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Where do you get your larger digital photos printed?


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10 replies to this topic

#1 of 11 OFFLINE   Vince Maskeeper

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Posted October 30 2005 - 05:15 AM

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
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#2 of 11 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted October 30 2005 - 06:06 AM

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.
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#3 of 11 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted October 30 2005 - 06:18 AM

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 of 11 OFFLINE   Rob Gillespie

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Posted October 30 2005 - 07:42 PM

Quote:
For example, all files need to be cropped to the desired print size at Level 10 JPEG

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.
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#5 of 11 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted October 31 2005 - 02:29 AM

Quote:
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'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.

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#6 of 11 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted October 31 2005 - 03:13 AM

Quote:
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.

Maybe the model was a bad design?

I wouldn't dispute your experience with Epson, but in my circle of photo people, their printers are extremely highly regarded. The 2200 is also raved about at:

http://www.luminous-....pson2200.shtml

His experiences closely reflect my own with that particular model.

As far as banding, paper choice is of paramount importance. Printing on an Epson paper that is tested with the particular Epson printer you're using makes a serious difference.

I like Epson Archival Matte (or Enhanced Matte) paper, and sometimes use some Epson lustre finishes (like pearl). I've never been a fan of high gloss from an inkjet, and have seen banding problems from multiple manufacturers when using them. The problem varies with the brand of paper you select, and the humidity when printing.

With the two Epson printers I have owned, and the two in the lab where I teach, I've never had to run excessive cleaning cycles. If the printer is unused for a couple of months, a cleaning cycle may take care of dry nozzles. A non-critical or test print does the same thing.

Quote:
Odd. I always thought pro outfits accepted TIF files.
Me too...

Quote:
I'm sure they get this question alot. Here's what they say in their guide:
...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....

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 of 11 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted October 31 2005 - 03:36 AM

Quote:
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.
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.
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#8 of 11 OFFLINE   Rob Gillespie

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Posted October 31 2005 - 08:00 AM

Quote:
Printing on an Epson paper that is tested with the particular Epson printer you're using makes a serious difference.

Oh yeah, I tried all that. Used proper Epson inks, papers, you name it. Maybe it was a bad design, but my experiences of it were enough to put me off Epson consumer-level printers for life.

Quote:
though it would be interesting to have those who do their own printing do a print comparison between JPG and TIFF output

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 Posted Image
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#9 of 11 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted October 31 2005 - 08:35 AM

Quote:
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
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.
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#10 of 11 OFFLINE   Ed B

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Posted November 02 2005 - 03:33 AM

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 of 11 OFFLINE   Marty M

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Posted November 02 2005 - 03:45 AM

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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