Make Fine Art Prints: The Cost
We're gonna talk about printing finally now, and you can see the crazy array of stuff around me. We have our monitors we've talked about. This is called a print-viewing box. And we have our beautiful Canon printer over here. We have several types of paper. But before we get into actually making the print, let's talk about printing for a while, 'cause I know printing, for me, at least, and I'm sure for many of you, is a very daunting process when you're doing it at home. Because A, you just bought like a thousand dollar printer, maybe, or some expensive printer, maybe not a thousand dollars, and figuring out how to get decent prints out of it isn't that big of a challenge, but it's something new and different, so. Why even bother making prints? And I've talked about this in the last segment a bit. I think it will help you become a better photographer when you actually start looking at prints of your images, because then you're actually looking at the full amount of data that's in your f...
ile that you can't necessarily see everything on the monitor, especially in terms of transitions and skin tones and all kinds of different stuff and how it prints. There's also, well here, reasons to print your images. As I said earlier, we look at prints differently. We take, and it's a physical object, you take it more seriously than you do this ethereal thing that shows up on your screen. And you've gone through a lot more effort to get that image printed onto the paper, so there's a certain value with it. There's also, you know, I've already said, we're seeing the entire image. You look for dust spots, you see things differently on the print. The other thing, just a story, when I started making big prints, I have a really giant 44 inch printer at home that I've used for making finer prints, and when I got my Nikon D810, for example, that camera can make five foot wide prints that look stunning, but you also start seeing like, oh, I need to shoot at higher shutter speeds, or oh, I need to hold my camera steadier or put it on a tripod more often because I'm seeing image blur just from handling the camera. So it fine-tunes how you shoot just as much as it does how you work up your images. And not that you necessarily need to make five foot wide prints, but the bigger you're printing, the more critical it is to stabilize your camera. And other factors as well in terms of sharpness if you're really thinking about that. So, it can definitely improve you as a photographer when you print your images. That's what I'm trying to get across there. Next one. Well, that's just what I was talking about. It'll take you to a higher level, and this has definitely been an iterative process for me over the years. As I said in the last section, by printing my images, it's forced me to work up my images to a higher degree in Photoshop, it's definitely helped me become a better photographer overall. And not just in any certain segments, landscape photography I really know to use higher shutter speeds, not on a tripod or use a tripod. Or it's small things like stabilizing your tripod with sandbags or weighted bags in a windy, like shooting at Patagonia. It might be howling windy and you're on a tripod, but you still need to add like a 60 pound backpack hanging off that tripod and have a much bigger tripod then you think you need. I mean, we all buy the skinny tripod off the bat only to find out down the road that it's not really heavy enough to stabilize our camera as much as it needs to be. So if you've ever seen videos of me shooting, I probably have this massive Gitzo tripod and you're like, holy mackerel, that thing, you gotta cart that thing out with a lot of extra effort than your little tripod that you may just run around with. And that's just for stabilization, especially if I'm using it with a Hasselblad. I take the big monster tripod 'cause I want that thing to be super stable, and I might be hanging 40 pounds of weight off of it and the tripod has to be able to handle that. So that's a totally different part of the equation here when talking about prints, but it's something you realize by looking at prints that you may or may not realize looking at your computer, the images on your computer. The other thing you probably already know but maybe you're not fully aware of is printing can be really expensive. I mean, it can get ridiculous. And I've already said that by buying a monitor that shows you all the colors you're working with, you will save a truckload of money and ink and paper. That is definitely the case in my experience at least. Here's a chart that you can see kind of. This is off my Epson 3880. I've owned both Canon and Epson printers in the last 10, 15 years, they both do great, but I have Epson's right now. Five by seven, I don't really print five by sevens that often 'cause that's pretty tiny. But, say, a 13 by 19 print costs me about two bucks on matte paper, a little less on glossy paper, it depends on the paper you use. That's including ink costs and the paper itself. So I've done a spreadsheet of a bunch, how much, the paper I use, and then I have watched how much ink it took to go through a box of paper or the ink cartridges. And I just put up Bay Photo Lab as an example, here, how much they charge for this, for you to print one print. So if you're not gonna print that often, it may be more economical not to spend $800 on a printer and a hundred dollars on a box of paper and then have to replace your inks every few months. It's $13, $14 for a 13 by 19. And if you're only doing that once in a blue moon, then that's a lot more economical, but if you're printing images on a fairly regular basis like I am, it's pretty economical to actually print at home. It just depends on the printer you get. The larger the printer, the bigger the ink cartridges, and the actually more economical it is. Here's an example for big prints, and this might be a little more eye-opening. 24 by 36 inch print, you're looking at like $30 to $40. 27 by 40, $50, if I'm doing a 40 by 60 inch print, that's like $60 to $80 depending on the paper I'm printing on. So if something goes wrong with the printer and that giant print at the very end somehow scars the paper or something goes wrong, that's a lot of money flying out of your pocket. But if I took that to somebody to get printed, like a 40 by 60, I'm looking at $600 to $800 to get that one print made. So for those really big prints, you can save a lot of money printing on your own printer. But of course, if you're gonna print a giant print like that, you gotta have a printer that probably costs a small fortune, too. The cost of printers have come down, and we'll talk about that a little bit. But the 9880 that I had originally sold for 5,000 US dollars. And then also there's these hidden costs of ink jet printers that you may not realize if you've never owned one, and that is just maintaining the printer. Like, here in Seattle, I think it's quite a bit more humid than where I live in New Mexico where it's like 4% humidity. I have to make a print every single week or as much as I'm in the office or have somebody else make a print for me when I'm gone to keep the ink flowing through the nozzles. 'Cause if that printer sits there for a month it's gonna have to go through a bunch of cleanings and waste a whole bunch of ink just to clean out the nozzles. If I let an Epson printer sit in New Mexico, where I'm at, in that lack of humidity for six months, that thing may never work again. 