Where do you get your larger digital photos printed?

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Vince Maskeeper, Oct 30, 2005.

  1. Vince Maskeeper

    Vince Maskeeper Producer

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    I'm a big fan of decorating my place with original artwork and photography. I have several friends that take breathtaking photos and I'd like to start having some printed and mounted... I'm thinking prints from 8x10 and up (depending on the resolution of the source image).

    I'm wondering who you guys use for your prints, and why. Does any company use a photo-chemical process to create images from the digital source? Who has the best quality output and longest life prints?

    I'm trying to get a sense of the whole scale of available services, so even if you use something less expensive- I'd love to hear who you use, what they charge and why you use them (or maybe why you wouldn't use them again).

    Any input would be awesome.

    \V
     
  2. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I've tried a lot of different places - from Costco to Kodak Gallery - and have finally settled on White House Custom Color - www.whcc.com. The place is geared for experienced amateur and professional photographers and requires the investment in 1) monitor calibration hardware/software (about a $200 investment at least) and 2) some knowledge of Photoshop. However, because their standards are so specific they do provide a very good Photoshop primer on what they need you to do to the files for them to be printed. For example, all files need to be cropped to the desired print size at Level 10 JPEG, 300ppi and with sRGB color space. They recently included another color space option, which I haven't looked into yet.

    Pricing is very good. To compete with places like Costco or Kodak Gallery they have what they call "Thrifty Proofing" output at .24 per print. To get this pricing there's no mix-and-match of print sizes within an order and though it's called "Proof" the prints are the same quality as anything else you'd order. Shipping is included in the pricing and they send out via UPS 2 Day.

    Their process is photochemical and they also have many options for paper finishes and formats.

    The setup is a bit of a process - you need to send them a series of test files, get an FTP account setup, etc. But once you're set up it's slick, simple and excellent quality.
     
  3. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    You could always buy a large format inkjet...

    The high end Epson printers are phenomenal - virtually indistinguishable from a chemical process in the way they look. There are some models under $500 that print 13x19. I've used the Epson Stylus Photo 2200, which I think has been discontinued now. The inks are long lasting and UV resistant.

    The digital photo lab where I teach classes in digital imaging has an Epson 1280 and an Epson 2200. Many of the students coming over from traditional chemical printing are impressed with what these printers can do. For me, it's been a long time since I set foot in a darkroom.

    The one thing that can be difficult is black and white prints. With the standard cartridges installed, they will often have a color cast to them. Getting a custom printer profile made and doing some experimentation can help, but the cast can change over time. Trying some of the quadtone inks is another option - but you need to dedicate a printer to the process - you need to purge the printer before changing inks, which is time consuming and wastes ink.

    I've gone to a local photo finisher (one of the most respected in my area) and they do anything larger than 11x14 on an Epson inkjet - can't remember the model. I've had them do 16x24 prints for me on it and have been very pleased. Their price, if I recall, is around $16 for a 16x24.

    I have two 16x24 inkjet prints hanging in my house, and a few 8x10 prints that I've printed on my own Epson Stylus Photo 750 - a rather ancient printer that still gives outstanding results.

    -Scott
     
  4. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    Seems odd that a company with high standards only accept JPG files with more compression than necessary. Unless disk space is an issue for them, the JPG compression shouldn't make any difference. Odd. I always thought pro outfits accepted TIF files.

    I've owned several Epson printers over the years and the last one - the R800 was to be my last. I've never been entirely happy with it - despite it being replaced twice. Very (very) fine banding across the prints in light colours - exactly what a good quality photo printer shouldn't do. Epson didn't really want to know (just recommend head cleaning - again!). The problem with Epson is that you'll waste a lot of ink cleaning the heads.

    I've recently bought an HP 8750 A3 printer and it's superb. No (and I mean NO) banding, much better ink economy (the cartridges are more pricey but include a print head with each one, so maintenance is dramatically reduced). I prefer it in every way to every Epson I've used. And, it has a dedicated grey cartridge for real B&W prints - no metamerism. I've paid to have custom profiles created for the paper I use and the results are wonderful.
     
  5. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I'm sure they get this question alot. Here's what they say in their guide:

    Why a level 10 JPEG, don’t you lose quality? How can taking my file from 18MB to 1.5MB make a good print?

    JPEG compression is a very efficient, lossy image compression algorithm designed specifically for saving photographic images. It takes advantage of how humans see color versus brightness to only save information needed to reproduce the image for people to view. Image data is lost during compression, but at high levels of quality you will not see a difference between a Level 10 JPEG and a TIFF printed to photographic paper. JPEG compression is perfect for transient files for sending to the lab for printing, but avoid using the compression as a working file type. Also avoid opening a JPEG, making changes, and resaving it again as a JPEG repeatedly. If your workflow calls for this to happen, save your files as TIFF or PSD files until they are complete and ready for output, at which time you should save them as a level 10 JPEG. Any JPEG artifacts you see in your prints come from the JPEG file coming out of your camera, not from saving them as a level 10 for output purposes.
     
  6. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

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    While that's all true, I suspect the real reason for the JPG limitation comes down to bandwidth. With the low price of disc space, that's not going to be a reason for such a limitation, but if their entire client base ftps 32MB TIFF files all the time, their bill for bandwidth would be through the roof.

    -Scott
     
  7. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I'm pretty sure that's what it ultimately comes down to, though it would be interesting to have those who do their own printing do a print comparison between JPG and TIFF output.
     
  8. Rob Gillespie

    Rob Gillespie Producer

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    I'm sure a lot of it is just a psychological reaction to the idea. I would just get iffy about a company who put their bandwidth problems above the customers printing wishes. Even if they don't accept TIF, demanding level 10 JPG just seems downright mean [​IMG]
     
  9. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I definitely see your point though. I wouldn't go so far to say they put bandwidth above quality, more that they want to strike a balance between the two. I've been very happy with the quality and basically looked into the service based on the numerous recommmendations over at the dpreview forums. As an alternative, mpix.com offers similar services and accepts TIF files.
     
  10. Ed B

    Ed B Stunt Coordinator

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    I've seen some prints from the Epson 2200 and they're very nice. If your looking at getting a larger format printer the Epson wouldn't be a bad route to go but then again how often would you be doing larger prints. IMO its more cost effective to find someone in your area that will do the prints for you.

    At $500 for one of these printers and then the cost of ink and paper its an investment that you will not get your money back unless your planning on selling your prints.
     
  11. Marty M

    Marty M Cinematographer

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    I have had good luck using EZprints.com. Of course, I have also been pleased with the results I have gotten from my local Walgreens. They occasionally have a special for two 8 x 10" prints for $5. You may want to give your local Walgreens a try to see if you like their results.
     

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