PetaPixel

Digital Photo Printing: 10 Years After

An in-depth look at the current state of the digital photo printing industry

DigitalPhotoPrinting_2MDPcovers_800xPSD_800x

In 2003, my first “Mastering Digital Printing” book came out. My goal was to create an in-depth reference to the new world of digital printing for photography and fine art. I had a sense that there was a need, especially by photographers, for good information about “this new way to print” images (digitally). I guess I was right because the book was an instant success; it was actually in the Top 5 on Amazon Books jockeying with John Grisham and Michael Crichton in sales ranks for a short while. It was the right book at the right time. And I went on to write a second edition and a couple of related books before moving on to other things, all relating to photography.

But that was then, and this is now. And after 10 years, I’ve been wondering: how are photographers printing images? ARE they printing images? What’s new, and what’s ahead for high-quality digital output for photography?

Is Anybody Still Printing Photos?

We need to start with this question because if the answer is No, then this will be a short post! But the simple answer is Yes, photographers are still printing their images. Let’s explore it a bit more…

The Online Play

Although many talk about “the death of print” and the ubiquity of social photo sharing and disappearing SnapChat photos, industry stats actually show that printing photos is still happening, even growing in many instances. Specifically online photo printing.

2_ibisworld_infographic_354x343Research firm InfoTrends did a survey of Internet connected households in EU, and photo printing went up 11% in 2012 compared to 2007-2008. Similarly, U.S.-based online photo printing has become a big deal, growing by about 20% annually between 2007-2012 according to market research firm IbisWorld. Three significant reasons for this growth are: the adoption of digital cameras, ability to transport photos online, and the increase in broadband and mobile Internet connections.

Photographers ranging from your Mom to pro fine-art photographers are using the services of online “print service providers” (PSPs) who have an Internet presence. While there are still boutique labs and print shops around that have real parking spaces and real people walking in the front door, the biggest change is that there are lots of options now for getting your prints made online. You send a digital file, and they send back a print or book or whatever you ordered. Some of these providers are actual brick-and-mortar photo labs that have added online capacity, but others are new, global and virtual.

One resilient example that’s been around since 1976 is Northern California’s Bay Photo Lab. What started as a basic lab near the coast in Santa Cruz, has evolved over the years into a powerhouse online PSP providing photographic printing services to consumers and other print providers worldwide.

3_BayPhoto

“We’re very hands on,” says President and CEO Larry Abitol. “We pride ourselves on get-it-out-on-time production and customer service with phone support, 24/7 email, and live chat. We go all out for our customers.” And they’ve kept up with the changes in the photographic industry (where others have not) including inventing some of their own products and services. The list is too long to include here, but one of my favorites is their ThinWraps for finished prints (see more below).

A new-on-the-scene PSP is ink361.com, which currently specializes in printing mobile photography but expects to soon expand beyond mobile. They are based in Hong Kong with offices in the Netherlands and U.S.

4_ink361OrderPage_hj_640x379 copy

“We target aspiring and pro photographers – people that love photography, and we see a lot of young people amongst our users.” says CEO Carel van Apeldoorn. “Currently, our most popular products are custom iPhone cases, photo prints, and canvas prints. We accommodate both the buyers and sellers of photo-printed products, and the exciting part is that we just launched a new Shop feature for selling your images, and based on the responses so far, we see very promising demand for this.”

And when we add in all the “photo centers” at discount stores (Walmart, Target), drugstores (CVS, Walgreens), and warehouse clubs (Sam’s Club, Costco) — all of which have online presences — we’re talking about a LOT of photo printing. (And you’d be surprised at how many serious photographers use these places to print their photos!)

So let’s look at what and how people are printing these days…

The Top Products

While the basic technologies for printing high-quality images digitally haven’t changed much, the final products or forms have, at least in their use or popularity. Here are the most important types of photo print products today and what’s changed over the years:

Prints on Paper

The proportion of “paper prints” may have gone down compared to other photo printing products, but we’re still talking about 48% of the online photo printing market in the U.S. being prints on paper.

