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Where to start re: Printing

edited to simplify: as a noob to photo printing am I likely to regret buying an epson p700 to learn and grow on?

Does it make more sense to start smaller (like a Canon G620 knowing it won’t meet long term needs, but to use as a learning platform?

I hate how verbose I can be sometimes.

context follows:

Once upon a time printing was easy - I had a darkroom, and anything up to 20x24 could just be printed under the Beseler 45, but 30x40's needed to be projected against a far wall, and they were a real pain to get through the big chemical trays (and seeing the image to dodge and burn was its own issue).

But back then I understood how to get a print I liked. It's not like darkroom work was particularly easy, but I understood it and got the sorts of results I liked in a predictable way.

Now, the world is digital which is a good thing. But I don't know how to print any more. I'd like to start printing again as I pick photography back up as a hobby, but I'm starting from zero. And I don't have the benefit of having taken some photography courses in college which helped be before.

So the question to the experts: where do I start? The largest I see myself printing is 20"x24" and I don't see many of those being printed as we only have so much wall space. What I'll actually be printing regularly are 8x10 to 11x14 inch (or comparable size) prints of personal work that I'm just printing for fun, and to start exercising my creativity again. The actual wall prints come from vacations, and with Covid I don't know when the next real vacation will be. So buying a printer that accepts 17" or larger paper seems excessive, at least for now.

I'll guess that half of my prints will be black and white, for what that's worth.

In a perfect world I'd have a printer that I could learn on, that produces affordable output in the smaller sizes as I experiment, and I could perfect the process to the point where if I wanted a large print I could just send out for it and have it delivered, knowing that the colors/tones would be a match for what I printed locally, so the results I get are predictable.

Is that possible? And if so, what's the way to ease into this process? Is it possible to get reasonably neutral B&W from dye printers? If not, are there reasonably small pigment printers I should be looking at, and do they do well with color as well? The last time I looked into this years ago some of the most interesting work was coming from folks who were hot-rodding Epson printers to print with custom carbon-based inks and an incredible attention to profiles. Is that still the case, or have Canon and Epson pigments gotten to the point where one can get a great print using "standard" inksets from manufacturers?

And what hurdles exist that I'm probably not even seeing yet?

I'm sorry this is so vague - I feel like I'm so inexperienced here I don't really know where to even start asking questions. Worse: I tend to see in B&W, but my wife has an eye for color unmatched by anyone I've ever met or heard of, so I'll need to support both.
 
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Rand47

Active member
Two books that will bring you up to speed with the current state of the art in digital printing:

Jeff Schewe: The Digital Negative

Jeff Schewe: The Digital Print

Your time working your way through these will pay huge dividends in print quality, time spent, money wasted.

Rand
 

stngoldberg

Well-known member
Becoming a competent printer of digital images is a journey that has to start with a calibrated monitor.
stanley
 
Two books that will bring you up to speed with the current state of the art in digital printing:

Jeff Schewe: The Digital Negative

Jeff Schewe: The Digital Print

Your time working your way through these will pay huge dividends in print quality, time spent, money wasted.

Rand
I’ve got the 2013 and 2014 editions of those. A quick skim of the table of contents suggests it’s all focused on ACR, Lightroom, and Photoshop circa 2013. At least for the first volume.

Is that still the most relevant text today? What if I’m not planning on using Adobe products if I can avoid it?
 

Godfrey

Well-known member
Rudiments of digital printing:

- Calibrate and profile your display.

You use the display and your eyes to make the adjustments that render your photographs and you want them to be consistent. So pick a set of calibration constants that works for how you see (I use 120 cdm^2 luminance, 1.8 gamma, and 5600°K white point), set them up and create the monitor profile to install in your system.

- Render your photos.

Pick a few typical scenes in B&W and Color that you can use to test and become comfortable with. The goal is to get them to look just the way you want on the display first, and then to figure out what's needed to have them look the same when printed and viewed under some standardized reference lighting that is the same as the lighting where the print will be viewed.

