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Archive 2013 · Should I buy a large format printer?
  
 
CRFTony
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p.1 #1 · Should I buy a large format printer?


A colleague recently suggested I purchase a large format printer. I've been doing some research on this and it seems pretty overwhelming. I thought I'd ask the experts here for advice.

I'm leaning toward a 24" printer over a 44". I don't have a ton of space and it's rarely I get orders for anything over 24x30.

I run a portrait studio (mostly senior photos) and deal with lots of 8x10s, 5x7s and wallets. It looks like I'd need RIP software to optimize printing/paper usage. Is that correct?

It also seems like I'd be better off with a Canon printer over Epson as the Epsons seem more prone to clogging.

If there's a FAQ someone would care to direct me to, that would be great and if anyone wants to add their personal advice, I'd definitely appreciate it.



Jan 07, 2013 at 02:24 AM
Imagemaster
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p.1 #2 · Should I buy a large format printer?


Do not make your own prints unless you have the time and can get better prints at more of a profit than getting them done elsewhere. Make sure you get an accurate figure of what your paper, ink, and time costs will be.


Jan 07, 2013 at 11:49 PM
Peter Le
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p.1 #3 · Should I buy a large format printer?


I only do my own printing......would never think of giving someone else the control of making my print.....besides I would probably drive them crazy getting it the way I want it.
Now......when someone asked me if they should get a large format printer..... I usually ask them why ? If you are asking me you probably shouldn't. It is an art in it,s self and may even be harder to learn and master then taking the photo. If you crave to learn to make beautiful prints you will have different questions the you are asking.....so my advise would be no. Find a good printer that will work with you unless you get the printing bug.....then come here with better question and many here will help.....



Jan 08, 2013 at 05:33 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #4 · Should I buy a large format printer?


As Peter said printing done well on a variety of different papers is a new skill set to learn. I managed offset printing operations for a living. At work we had the $5,000 robot arm profile maker and profile editing software and RIPs driving our wide format and high volume toner based publishing systems. At home the only color printer I've ever bought is an 8/C CcMmYKkkk letter-size HP7980 I found on sale at Costco for $125 about 10 years ago. Every time I think about a larger format printer my work experience reminds me what a money sucking hole in the bank account a larger printer would be. I don't even make many small inkjet prints because the photo-based prints from Costco meet my needs and are cheaper.

I have no desire run a one-man business, but I do occasionally shoot events and portraits with studio lighting for family and a limited number of friends. I don't bother with the printing because I'm not trying to make money. I just give them the files with color adjusted for optimum results at Costco.

If I were shooting professionally I'd use the same basic workflow but send the files to a lab like WHCC adjusted to their profiles rather than printing myself, even for the small stuff because they have packages tailored for markets like seniors and the volume to keep the printing process cheap (economies of scale) and consistent (process control over all the variables). If you don't have volume the unit cost is higher because you wind up having more spoilage and more variability in the output, which leads to more spoilage.

If you haven't yet used a lab like WHCC for your smaller prints you might want to try that first, then do a few larger ones there. When setting up a new account WHCC gives you five free 8 x 10 prints to get your editing workflow adjusted to the results their print produces. That involves soft-proofing with their profile and tweeking your monitor brightness and color balance to so the monitor view of your files in soft proof results predicts how the print will look.

When doing the test prints is you have the subject clothing include neutral white/black/gray and have them hold a gray card an MacBeth color checker under their chin you will be able to judge how the colors change when soft proofing with the printer profile is applied (reds / blues / purple become less saturated) and how close that matches the less saturated results (vs. screen in normal editing mode) seen in the prints. The neutral white/black/grey targets will help in visualizing how the overall contrast of the image changes, whether there is gain in the midtones (greys look darker in print than screen) and if any undesirable shift in neutral balance in neutral colors is occurring. It's much easier to see all that with the target included than just a face in the photo.

As for selling more large prints? How many do you display in your consultation / sales area? The technique ( I learned working for Monte Zucker) to sell big prints is display them in a setting similar to the client's home so the client can relate the scale to things like a sofa, and display sizes larger than you think they will ever buy. That's an advantage of a brick and mortar studio waiting area / sales area. But you can also bring a sample large print along to a person's house and show them how good a big print of would look on their wall compared to smaller ones.

It's just manipulating human nature. If the client just compares a 24x30 to an 8x10 on a price list it looks prohibitively expensive. But if you hang the 8 x10 and 24x30 prints on the wall next to a 30x40 over the sofa in your waiting room the 8x10 looks puny and the even the 24x30 seems small compared to the 30x40 they'd really like to have over the sofa at home. Even Zucker rarely sold a 30 x 40 to his well-heeled clients, but he sold a lot of 16x20s and 24x30s by comparison because the way he priced the 30 x 40 made the others seem like a bargain.



Jan 08, 2013 at 04:42 PM
CRFTony
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p.1 #5 · Should I buy a large format printer?


