others perceive your presentation of work as “low quality” — so do what you want when making fine art prints, but remember that your reputation is on the line.

WHAT WE WILL COVER

We will talk about each of the topics to whatever depth the community wants. The articles I write will start the discussion with basic overviews and generalities, and the comments can be a forum for specific discussion and sharing of knowledge. The more discussion, the deeper we go — so be sure to participate. Ask questions if you don’t know something, and answer questions if you do.

WHAT WE WON’T COVER

Before we jump into the content, I want to make sure that I’m not giving a heightened expectation of what will be discussed in the articles. For example: I listed one of the main topics as “Printing”. Yes, we’ll be talking about printing. But I won’t be talking about specific hardware, software settings, darkroom methods, etc. Same type of thing with signing. I’m not going to tell you how to hold the pen ;) . Again, if the community wants to dive into those things within the comments — let’s go for it.

AND REMEMBER…

Let’s have fun with this! I’ve written a few series in the past (Adobe Bridge and Photo Backups), but this one is shaping up to be a bit different. I’m hoping that we have even more discussion among the community, and I’m even planning on incorporating some of that discussion back into the articles (and possibly another eBook at the end).

We’ll officially kick-off the series on May 26 because of the holiday on Monday. I’m hoping to get through one or two of the topics each week, depending on the level of discussion immediately after I post the article. So stay tuned!

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BACK — INTRODUCTIONS
NEXT — PREPARING

Making Fine Art Prints: Introductions

Making Fine Art Prints: INTRODUCTIONS

Making prints sounds simple at first — just hit the print button, right? Well… yes and no. Prints can actually be quite involved depending on how far you want to go with them. Once you cross the line of producing a signed print, you’re basically putting your integrity on the line. A signature is a “seal of approval” when it comes to prints, and this is something you shouldn’t take lightly.

UPDATE: I’ve changed the title of the series from “Making Prints for Display” to “Making Fine Art Prints”. I think it’s more fitting for the topics we’ll be discussing.

Signing prints seems to be a “hidden secret” for those who haven’t done it yet. Nobody really talks about it! In addition, signed prints tend to go beyond just a signature: prep, print, frame, ship, etc. But don’t get overwhelmed — there’s a common theme among all of this: “the photographer is in-charge of the final product.” Whatever you decide to do, there’s no wrong answer. The discussions that follow are not intended to be hard-set rules, only suggestions and guidelines.

DISCLAIMER: Let me get this out of the way right up front… I’m not a professional artist, I don’t do this every day, and I don’t know all the answers. I’m going to rely on the audience to help fill in some of the blanks along the way. I’m also not a lawyer, and the discussions in this series may or may not apply to things like “limited editions” from a legal sense.

I also have to give credit to Justin Korn for instigating this discussion. He asked a question about signing prints via FriendFeed, and the discussion exploded (see here). I quickly realized that the topic was of value to more than just one person, so I figured we could open things up here on the blog.

Since the subject of producing prints for display covers many aspects, I thought that a series would be in order. Here’s what I had in mind for a few upcoming blog articles:

  1. PREPARING – Making decisions prior to making the print and how those decisions will effect subsequent steps.
  2. PRINTING – How to produce the best quality work and how to handle the finished product.
  3. SIGNING – Placing your “seal of approval” on the print and a discussion of the various methods for doing so.
  4. FRAMING – Mounting, matting, and framing of prints as an optional step in the process.
  5. SHIPPING – Once everything is done, we’ll talk about how to get the print packaged and shipped to avoid damage.

This whole series of articles will be quite open to discussion, suggestion, and modification. Right now, I’m asking you to provide feedback on the main topics and the subtopics contained within. Are those 5 main topics enough to cover all of your questions? And what specific things would you like to see discussed in each one?

As we dive into each topic, I’ll present material based on what I know. Then, I’ll ask all of you to provide feedback and additional knowledge on the subject. After posting each article, I’ll let the comments run wild for a few days and then I’ll take some of the better comments and place them back in the main article (with attribution, of course). In the end, we should be able to produce a good resource for the topic of producing prints for display… maybe even another eBook.

FOLLOW THIS SERIES OF ARTICLES!
NEXT — PREFACE