- Pick a printer that you can get a range of papers and paper profiles for easily.

I only print larger than about 11x17 inch very very infrequently, so I send anything bigger than that out. I use an Epson P600 printer, which is relatively inexpensive, has excellent inks, good heads, and for which there are vast numbers of papers and profiles available.

- From there, use whatever application you want to print that supports being able to print with a selected printer profile. And experiment until you get what works.

You can read all the books and papers out there on high end printing, but in the end it boils down to doing the above, learning a particular paper/printer/ink set, and learning how to render your photos to print well.

G
 
Thanks, Godfrey.

did you find it difficult to get to the point where you could order prints from a third party and be confident the output would match your monitor/P600/expectations?
 

Rand47

Active member
I’ve got the 2013 and 2014 editions of those. A quick skim of the table of contents suggests it’s all focused on ACR, Lightroom, and Photoshop circa 2013. At least for the first volume.

Is that still the most relevant text today? What if I’m not planning on using Adobe products if I can avoid it?
Yup…. Jeff is an Adobe person. If you’re avoiding Adobe, then while the principles are still good, the books won’t be of much specific help. I can say this much about especially Lightroom Classic - the softproofing and printing module are excellent. It’s worth the price of admission, IMO, for these features alone. Especially for low volume fine art work. Print templates are very convenient and can reduce the layout, paper type, profile, rendering intent, resolution, print sharpening, etc., to pretty much a one-button exercise for your favorite papers, sizes / image sizes, once you’ve gone through the proper set up for each of them.

The latest version of Lightroom / ACR has a new masking panel that is “dangerously close” to real layers functionality. I print files from photographers who use a wide variety of cameras and post processing software - so am familiar with all of the “usual suspects.” The supposed differences are all mostly just a particular company’s preference for initial look of demosaiced files. E.g. C1 ‘s initial rendering tends to have more contrast than ACR / LR, and a tad more default sharpening. I find the differences pretty much irrelevant as you can “get there” with any of them. But the live, side-by-side, soft proof and printing module in Lightroom Classic gives it a valuable edge for printers, IMO.

Bottom line is that there are lots of good options these days, but I’d not dismiss Adobe, and especially Lightroom Classic ”out of hand” without exploring the potential benefits for your workflow.

Rand
 
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Godfrey

Well-known member
Thanks, Godfrey.
Did you find it difficult to get to the point where you could order prints from a third party and be confident the output would match your monitor/P600/expectations?
Not really, but then I go at it in an orderly fashion based on my long experience both with digital imaging and with publishing. A good print service will give you instructions as to how to prepare the image for their printing process, many offer their own printing profiles which you can embed into the image files you will send to them. If it's a large (and expensive) print job I'm sending off, I'll send an order for a smaller size on the same paper as proof, after communicating with the vendor to ascertain that this will give me matching results.

That's probably the key to it: communication. I take the time when I'm engaging with a print service to discuss what I'm doing and how they can help me get it done to my satisfaction. Most are very happy to work with me doing this ... The ones that aren't don't get my business. :D

G
 

Jorgen Udvang

Subscriber Member
Apart from all the excellent technical advice given above, don't underestimate trial and error as a supplement to technical expertise. Printing a lot makes you a better printer, enabling you to get the results that are to your own liking. That brings me to another point: printing cost, which is important both for the trials and the errors. I see that you suggest the P700 for yourself, which is an excellent printer. However, because of Epson's weird pricing policy, the larger (and 50% more expensive) P900 has more or less half the ink costs. The reason is that the ink cartridges for the P700 room only half as much ink (25ml) as those of the P900 (50ml) while costing almost as much per unit. An added bonus is that the P900 allows you to print larger, up to 17" wide vs. 13" for the P700. So if you aim to print a lot (not that much actually, since ink costs will easily exceed the cost of the printer within its lifetime for most), the P900 is the more economical choice.