5_ibisworld_infographic_640x360 copy

This includes everything from Shutterfly 5x7s to custom large-format prints. Galleries still want prints on paper (for the most part), and because art prints themselves have a history going back to the 16th century (Albrecht Dürer), we’re not going to see this way of rendering an image completely disappear anytime soon.

Some of the photo printing has moved to the photographer himself with Epson, Canon, and HP all making high-quality photo-printing (inkjet) machines for “self-printing.” But there are also plenty of specialty labs and PSPs catering to higher-end photo customers who are passionate about their photography.

“We’ve created a nice niche in digital silver printing,” says Eric Luden, founder of Digital Silver Imaging outside of Boston. “Digital is to B&W what color film was to photography decades ago. It’s new yet it’s familiar at the same time.” Digital Silver uses a digital frontend (Lightjet) to expose (via RGB lasers) specially designed Ilford B&W silver gelatin paper (both fiber and RC) that is then processed normally like a B&W print. I’ve seen the results, and they are astounding. They even created a Kickstarter campaign for this kind of specialized printing and oversubscribed it within 30 days!

Digital Silver’s Eric Luden and Christopher Bowers with a True B&W print

Digital Silver’s Eric Luden and Christopher Bowers with a True B&W print

Photo Books

Photo books have seen huge growth in the last decade. And I’m primarily talking about self-published “instant books” or books produced in micro-runs by suppliers like Blurb, Clearstory, and just about everyone else in the photo printing business. I didn’t even mention this option back in 2003 (Blurb was founded in 2005), but this is the natural evolution of digital printing and another proof-point of the Print-On-Demand concept.

Take Blurb, for example. Any photographer can make ONE copy of a custom photo book with his or her images starting at $12.99 with Blurb. Most books cost more than this minimum, and I made one for my wife a couple of years ago to check it out (she loved it; see book cover below).

7_PinkBoxbookcover_500x393

This was not a 300-line-screen, super-high-end coffee table book printed in Hong Kong or Italy, but it was good enough, and it didn’t cost me thousands of dollars for a minimum print run as with standard offset litho. And I didn’t need a publisher.

Admittedly, I was skeptical when I saw the first print-on-demand books many years ago, but the quality has steadily increased, and these books are clearly accepted now in the marketplace. In fact, there is an entire industry built on self-published photo books with awards, publications, and conferences. Photo books are very “now” now. As Aperture Magazine says in it’s latest The Photobook Review supplement: “Photobook publishing is a creative field where some of the most innovative gestures can be the most enduring.”

Canvas & Framed Prints

Canvas prints (especially canvas or gallery wraps, which are canvas prints stretched over a hidden frame) have been going strong in photo printing for several years, especially now among the Instagram crowd. Canvas (via both inkjet and photographic/chromogenic) accounts for almost 12% of the online photo printing market in the U.S (see infographic above).

Canvas can be printed by the photographer himself or through numerous print providers, many of which are online. “The fact that you can turn your own image into a piece of wall-hanging art is still very compelling,” says ink361’s Carel van Appeldoorn, who is also a photographer. “Canvas prints come ready to hang and create an elegant display.”

Inkjet printed canvas wraps with solid-color edging; courtesy ink361

Inkjet printed canvas wraps with solid-color edging; courtesy ink361

A twist on the canvas wrap is Bay Photo’s ThinWraps with spacer in back for floating off the wall. Shown below is Canvas ThinWrap mounted on Gatorboard with satin laminate.

Image courtesy Bay Photo Lab

Image courtesy Bay Photo Lab

For the traditional framed display of photo prints, much of that has also moved online. After Dallas photographer Mark Rogers started searching for picture frames for his self-printed inkjet prints, he soon learned that retail frame shops did not offer the kind of ready-made frames he was looking for in non-standard sizes such 13×19, 10×15 or 8×12 inches. “When I discovered there were many people with similar needs,” explains Mark, “I founded Frame Destination.com,” which sells picture frames and do-it-yourself framing supplies to photographers and others for protecting and displaying their prints.

