Updated: Sep 16, 2019
From our printer in the office, to Museum Walls.
I am a big fan of printing images instead of just keeping them to view on my screen. As Costa Manos (Magnum Photos) says, the final product of a photographer is the printed image. This is the art piece that a photographer produces. In my personal view, the stages of creating an image are five:
4) Post processing
This is the reason we usually say that we make an image, instead of just take a photograph. Because there is much more than just clicking the shutter release of your camera. As far as presentation goes, printing is the most important process of resenting your image to your audience. Today's technology has made it possible to be able to transfer your image from your screen's monitor to a piece of paper. This can be done today with exquisite Museum level quality, similar or even better than silver prints coming out of the darkroom, with little waste and with great ease.
Out of the great systems available in the market today, I have decided to go with the Canon ImagePROGRAF system for several reasons. Canon printers have the main benefits of delivering excellent Museum quality prints. Equipped with 11 color ink cartridges plus one chroma optimizer cartridge, you can achieve an image quality that equals that of large scale lab printers Another great advantage I find in Museum quality digital printing is the fact that you do not need to keep a stock of prints that are for sale. Even during an exhibition, you can print your image on demand to sell it to the investor.
This saves you from huge costs of piling stock of images instead. With the Canon large format printers I can even provide on-demand printing for an exhibition show and perform the actual printing of sold images on the spot. I have actually found it really important that I do not need to worry about clogged printing heads, as Canon printers will monitor all heads and in case it finds some clogged ones, it will use other heads to replace the missing ink, so you get perfect prints every time. The printers have also an advanced self-cleaning process which keeps it from clogging even after a long time of
not using it.
How's a large format printer such as the models of the imagePROGRAF different from a simple image inkjet printer.
a) ARCHIVAL PRINTING
You know this is actually a prerequisite in order to be able to sell one of your images. Many newcomers do not realize this fact. Usually a simple inkjet printer for home use will be using dye based inks, which are a cheaper option. These inks will work fine for most everyday needs, but they have the disadvantage of fading away when exposed to the sun, for example if you frame them and keep them on your wall. So as you understand, you cannot sell an image that after some time will fade away and will not look good. Professional printers use pigment inks and the Canon ImagePROGRAF PRO series give >100 year warranty in their resulting image, when using the right paper.
My experience with simple home printers and clogging is terrible. Some printers will clog even after a few days of not printing something on them. Professional image printers have a huge difference in manufacturing quality and use advanced self-cleaning techniques that help them avoid clogging even after a long time of not using them. My personal experience with my printer, is that I never need to clean the heads and had perfect printing even after 2 months of not using the printer. Having said that, you should of course avoid leaving the printer without printing even a test page for more
than one month periods.
c) PERFECT PAPER ALIGNMENT
The actual mechanics of the printer play a vital role in the final result of the print. A great example is that while printing, the paper might skew inside the printer. So if the plane of the paper is not 100% parallel to the printer's floor, the distance between the paper and the print head becomes variable along the paper's width. Therefore the printing is not uniform and loses its sharpness. Think of it like scanning a picture using a flatbed scanner, without the lid on. Your photo will be skewed on the scanner's plane, so
the lens will not be able to focus properly on the whole surface of the paper, resulting in partially blurred images. The Canon ImagePROGRAF PRO series use air vacuum while printing in order to make sure that the paper is absolutely parallel to the printer's floor,
resulting on super sharp images all over the paper's surface.
d) ADVANCED PROFILING
If you want to be serious with your printing, you must be able to make sure that what you see on your screen is transferred to paper with the exact same colors. This way you are able to reduce waste of money and time. Professional printers have tools to make sure that this happens and all professional paper manufacturers will create ICC profiles to match your printer, whereas they will probably not bother in creating profiles for most of home printers, which are not meant to be used as professional image making devices.
e) AUTOMATION IN LOGISTICS
The Canon ImagePROGRAF PRO series have advanced software/hardware logistics, being able to tell whether an ink cartridge has run out. The printer will warn you three times about a cartridge's life. The first warning will be when a cartridge will soon need replacement, so that you can order one, either by yourself or through the software. The second warning will be when there is a risk that a cartridge may run out amidst your next printing, in which case the printing will pause until you decide if you want to go forward. The last warning/error will be when a cartridge has run out, in which case the printer will cease printing until you replace it.
f) OUTSTANDING B&W
The quality of B&W photos is simply outstanding. For me this is very important, as I only shoot in B&W. The Canon ImagePROGRAF PRO series will give you two options if you want to print B&W photos. The first option is to use all 11+1 inks to make the image. This will give you better resolution. The disadvantage of this option is that it takes a lot of work on your end to calibrate the printer with the paper you are using to yield completely neutral result that is what I prefer. The standard will be to have a result of a slight warm/cool hue, depending on the paper you are using. The method I prefer
the most will be the B&W option of the printer. This uses only the neutral inks of the printer, which are no less than four (!), plus the Chroma Optimiser. You have the Photo and Matte Black, as well as Photo and Matte Grey. The blacks are so intense, that you will get your best contrasty B&W photos ever.
g) SUPER SHARP COST EFFECTIVE IMAGES
The twelve ink cartridges of the printer, 80ml each, and the 4pl droplet size, will make sure that you get super sharp images. You can even examine your prints using a loupe and will not be able to see the actual printer dots. Having twelve different 80ml cartridges will make it very cost effective as each cartridge is good for a big number of prints and also you only need to replace the cartridge that has run out each time.
As one might expect, the right tools help you achieve the respective results. Photographers who are serious with their work, need to see their images in prints. Being able to make prints yourself from your own desk with lab quality and are made hassle free and cost effective, is therefore an invaluable asset. In order to achieve that, the simple printers that are intended for home use are no comparison to professional image making devices. Today that such devices are affordable by the average photographer, there is no excuse for mediocre results. I have presented my weapon of choice, now it's your turn.