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Home Printing ? Curse or Celebration


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Home Printing Curse or Celebration

15 May 2022 5:42PM   Views : 389 Unique : 248

Home printing is the final stage of your creative photographic process that's under your control,. Technical issues or cost unfortunately mean not everyone can enjoy it.

Photographers have always had the option of printing at home. Perhaps that should say printing themselves, because not all photographers could set up a darkroom. There would be a cost for equipment of course but space and practicalities could rule that out at home. With no dedicated room, blacking out and taking over a kitchen or bathroom for a couple of hours or more wouldn't have been popular. Some clubs and societies did have facilities for members and there were facilities for hire which sometimes advertised in photographic magazines.

Black and white printing was popular with enthusiasts but became a niche activity with the adoption of colour film. Home colour printing was a whole different ball game and was even more niche. Very caeful temperature control for the processing chemicals was needed, the gear wasn't cheap and you needed to understand colour filtration. Not insurmountable problems but not for the faint hearted. Time was perhaps the biggest barrier and why personally I never got into it. Colour transparencies were my thing in any case.


Grey inks allow good monochrome neutrality which is not always the case from online services

Then along came digital photography and desktop printing. You needed a computer to handle your images and chances are you'd have a printer at least to print documents so there wasn't the spectre of acquiring all the darkroom paraphernalia. You could spend your time leisurely, a bit at a time and all in the light and a comfy chair. Creativity was unleashed, or so it was promised but there were pitfalls.

There was a huge learning curve which some take in their stride and which disillusioned others. But that's true of all aspects of our hobby or profession.

The longevity of early inkjet prints was not great. Colour quality wasn't great in many cases. If you were a monochrome worker then you could expect very poor black and white prints that had green and magenta casts in different parts of the tonal range. One way round that was to print with a sepia tone to mask that effect somewhat but maybe you didn't want your pictures toned that way.

Printers and inks quickly improved. No, you're not going to get excellent results from just cyan, magenta and yellow inks in low cost printers that are best used for printing office documents, but reasonable results that many would be ok with. Certainly if you were happy with the low cost high street enprints in the past hen you'd be happy now. Additional colours such as pale cyan and pale magenta inks allow moe colours to be accurately printed. The same is true for printers using different shades of grey ink for great monochrome results. Long life inks promise good colour over time and indeed I have some images on the wall that are over ten years old now (albeit not in direct sun but that's neer recommended in any case) that still look absolutely fine even when compared to a fresh print.


However, one of the big issues that people cite for not printing themselves is getting 'correct' colours. A properly colour managed workflow is essential. If you don't have one it's akin to relieving yourself in a howling gale (I'm sure you know the more Anglo Saxon expression). It took me a time to get it sorted. The resources I found on the internet were very useful. I never came across anyone who could explain things well face to face. They would just repeat the same thing louder which does nothing to help understanding. Rather like the Basil Fawlty approach to talking to foreigners.

But let's get back on track. Colour profiles are required in order to tell a device how to display colours. It's a massive subject so I'll keep it extremely brief and just consider what's going on with printing. Firstly I'll take it that as photographers you use a calibrated screen so you know what the image should look like. I won't say 'correct' as different photographers may prefer warmer or cooler renditions, and indeed colder or less saturated looks may suit some images. If you've spent time getting things right on screen you expect to see that in print. Mind you, that's also true if you use online services.

Essentially all a colour printing profile does is tell the printer how to mix the inks to make a particular colour. Just like an artist mixing different paints. Because different papers react to inks differently, different papers require different profiles. So it's essential to use the correct one, though on occasion I've selected the wrong one and still got a good result so I guess the differences in those cases were small. Paper manufacturers provide profiles for their papers and popular printers, The very dedicated can create their own though I've not felt the need to go that route myself.

It doesn't take long to produce a print, but if you have a large number to produce and time is limited then maybe home printing won't be ideal. Certainly I wouldn't want to sit down for a whole evening pushing out 10x15 cm small prints, and that's what the online services gain. Unlike in the 'old days' however, you can at least get the image looking as you want it before sending it off and that has to be good.