16x20 wood frame; image © R.E. Marabito; courtesy Frame Destination

16×20 wood frame; image © R.E. Marabito; courtesy Frame Destination

Combining both above ideas, take a look at the large canvas print made for me by photographer/printmaker David Saffir. David shipped it to me in a tube, and I had a local frame shop stretch and install it into an antique painting frame my wife was storing. It’s currently hanging on my living room wall as you see it.

Wave photo by David Saffir, printed as a pigment inkjet print on Matte Canvas

Wave photo by David Saffir, printed as a pigment inkjet print on Matte Canvas

Alternative Process Printing

There are, of course, plenty of alternatives for the digital printing of images, including but not even close to being limited to: metal prints (see more below), direct printing to wood and other substrates, lenticulars, transfers, and even Digital Platinum. If you want to see how Elliott Erwitt made his first platinum print via a hybrid digital-analog method, watch the short video I directed below.

Alternative-process printmaking is actually one of the most creative areas of photography, in my view, and photographers are continually coming up with inventive ways to do it. The pioneers in the digital alt-process arena are the ladies of the digital artist collaborative Digital Atelier (Dot Krause, Bonny Lhotka, Karin Schminke), and they’re still at it.

For the past 23 years, Dorothy Simpson Krause, Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts College of Art, has experimented with various print media and processes including: printing on lead, embedded lenticular, emulsion transfer, Littleton vitreography, digital transfers, and dimensional flatbed printing on custom substrates. An example of the last process is shown below in a work called “Arms & Weapons,” which began with scanned pages from a collaged journal made in India. It was combined with a photograph of an Indian woman to create the master digital file. To make a final print reminiscent of the journal, two sheets of handmade brown Indian bagasse, shipped from India, were adhered to a sheet of Arches Infinity inkjet paper; smaller left photo shows this sandwich entering the Vutek flatbed inkjet printer with UV-curable inks (flatbeds can print on solid objects 1.5-2.0 inches thick!). Smaller right photo shows the final print coming out the front of the printer. The bagasse tones the image and creates dimensionality.

Arms & Weapons, © Dorothy Simpson Krause

Arms & Weapons, © Dorothy Simpson Krause

The Main Technologies

Back in 2003, the four primary technologies for printing high-quality images digitally were: inkjet, “digital photo print” (my term for hybrid chromogenic or “Digital C-print”), dye sublimation, and electrophotography. While those are still the main ways to print photos today, there have been some shifts among them along with new trends.

Inkjet

A little history… The first inkjet fine-art photo print was made in 1989 by David Coons in Southern California for Graham Nash (of singer Joni Mitchell). By 1991 Nash Editions had opened up shop in Los Angeles as a true inkjet printing studio for photographic art. Then things just went wild for inkjet. By 2005, there were at least 5,000 inkjet print-service providers across the U.S. and in other countries.

For self-printing, Epson pioneered the first consumer, photorealistic (desktop) inkjet printer in 1994, and eventually Canon and HP joined them in manufacturing inkjet printer devices for high-quality photo output, with the most important change being the move from dye-based to pigment inks starting in 2000 (Epson 2000p). After lots of evolution and product development, inkjet printing for photo prints — whether by individuals at home or through PSPs — has now reached a high point as one preferred photo-printing medium.

In 2003 I wrote that “It has been a challenging decade in which to gain the public’s and the art community’s acceptance [for digital printing],” but that battle has now been won, at least for inkjet. Inkjet is finally being accepted as a bona fide art medium — hooray! When I recently called Craig Krull of well-known Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica, California, to check in on inkjet’s adoption by the art gallery world, he explained that “most photographers are doing it today, even William Eggleston.” He continues, “As long as it’s pigment vs dye inks, and it’s archival or holds up over time, I have no problem including digital pigment prints in the gallery.” The image below was printed as a 32×38” archival pigment print (inkjet) and included in a recent exhibition of Tim Bradley and Mark Swope at Craig Krull Gallery.

