Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Printing Insights #020

Digital Printmaking & Printmakers

Note by Uwe Steinmueller (1/23/2003)

Get your 2200/7600/9600/C9000 profiled


There are actually photographers and printmakers. Only if both do an excellent job we get results that can be called fine art (A great example is Ansel Adams who was a master photographer and also a master printmaker). What does this mean in the new digital world?

If you want to create fine art prints from your photos you either learn to become a good printmaker or work with an excellent printmaker.

These days fine art printing is dominated by the Epson 9600, 7600 & 2200 printers. The technology is widely available and in the reach of the most fine art photographers. But having some nice photos and a great printing machine does not produce exceptional prints.

What are the principle tasks of a printmaker using one of these new printers?

  • Paper selection (e.g. Fine Art Papers, Epson Premium Luster)
  • Drivers and RIPs
  • Using good profiles
  • Global print tuning (contrast, sharpening, saturation)
  • Fine tuning (selective contrast, selective curves, selective saturation, dodge & burn). More during the next months.

Note: I actually had seen dodge & burn more as a technique to correct faults of an existing photograph. This might be true on a more global level. But for fine tuning dodge & burn can be used as a very subtle enhancement technique.

We have two situations here:

1. Photographer & Printmaker are two different persons

2. Photographer & Printmaker are the same person

Both constellations have their challenges.

1. Photographer & Printmaker are two different persons

You might ask what more is involved than to send the digital files to a lab and you are done. Even with perfect color management you cannot fully anticipate your print without printing first. Working with a lab this way can be quite time consuming and if the lab is not color management aware even hopeless.

Actually the ideal would be a cooperation between the printmaker and the photographer. Where the photographer has the vision that should be expressed in his prints and the printmaker helps the photographer better to understand how he can express his visions.

We just visited one printmaker of this later category "Nash Editions" and will share our experience soon in a special report.

2. Photographer & Printmaker are the same person

This is more and more common these days (like in the old B&W darkroom). Now many photographers seem to think that with their new great print engines they will get master prints all the time.

This is an illusion. Be prepared to learn for the rest of your life how to improve your prints. Most of this work will be related to fine tuning in Photoshop, learning your papers and their limitations, where to get the right profiles and what are the best drivers or RIPs for your printer.

We hear very often that the photographers want to go out taking new photos instead of working long hours in photoshop. But this means goodbye to excellent prints as good prints require a lot of fine tuning and printing experience.

Be also aware that this journey can be sometimes rewarding and also frustrating.

We wrote this note in preparation of our Nash Editions visit report and hopefully many future articles about printmaking.


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