Textured papers offer another layer of choice

Finally, cost. Some people cite the cost as to why they don't home print. That's fair enough, especially with the cost of living. Though they may think nothing of spending hundreds or thousands of pounds on ta nw camera, lens or other piece of gear. If you rarely print, then yes it is worth questioning what you spend. To be fair most online printing is very good, and you don't have waste. You should still use a calibrated screen an ensure you save the image as required by the print provider, and sRGB is often recommended. That said, for large prints and canvas prints for example online printing is necessary but then that's getting more specialised.

Home printing never was the 'cheapest option'. But if that's all you're looking for why do you spend so much on your gear and gadgets? Would you buy a Ferrari and expect to run it on two stroke mixture?

There's a large range of papers out there too to make the most of your images, such as textured types which work very well with portraits. If you want full control over your results and satisfaction then persevere with home printing and make it a cause for celebration.

All text and images Keith Rowley 2022

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Stevetheroofer Avatar
15 May 2022 9:07PM
I'm ready to take the plunge but unsure which A3 printer to go for and which is the cheapest to feed

dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
15 May 2022 10:03PM
That's good to hear Steve.

I don't know which printers are more economical with ink hough I think there's ot much between them.

I won't try and influence you on brand but I always had issues wih clogging and head cleaning with Epson. I've had Canon for posibly 15 years now ith o issue and good colour. Evn if I haven't printed for a while (I tend to do numrous prints in one go). I currently use a Pro 100s. My first Canon printer just gave up the ghost but had given long solid service so it didn't owe me anything. I went for my current printer because of the grey inks but if mono isn't important to you that won't be an issue. I think the current model is the Mk2 but still uses the same inks.
Imageryonly Avatar
Imageryonly Plus
3 203 11 United Kingdom
16 May 2022 12:02AM
I am with Keith, i have used Canon printers for the same amount of time with no problems.
the only tip I would give is to use regularly, standing allows the jets to clog and deepcleaning uses
large quantities of ink.

altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 23.9k United Kingdom
16 May 2022 11:17AM
I envy those people that understand all the acronyms and phrases used in the descriptions of digital printing and I have seen some fantastic results. But for me the process is not logical, wasteful, far too complicated and gives no satisfaction at all.
My b/w prints will never look right with the modest printer that I have anyway.
I send the few prints that I need off to a business that has 1,000's of pounds invested in up to date machinery, many different papers, surfaces and materals and for a few pounds receive exactly what I want within 3 or 4 days.
Some of my happiest hours ever was in my darkroom producing large b/w prints on nice paper from brilliant m/f negsatives. No room now for it.
Just my opinion.Grin
Stevetheroofer Avatar
16 May 2022 5:24PM
I have been swaying towards a Canon printer but still no preference on brand.

I enter prints into my camera club competitions and have always sent off for them using Loxley colour.
I scratched one of my recent entries before I have handed it in but luckily a fellow member printed it off again using his Canon A3 printer. I was amazed at the quality and that's when my curiosity got me thinking.....

Our club finishes in a couple of weeks and restarts September so I still have plenty of time to make a decision , I just hope its the right one!

thewilliam2 Avatar
thewilliam2 6 1.6k United Kingdom
19 May 2022 9:53AM
I'd suggest that, if people have the space, a larger printer can be more economical because it uses larger ink cartridges.

Some years back, my wife bought an Epson 4880 for little more than the cost of the ink in the cartridges because she didn't like the hassle when using sheet paper in our HP Z3200. It proved an excellent buy.
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
3 Jun 2022 7:54PM
I agree William having that space would be great though I'd have to justify printing large prints to get the most out of it. Nice though it would be.

Steve, happy hunting Smile
I'm sure your camera club friend would be able to help you get the best from your printing if his own results made such an impression on you. And Loxley are good.

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