Stardust Jungle, © Tim Bradley; courtesy Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, California

Stardust Jungle, © Tim Bradley; courtesy Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica, California

By the way, don’t get confused by terms like “Giclée.” Giclées are inkjet prints, just dolled up in a fancy French dress. I use the word dress because “giclée” is the feminine noun form of the French verb “gicler” (to squirt, spurt or spray). And don’t even get me started on the non-formal meanings of the word in French! Not that we need to be all Frenchified here. The term was actually coined (for fine-art prints) by Los Angeles master printmaker Jack Duganne. You can read all about it in my original piece: “The True Story of Giclée.”

Digital Photo Print

Whether you call the machines Digital C, Laser Chromogenic, or Digital RA-4 printers, it’s the same thing: a digital frontend exposing or scanning to paper, which is then fed into a wet chemistry (silver halide) backend like the old days of photo processing. The quality is top-notch: real continuous-tone photo output. They come in two flavors: Wide-Format and Digital Minilab.

For large prints, labs and PSPs use pricey Océ Lightjets, Durst Lambdas, and ZBE Chromiras. Even though Lightjets and Lambdas are no longer being manufactured today, they’re sort of like vintage American cars in Cuba: they just keep running with a little fixing and refurbishment. But Chromiras (using LED lights instead of lasers) are still being made, including in a 50” model (Chromira 5x 50). “I guess we’re the last man standing,” says ZBE VP of Marketing Tim Sexton.

Chromira5x 50” Digital RA4 printer; courtesy ZBE.

Chromira5x 50” Digital RA4 printer; courtesy ZBE.

Some photographers still maintain that output from these machines are the only “real” photographic prints, but others point out that pigment inkjet beats the pants off them in in terms of print permanence and the substrate (paper) selection is very limited for this light-sensitive category. It really comes down to a personal choice.

On the other side of the size spectrum is the digital minilab, which runs on the same basic idea (digital frontend, standard RA-4 chemical backend). This is what you encounter when you walk into any drugstore or big-box discounter, like I did to take the photo below recently. The original main players in this space were Agfa, Noritsu, Kodak, and Fuji, and as with their wide-format cousins, the manufacturers are dropping out (trying to convert their commercial customers to inkjet), but these machines keep cranking out the photos, whether for snapshots or professional prints.

Your basic big-box store photo center. This one features a Fuji Frontier 370 Minilab (in front of worker). Photo by author.

Your basic big-box store photo center. This one features a Fuji Frontier 370 Minilab (in front of worker). Photo by author.

And as mentioned above, Digital Photo Centers all have online links, which makes them very convenient if you don’t want to stand around fiddling with a kiosk (input device).

Dye Sublimation

Dye sub is still used by certain types of photographers, e.g., event photogs with small printers, but the hot action now is with PSP-made “metal prints,” which are basically thermal transfers done via dye sublimation. This means that first the image is printed onto transfer paper with an inkjet printer using special heat-sensitive sublimation inks. The inks are then transferred direct to the coated substrate (aluminum in this case) under heat and pressure. The result is a very durable, easily cleaned metal print on which different mounting brackets and posts can be added.

Metal Prints; courtesy of Bay Photo Lab, image by Annie K. Rowland.

Metal Prints; courtesy of Bay Photo Lab, image by Annie K. Rowland.

Electrophotography

This is a fancy way to say “toner,” and while purists restrict it to dry toner (like in desktop laser printers), I also include the liquid toner variation commonly called “digital offset” or “digital press” that’s used for printing most instant photo books (HP Indigo is the most popular device brand for that). While some photographers still use color laser printers for self-printing small photo items like cards, the shift is to PSPs doing liquid-toner photo printing for photo books, calendars, magazines, folded cards, etc. The limitation here is with size, with 12×19 inches being the typical max on liquid-toner machines.

The Wave, digital press accordion-fold photo book; courtesy of Bay Photo Lab.