As for the discussion around a great Epson vs. a cheap Canon... since my Epson 3880 is suffering from "clogged up everything", possibly beyond economical repair, I needed to find an economical solution until I can afford a proper replacement. I ended up buying a Canon iX 6870 (might have another name outside Asia), a $250 A3 printer with 5 inks (2 blacks) that does the job for now and deliver surprisingly good results. Inks are reasonable too, which means that trying it out is inexpensive too. I'm not sure if the expertise I gain from using the cheap Canon will have much value once I go back to a bigger Epson though. It's a bit like Toyota Camry vs. the latest Lamborghini.

Red River Paper has an excellent overview of ink costs btw.:

 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Paper choice, anyone? It makes as much (or more) difference to the output as anything else. I used Epson papers with the Epson printers - they were pretty good, and Hahnemühle for the fancy stuff. With the Canon printer, I just don't like *any* of the Canon papers, and use smaller Hahnemühle prints to test. I go through more expensive paper, but I have extra smaller prints I'm not ashamed to give away :ROFLMAO: .
 

Geoff

Well-known member
All good advice above - a couple of things to throw into the mix:
- LR is very good, as mentioned, for its printing module. I often take C1 output, and input it into LR just for the printing.
- trial and error is quite useful. Typically make letter sized prints just to see if the image is of interest, and obvious corrections, before moving to larger sizes.
- Jorgen's point about ink costs is well worth considering. Highly recommend the P900 for that reason alone.
- also, the P900 can manage not to clog up. Had a 3800, and then a 4000, and dealt with clogging all the time. PITA. With the 900, and Covid (little use), it still prints fine even after sitting several months.
- recommend to chose one paper and get proficient with it over time. Also might suggest B&W, as you can refine the print more readily only dealing with levels of grey and tonality; add color in once you've mastered that.
- think of it like a darkroom - first go get the whites and blacks where you want them, then the middle greys, and then the curve. Follow with local adjustments (if you wish) to the file. Hierarchy and sequence helps a lot.
 
Thanks folks.

I managed to order a P700 from B&H the day before Jorgen's advice, but I'll make it work. I've got an old Colorvision monitor calibration tool that pre-dates Windows 10 so I bought a newer Spyder from B&W as well, as well as a mix of paper to test and try. At least there was a $100 rebate on that printer from Epson, but that probably means they're fixing to come out with a new model.

I'll report back once I'm getting some results I like. Short term I'll be working on new images, but I'll probably buy a bunch of 5x7 glassine envelopes, buy a bunch of reasonable 5x7 paper once I've decided what I like, and start hiding photos for my wife in her purse, or closet. There's lots of images that are queued to print "one day," and maybe that day's coming up soon. That'll probably be the best printing practice I'll get.

I appreciate all the guidance, folks.
 

Godfrey

Well-known member
The P700 is the descendent of my P600, and even that is a fine printer.

Oh yeah ... Guaranteed no clogging advice: Make two prints of about 8x12 to 11x17 size every other week. Doing that, I've not had a single clog in the decade plus I owned the Epson 2400, or with the P600. :)

G
 

anwarp

Active member
I find that just printing out the print nozzle check every few days keeps my second hand P600 unclogged. Minimal ink use and exercises all the nozzles.
Another bit of advice I’ve been given, but don’t follow is to not power down the printer as it goes through a small flush cycle on power up. this should save ink costs.
For monitor calibration, I can heartily recommend displaycal. free software that does a better job than the xriite software that came with my i1 display pro. It supports dataspyder as well. For the final print I use qimage as it does an excellent job of scaling and sharpening based on the printer‘s native resolution.
you need extra sharpening for printing as the ink will spread. How much depends on the paper, ink, etc. And the sharpening should happen after the scaling.

The P700 is an excellent printer. If my P600 is anything to go by, it should last you for years.

Have fun!

Anwar
 

Godfrey

Well-known member
Thanks for the reference to DisplayCal. The latest Xrite software works fine for me, but isn't very flexible ... They've automated everything a little more than I like.

G
 
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