'Cause those nozzles might be so clogged where Epson, or Canon, I'm not picking on Epson. And I've had this happen, where early on, in my first printer, I just didn't print on it for like eight months, and then I went and tried to make a print not realizing nothing's going on. I went through $300 worth of ink trying to clean the nozzles. Never worked, so I had to buy a new printer. So I learned real fast after that, you gotta keep these things running. And the bigger printers, like those big 44 inch printers, they're work horses, they're made to be used all the time, they're not made to just sit around and do nothing. So they're made for print houses. So that's something you gotta think about, like my 9880, I spend about $800 a year on paper and ink just to keep the thing working. So there's a maintenance cost, and that's a giant printer. On the smaller ones, it's obviously a little bit smaller. My 3880 is about the same size as this. It basically is the same version of this printer, it's an older version of the Epson. They have the P800 I think now, which we'll talk about. So there is that cost. I would also say buy a cover or put some plastic or something over your printer if you live in a dusty environment. Definitely this Canon is very nice, you can close it all up so that there's not dust or anything getting into the top of the printer. And then replacing the ink cartridges. That's a huge cost as well. I think for my Epson 3880 it's about $600 to $ to replace all 12 ink cartridges in that machine. I don't ever do that at one point, I just buy the certain ink cartridges I'm low on. On my 9880, it's about $1,600 to replace all the, I think there's eight ink cartridges on those 'cause they're like a hundred bucks, they're like a hundred bucks, it's not $1,600, then it's like $1,200, 'cause there's 12 of 'em. So. Moving on. I'm not gonna read this to you, but there is a cost savings if you're printing on your own. And there is a lot more control if you're printing at home. Like this is my, you've seen how crazy I get with color and how exacting I am in Photoshop to then like let go of the printing process and give that to somebody else who may or may not be as exacting as I am? You can see how I'd be pulling my hair out over that and spending way more money. So it just depends on your level of how exacting you wanna be with your printing, but most professional photographers are very demanding of their images. When I print my print portfolio that I take to clients to meet with them, man, those images better look phenomenal. And so typically I have everything dialed in so well that they come off looking great as you'll see, but every once in a while I might have to print something a couple times and de-tune something or change the image to make the print look exactly like I want it to look. And if I'm giving that image to a third party to print my image, it's pretty rare that I've been impressed with third party printing because I'm so exacting. I mean, that's not to say there aren't great third party printers, it just depends on your needs. If you're a wedding photographer, you're obviously not gonna print out a thousand images for them, and you might have print orders stacked up from here to forever. And you don't wanna deal with that, so you're gonna have to give that off to somebody, but you're gonna have to make sure that it's gonna print well, so you might print a few in your office just to make sure colors, everything's looking good, and then give it to the print house to actually print the images for the client. So it depends on what you do and how you do it. So. Moving on, any questions about that? Got one here.
A couple of questions. Where do you print, I mean where do you suggest to print if you don't have...
If you don't have a printer? Depends on where you live. I would say find somebody locally, because then you can go to their shop and you can see their printers and you can see your image come off if that's possible or at least discuss with them in person. As I said in an earlier section of this class, I think what the first thing I do when I talk to third party printers is like, do you have a ICC profile for your papers? Or whichever paper we're gonna choose to print on? And can you give that to me so I can do a color, or change it to their profile or at least look at how it's gonna print with their profile and you can do that, actually, in Photoshop. If we click on to my computer here. Proof Setup, and you can go in here and once you load their profile, we can do Custom, and we can actually choose the profile that they've given us here. We can't do that now, 'cause we wouldn't have that profile, but say it's like SRG, or CMYK, or whatever it happens to be, I'll just pick one of these profiles. Let's just say this one right here. And then I click OK. And nothing's really happening just yet, but you can see how it's changing your image back and forth. And see if it's radically changing your image, that's gonna tell you this is probably gonna be a troublesome print. If it's not changing it much at all, then it's probably gonna be pretty good, but again, it's getting a relationship built with that print house and starting to print. You know, you definitely want to do test prints of a bunch of images, a bunch being three or four, two or three, especially a wide variety, like a black and white, something that's got a ton of color in it, something that's maybe a little more monochrome, and see how it comes out, and then you learn to trust that house and be like, okay, it's good. But that's where having an accurate monitor is a major part of that, getting good prints from a third party print house, 'cause they've got these monitors, they don't have cheap monitors. 'Cause that's their business, is color. Did that answer it?
Yes, thank you. And also, you use the same parameters if you're gonna print in canvas? Canvas?
In canvas, like a paint.
Like canvas. I don't really print on canvas. I know there's some photographers who do, mostly because it makes putting it up on somebody's wall really easy, because there is no framing cost, essentially. It's just my preference, I mean, canvasses can look great, but for photographs on canvas, I think you lose so much detail. It's just not that appealing to me. I would much prefer to have either paper print or a metal print. I mean, if I'm printing with third party, it's usually because I'm doing a metal print, which I don't do in my office. And there is a place, Blazing Editions in Rhode Island that I use for that, and they're one of the best I've seen in the United States. Their color is pretty amazingly accurate. So. That's usually what I'm doing. I mean, the beauty of a canvas print, especially if you have a shot with a low resolution camera like 11 to 15 megapixels, you can blow it up huge because it's gonna be a soft image no matter what you do on canvas, and it hides that you didn't have as much resolution as you need. Whereas if you did that on paper and you blew up a really low resolution image to giant size on paper, you're gonna see that it looks really soft, and you might even see some digital artifacting on the paper print, because the paper print shows you a lot of detail. But we'll get into that here in a second with the different papers.