The Wave, digital press accordion-fold photo book; courtesy of Bay Photo Lab.

Making the Case for Photo Printing

Paraphrasing Mark Twain’s famous quote, reports of photo printing’s death are greatly exaggerated. If you think printing photos is obsolete, think again. And think extra hard about your family, your kids, and their kids, not to mention clients, customers, galleries, and museums, if you’re so lucky. Even if your precious digital images last into the future (not at all certain – when was the last time you fired up the SyQuest drive to retrieve an image?), think also about a printed photo.

If done correctly prints can last 100-200-500 years. A print is a physical object that can be held, displayed, stored, moved, and preserved. You can put prints in albums, portfolios, books, safety deposit boxes, or bury them in the ground (or tombs). They exist in a real vs. virtual world and are always readable as long as humans have eyes. I think photo prints are here to stay. At least for another 10 years when I’ll check back with you. :)


About the author: Harald Johnson has been immersed in the worlds of photography, art, and publishing for more than 30 years. A former professional photographer, designer, publisher, and art/creative director, Harald is the author of the groundbreaking book series: “Mastering Digital Printing,” an imaging/printing consultant, and the founder of the photo competition site PhoozL.


 
  • http://nrbelex.com Brett

    Super informative. Really a very helpful guide. I’ve used or encountered a good portion of these products and techniques, and it’s great to see them compared and contrasted.

    One question I’ve always had is what’s the best way to print outside sRGB? Most of the services I’ve come across don’t offer or won’t make use of anything wider. What’s best way to make standard prints (and possibly print a book) which can take advantage of wider gamuts?

  • Ian

    Nice and comprehensive article! I can definitely recommend Bay Photo – they saved me from a hugely expensive printing mistake caused by a bad PS file and worked with me to fix it. Aspen Creek is another lab I’ve had great experiences with, and Costco’s canvas prints (from YPOC) are also good for the price.

    I often consider getting a big Canon or Epson, but the investment and ink costs are so high that it seems pointless until I’m selling at least 10+ large prints a month.

  • Ian

    Bay Photo and Aspen Creek both support Adobe RGB. So does MagCloud (from HP), where I recently self-published a book. These labs/services all produce excellent color from Adobe RGB files. I’ve been in desktop publishing for 15+ years and trust me, it’s hard to find places with good, reliable color. Just make sure your monitor is calibrated or it’s all for not.

  • bryceguse

    I’m just curious, what do you mean by a bad PS file? Was it something obvious like a massive streak across the picture or something that they had to look in detail to notice, or was the file corrupt? You’ve got me interested! I might have to check these guys out

  • Ian

    It’s a long story, but I was printing a huge custom sized canvases for a banking center and even though the PSD file was the correct number of pixels, the JPG (required by Bay and most labs) was being downsized somehow by PhotoShop. Because of the extreme enlargement, I was trying to mirror the edges of the canvases to keep the original croppings. Bay had printed the canvas and was mounting them when they noticed these “mirrored” edges were actually on the front (instead the stretched sides) of the canvas. It would have been a $1,000 problem had they arrived that way and would have been my fault! They called me as soon as they noticed and in the end, it appears to be a bug in PhotoShop (CS5), so I went back to my client and had them agree to new croppings so I could wrap the prints without trying the mirroring. Not a solution to the problem, but one that worked to get the prints done in time. Bay worked really closely with me throughout the process and even offered to do the work for me at a reasonable cost. They also shipped them in a MASSIVE 40x60x12 30lb+ box for a ridiculous price ($1.50, I think).

    Also, after that experience, I can see the advantages of a Nikon D800 over my 5D Mark III! Megapixels still rule in the print world.

  • Sum_it

    I’ve been a long time fan of FramesDestination.com. They have fantastic selection and the prices are just so darn good! Every time they ship a product, it is VERY well protected and arrives in perfect condition. Sounds like I’m being paid by FD to discuss their products/services when, in truth, I’m just a happy customer!

