Only the Best Will Do

A couple of days ago I launched a new website for my custom printer/paper profiling business, Great Printer Profiles.com. In doing so, it occurred to me how many photographers still use “canned” printer/paper profiles provided by paper manufacturers free of charge. Some who use canned profiles don’t even have a calibrated display. Sure, canned profiles and an uncalibrated display won’t stop you from getting decent-looking prints out of your printer. But if you think you’re putting only your best work out there, only a custom profile built for YOUR paper and YOUR printer will do and you need to have a calibrated display and an entirely color-managed process. Now, this is starting off sounding like I’m pitching you my custom profile or other services, but wait – there’s more 🙂

I follow a number of online photography forums – some technical, some creative – but what consistently strikes through many of the forums is the number of ways in which photographers try to cut corners, hasten their process, or use inferior materials; mostly to save money somewhere along the way. I see many recommendations for low cost/poor quality mouldings and frames; recommendations for low-cost inkjet papers; low-cost non-archival framing materials; photographers who leave large format for digital due to the cost of film; etcetera. I like savings as much as the next guy, but if you’re promoting yourself as the best in your class and market yourself as a “fine art photographer” – I’m sorry, only the best will do.

Consumers and buyers are a savvy lot. They can easily tell good from inferior work, especially when the work is available for viewing side-by-side, and unless your market is high-volume low-dollar, your buyers and collectors expect better and more. When the “competition” amongst photographers for buyers and clients is at an all-time high, only your BEST can separate you from the herd.

Want to be professional and wow people? Want to charge and get more for your work? Don’t show or market anything less than your best photographs. Don’t cut corners. Don’t use canned profiles, cheap inkjet paper, cheap frames, and non-archival materials. When cost and convenience trump your quality, it’s your art that suffers for it. Make everything you do better than the way every other photographer does it. Only your very best will do.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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Digital Printing Insights #7: Media Type Settings

MediaType

the Media Type selection

Exactly what does the Media Type (or Paper Type in non-Epson drivers) setting control? Most importantly and critically, it determines the amount of ink coverage (or ink density) that the paper will receive (in addition to: drying time between printer head passes; paper thickness; platen gap, and many other variables). The Media Type selection is not something to be taken lightly – the quality of your prints depends greatly upon having made the right selection.

So you’ve got a new inkjet paper that you really like, but it’s made by a third-party vendor (not the same manufacturer as your printer). Naturally, the Epson printer driver Media Type selector (click the image at left for a larger view) does NOT include a media selection for your new inkjet paper since it is non-Epson. So how do you know what media type to choose? Check first with your paper manufacturer’s website. Most not only provide free printer profiles for their papers (more on this below), but they also share other technical specifics; including what media selection should be used in conjunction with their paper. What if they do not suggest a media selection or provide profiles for your printer? Time to start printing and testing! Select the most appropriate match to your media type (for instance, select Matte Paper if you’re printing to a matte paper), and make test prints with each of the specific media choices available under Matte Paper. Allow sufficient time for drying (I suggest 12-24 hours), and carefully analyze the subsequent prints. You’re looking for the most dense ink coverage you can get without any ink bleeding; that is, the inks are not running or bleeding into white border of the paper. The prints should be smooth and ink dots should not be visible to the naked eye. Once you determine which media type gets you there, record it and stick with this setting each time you print.

Now you’ve got your media type dialed in, but the paper manufacturer does not provide a printer profile for you to use. No worries! I create very high-quality and low-cost custom printer/paper profiles and getting one is very easy and fast. Please visit GreatPrinterProfiles.com for more information and to order. Please be sure to read the testimonials of my many happy print-making clients.

Thanks for tuning in! If you have any suggestions for future editions of Digital Printing Insights, please let me know!

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website

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Digital Printing Insights #5: Evaluating and Choosing a Paper

LeanHere is installment #5 of my Digital Printing Insights. This column (so far) has been written from actual questions from my custom printer profile clients as well as questions from fellow photographers.

Does the tone of the paper have that much effect on print color or is the problem due more to bad manufacturers profiles?

You bet! The tone of a paper (warm, cool, or neutral) has great effect on overall print color. This should be easy enough to deduce, but all things being equal, a warm paper will produce a warmer print while a cool paper will produce a cooler print.

Similarly, when blacks aren’t deep, is the problem more likely to be with the paper or with the manufacturers profile?

It can be both. Some papers may not produce the Dmax (a measurement of the deepest black than an inkset/paper combination is capable of producing) that you’d like, and substandard “canned” profiles (free profiles supplied by paper manufacturers) can exacerbate this problem.

If the latter, how do you pick a paper without a good profile? Besides color rendition, what else do you look for when picking a paper? I realize the choice of paper is largely a visceral response, but I’m interested in technical aspects I should check, for example, metamerism or bronzing.

Nearly all name-brand papers available today are of high quality: wide color gamut, good Dmax, and good surface finishes. When used with Epson’s K3 inksets, for example, you’ll get good results with almost any paper. For this reason, I generally disregard color rendition and Dmax and instead choose a paper based almost exclusively on surface qualities. For me this means low reflectance (I’m not a big fan of smooth, glossy papers); some tooth but not too much (tooth= surface texture/roughness), and definitely no visible bronzing (the visible “bronze” appearance of pigments on paper) or gloss differential (the visible gloss difference of pure white paper adjacent to inked paper). Once you’ve selected a paper for its surface characteristics, a custom printer profile will optimize the paper to your printer and get you the best results possible.

What are my favorite papers? I use only two: Museo Silver Rag, and Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm. I use Silver Rag exclusively for my Epson K3 prints, and Photo Rag 308gsm for my Piezography carbon pigment prints. I have consistently used Photo Rag 308gsm for about seven years now.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future Printing Insights, I would love to hear them! Thanks for reading.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Now offering: Custom Printer Profiles

I am now offering a service for photographers and digital printmakers: Custom RGB Printer/Paper Profiles. Custom profiles provide several benefits, including accurate color reproduction, smoother tonal transitions, neutral grays, and improved shadow and highlight details. My custom profiles are optimized for your specific printer, ink, and paper combination and will help you get the most out of your printer and paper. At only $25 each, you cannot afford not to have a custom profile for each paper/printer combination you use.

For more information and to order custom profiles for your printer and paper, please see my website.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.