  • Ivan

    Great article! I have purchased Mastering Digital Printing (2nd Ed) back in 2004 which encouraged me to dive into the world of ink-jet printing. After trying several printers and ink/media combinations and having tons of fun, I ended up with notable hole in my wallet! If done properly and with care, it can really produce great results, but if one is not printing every day it turns into quite an expensive sport – spitting out a few pages then getting busy with something else for weeks while ink is drying and print heads are clogging is not the best way to go. Someone has once calculated that gram for milliliter quality inks are in most cases more expensive than gold. Go figure!

    After some time I figured out that for occasional printing and framing quality minilabs are the best choice. I currently print at a local shop that’s running Noritsu 37HD producing great colors and neutral B&W at 600 dpi, and guys are careful to use fresh chemistry and run the whole cycle properly. With print permanence greatly improved, the only main disadvantage of modern c-prints over ink-jet prints is indeed very limited selection of papers (as mentioned in the article), with only a few types manufactured which is close to nothing compared to the mind-blowing ink-jet media selection. If they could improve that, offering say 10 or 20 types of paper, making c-prints would become much more attractive. I can not understand why only a few traditional finishes (glossy, matte, pearl, and perhas one or two more, silk or metallic being the most common) and nothing else? Nothing even close to what Ilford once had in their Multigrade or Ilfobrom sample prints pack – it was thick, perhaps not really one inch thick, but felt close to.

  • Ian

    Cool, I’ve been looking for a good frame source. Will have to check them out.

  • Nate Parker

    there’s nothing like the awesome stink of my studio after printing dozens of images and then hanging them to dry! #LovePrinting!

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    You got that right about monitor calibration (and soft-proofing), Ian. MagCloud’s come along nicely in the past years.

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Thanks for kind words, Brett! Check with PSPs and ask if they accept Adobe RGB.

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Thanks for thumbs-up on the article, Ian. Yeah, I also used to do mirrored edges for Wraps. It’s a tricky thing to get right.

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Thanks kind words and for being an MDP book reader, Ivan! Yeah, minilabs are an option, which is why I included them. I might argue with you about “print permanence greatly improved” for Digital C. I’ll have to check, but I don’t think it’s gotten much better than the Fuji Crystal Archive standard of years ago. This is one advantage of (pigment) inkjet. But you’re right about the limited paper selection for Digital C. This is the first thing that attracted me to inkjet way back in 2000 or so (seeing a gallery photo exhibition by John Paul Caponigro showing large photo prints on watercolor paper).

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    @Nate: What stink? What drying? You’re not using an actual darkroom, are you? I think I’ve heard of those ;-)))

  • Nate Parker

    Haraldo- it’s when I make a print run for a couple few hours that the unmistakable odor of creation (pigmented inks) fill my small studio, and I like to hang them to ‘cure’ overnight before matting and sealing them. Great article sir- and the Digital Silver Imaging link has my interest piqued, might just have to check them out. Also have you heard of Jeff Gaydash: http://www.jeffgaydashstudios.com/ he prints using the piezography process which also interests me beyond words. Great stuff. Printing is the final step in the process of photography that I love because I can control the whole shebang from start to finish. Have a good one sir!

  • Nate Parker

    Also, I’m going down to my ‘neighbors’ studio John Paul Caponigro for his annual open studio to check out his prints in person. Talked to him on the interwebs in the past but never shook his hand. That should be interesting.

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Nate — Yea, John Paul actually got me started with all this because if was one of his inkjet exhibitions in Florida that I first saw. Glad you agree about the importance of printing. Took a look at Jeff Gaydash; good stuff, along with Piezography and Jon Cone (he starts off the 2nd Edition of my book). I think your next purchase is drying racks for your prints! :)

  • Dave

    Love the photo of the guy at Digital Silver lab with his fingers on a print.

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Must have been a test print :). They’re probably white-gloved all the way.

  • Christian DeBaun

    Great article – and book marked!

  • A Photog at Large

    Whether I’m teaching a photography workshop or a book workshop I always advise students to print their work. Printing forces you to apply critical thought and forces you to make decisions. Some of my students have never printed their images, and a few years ago the idea of printing was met with some resistance, but these days I find an overwhelming excitement. The print has always been one of the final fingerprints or statements of the photographer, and I think this still holds true today. Working for Blurb I can second your quote from Aperture. The book space has exploded in recent years, and the best part is I think we are only at the beginning of the curve. There is both a freedom and challenge to the book that is uniquely puzzling, in a good way. Earlier today, for the third or fourth time this week, I was confronted by a book that made me stop in my tracks and question everything I’ve ever known about books. This is a good, good thing. Also, your coverage of Bay Photo, Digital Silver, etc. all wonderful places, people and products. Thank you for this, a timely and well done piece.

  • Eric

    Hello Nate – I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to give me a call at the lab – 617-489-0035. Best, Eric

  • Eric

    HI Dave – yeah, silly me! Since they’re silver gelatin prints, we can just wipe off any finger prints, or actually re-wash it if we had to remove anything. It was only a test print, so we’ve been handling it a lot.

  • yopyop

    Thanks for the article and even more thanks for making me discover Tim Bradley. I really love his works!

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Thanks. And yeah, his image subjects are SO California. See here:
    http://www.craigkrullgallery.com/Bradley/index.html

  • http://MaryAhernArtist.com/ Mary Ahern

    Thanks Harald for a terrific overvew of the history of digital printing. Been in digital imaging since the 1980’s selling CG equipment. Bought your first book. Bought your second book. Member of your Digital Fine Art Yahoo group. Feel like we’re friends.

    I started with an Epson workflow, printers, inks and papers way back when, so I could have control over the mediums. As my work got larger and the community of providers improved, I began to outsource what I couldn’t print on my 17″ or 24″ Epsons and have really enjoyed the freedom of uploading a file and getting back a gorgeous print. No clogging, no wasted ink, paper, canvas and mostly Time. Something to be said for outsourcing now that there are so many competent printing companies out there.

    Staying on the bleeding edge, I’m now having my work printed on metal for outdoor display. Gorgeous prints!! Glad you mentioned this process.
    Can’t wait to see what’s next.
    Thanks for keeping us keeping on.
    …mary

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Thanks for your nice comments, Mary. We are friends indeed!

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Hi John (been while! :). IbisWorld lists “Other Services” as: “photos printed on calendars, brochures, mugs, frames, cards, and other novelty items.” I didn’t want to focus on those in this article/post. Your canvas printing on the HJ DJ 2500CP goes back a ways! Maybe I should write something about permanence?

  • John Stevenson

    Thanks for the response Harald. It’s pretty amazing then that fully 40% of the total market, by revenue (?), for printing doesn’t involve just a flat single print. I can see that the photobooks portion of that segment would likely be dominated by wedding albums and similar things, but it is still a big total chunk of everything.
    I guess that the one key thing to say about permanence is that we all worried too much ten tears ago. My 2500CP was never claimed to be anything other than a graphics “beast” – in fact, it was hard in 1996 to find RIP software to lay down photographic images using that machine at all.
    Overall I still maintain that the arrival of the Epson Stylus line of inkjets (circa 1995) took a lot of experimentation away from digital multimedia – there are in fact processes and expertise you feature in the book which didn’t “make it”. My most recent work has involved printing on transparent media and NOT then transferring the image to some opaque substrate. Largely, still, uncharted territory.

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    RE: 40%… I can see that being true (40% of REVENUE of the online photo printing market is NOT for “flat single print”). If you go to Shutterfly, which is apparently the #1 online photo print service provider in the U.S., and you look at their offerings, you see: photo books, cards & stationery, prints, calendars, photo gifts, home decor, special offers, and “occasions,” in that order. Prints is only 1 of their 8 main categories, and they themselves say: “Shutterfly’s flagship product is its photo book line.” But that still leaves 60% in overall market revenue for “prints”.

  • John Stevenson

    Harald, I wasn’t being critical of the article. Just trying to confirm a viewpoint of the present state-of-play. A 40% share by revenue doesn’t of course mean 40% by volume – it’s likely that some of the specialist items have a higher margin (based on frames, mounts and so forth, for home decor and the like, etc.).

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Yep. And no worries, John. FYI: I got my first photo inkjet printer (Epson Stylus Color 740) in 2000 or 2001.

  • Jesus Haces

    Hello Harald. Would you be interested in teaching a workshop in Mexico sometime during 2014? Please let me know and hope we can arrange something.

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald
  • JDBRD

    Harald, as always, a rich and informative writing about digital printing. My approach has always been from a painter’s point-of-view. Inkjet printing in 1994 was a god-send. It gave me the means to materialize what I create in the de-materilaized digital world. And we all know that people like to own things. Digital printing gives the artist that object to present and market. Without that, digital art is all just airy-fairy fonder for the fee content beast that is the world wide web.

    Once the permanence issues were dealt with and better and better sets of pigmented inks were developed, I knew I could never go back to paints and canvas. “Digital Painting” is still a bit of a head scratch for people, but inkjet prints (particularly photographic images) have broken that digital ceiling in the Fine Art world. I can’t help but think that your writing, promotion and general cheer leading has made a great deal of it possible. I look forward to what you have to say in 10 more years.

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    @JDBRD: Well, you’re head scratching with the best of them. Folks, if you have not seen JD Jarvis’ “digital painting” work, check it out: http://www.dunkingbirdproductions.com/pages/galleries.html
    Thanks for comment. See you in 10 years! :)

  • Ron Haake

    Great read, Harald, as usual. Regarding gallery wraps, I just can’t stand the look of mirrored edges with most subject matter, and although I can pull if off in seconds with Perfect Resize, I doubt that more than 20% of my work is strictly a mirrored edge anymore. Sometimes I will start with mirroring and then tweak it, but most of the time, it’s all new subject matter. Thanks to content aware fill, content aware patch, and content aware move, with a dash of old fashioned cloning for stubborn spots, I am able to easily extend subject matter for paintings and photos around the edge in a more natural way these days. Just a few years ago, it would have been too time consuming. It’s better looking, and a great way to stand out from the mass market printers.

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Good update and tips, Ron!

  • Ron Haake

    Non-mirrored canvas extension for gallery wraps has the advantage of not requiring perfect registration, but more importantly, it means no more “Flying V” palm trees and similar artifacts that occur when cropping objects and then mirroring them results in odd/floating objects.

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Darn, I always loved those Flying Vs!

  • florence22

    I like the idea of the canvas thin wraps, quite a novel take on a very popular form of wall art

  • Nanci Wadsworth

    Very informative, and regarding the digital vs. print copy discussion: I am not a professional, just a wanna-be! I take thousands of pictures, fine-tune them, and love every minute of it! I have recently made digital books with my photos, but, although it’s a concise way to store my photographs, I do miss the tangible hard copy prints. My daughter has thousands of pics on her phone, as do many of her generation. And some of her photos I remember (visions of photos stay in my brain…where I went last week- not so much! ha! ). If I ask her where a particular picture is, she says it’s in her phone, or on her computer…and who knows if time is ever available to look at it again? My point being that I will continue to have my hand-made photo books with hard prints as well as the digital version. The digital photo book of a particular event will have hundreds of pics; the hard-print version will have closer to 50 of the creme de la creme.
    Thanks

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Thanks for comment, Nanci. And I agree… digital photo storage is one thing, but a real-world, physical object (photo book, print) is always a winner. Keep making those photo books. Your daughter will thank you.

  • Moorthy

    now there is new technology has come , you can print 6*4 size print on any surface including on paper napkin just by moving your hand on the surface with this hand held device

  • http://www.phoozl.com/ AdminHarald

    Thanks for comment but I am referring to the major printing technologies. There are lots of specialty or alternative processes but they are mostly niche things. Tell us more about what you’re describing!