Thanks for the advice, everyone!

I think I would really love making prints of my personal photography, but I know that in the midst of senior photo season, when I'm shooting 3 seniors a day and the phone is ringing off the hook, the last thing I'd probably want to do is deal with printing, trimming, mounting, etc.

Right now I use Miller's lab for pretty much everything I do. I have to say that I've been pleased with them and the only time I need reprints is usually due to bad cuts rather than color issues.

Mr. Gardner - I have terrible luck selling large prints. When most of my clients pick out "the big one", it's an 8x10. I do have several 16x20s in my viewing room, but I think I'll take your advice and get some even bigger prints made to show them how tiny those 8x10s really are.

I'll definitely think long and hard about investing in a large format printer.



Jan 08, 2013 at 05:03 PM
Michael White
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p.1 #6 · Should I buy a large format printer?


Bottom line is will the printer be used enough to cover the cost within the first year. Or will it be cheaper to sub out the large prints to a lab. If you use a lab now do you like how your work is printed, if dot what are your options. Another lab may be better for the size prints you need. Look around and check prices vs quality if not then local printing may be the only option for you then cost goes out the window. I prefer the Epson printers over Canon the IQ seems better to me.


Jan 09, 2013 at 08:18 AM
Mr Mouse
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p.1 #7 · Should I buy a large format printer?


Years ago I purchased an Epson 4800 and stand. Its a large printer but easly moved on its stand. There was no way I could justify spending what I did for that printer I just wanted to please my wife who love to take all sort of images and make prints. The largest prints I've done are 16x24. Some day I may print a Pano something much wider then 24". The problem is more or less lack of wall space. Being able to print high quality and play with print colors give my wife great joy and happiness. What price do you put on happiness.

As for trimming and paper waste. With roll paper and your 8"x10" portraits you will find if you use my Photoshop Script and 16" roll paper. All you need is a steady hand and good pair of scissors. Roll Paper side by size 8"x10" 16" wide roll paper no trim no waste just image.
http://www.mouseprints.net/old/dpr/PasteImageRoll.html

This script can produce any size tiles you want. They do no need to be a even mutilpal of the roll paper width. Your Images will be fitted to the tile size used and their orientations will be rotated to fit the tiles aspect ratio. A virtual center crop these virtual crops can even be individualistically tweaked before printing.

The script is part of my Photo Collage Toolkit for Photoshop http://www.mouseprints.net/old/dpr/PhotoCollageToolkit.html



Jan 09, 2013 at 04:16 PM
 

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Alan321
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p.1 #8 · Should I buy a large format printer?


I got a Canon iPF6100 some time ago as an indulgence. While heavily discounted it was still expensive, but nothing compared to the cost of the gear I've bought over the years. Printing is a hassle and part-time printing is almost impossible to justify financially, but I wanted the 24" printer to put some 24"x36" prints on the wall. The idea was to put up new prints every fortnight or so as a way of reminding myself (and others) that I really do take photos. Previously I had printed almost nothing at all but these big prints are quite impressive.

I don't frame the prints - they're not on the wall long enough.

Because the printer uses large bottles of ink the prints cost me under $20 each including ink and paper, but totally ignoring the price of the printer (as I said, this was an indulgence; I did not have to justify it financially). Here in Australia the hardware and the inks are a lot dearer than in the US but these costs were far less than for running smaller printers. A full set of 130mL cartridges for my printer costs about $1400 I think, but under $1000 in the US.

A 24" printer might typically be double that width and it gobbles up a big chunk of a room.

One thing to consider is whether you want the hassle of changing rolls of paper or you prefer to have a printer that can handle cut sheets from a cassette without you taking off the main roll of large paper. I underestimated the value of the cut sheet feeder when testing print quality (an iterative process) or making smaller prints for friends who did not want to deal with 24"x36" posters. Cutting my own prints is awkward because I generally lack the table space on which to do the cutting.

In recent years the cost of prints has plummeted at various print shops in the shopping centres. They may not be wonderful quality but they suit most customers. You cannot compete with that.

- Alan



Jan 22, 2013 at 05:07 PM
stupor
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p.1 #9 · Should I buy a large format printer?


Before wasting money on RIP software, I would recommend trying Lightroom for printing. It has plenty of options for print layout and common settings can be saved as print templates.


Jan 22, 2013 at 06:38 PM
Sal Baker
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p.1 #10 · Should I buy a large format printer?


Using a 24-inch printer for business is one one thing. But if you want larger prints for your own photography and have the funds, I say go for it. Photography is not my day job, but I make and sell prints for gallery shows. My 3880 is fantastic but I love 20x30-ish prints and sending out to have them made takes most of the control (and fun) away from the end product. I spend a lot of time getting the print just the way I want it so I'm looking at buying a Canon ipf6400.

The new Canon wide format printers have stellar output from 12 inks that are just behind HP in being lightfast, but slightly ahead of the Epson inks. The heads never or rarely clog even with intermittent use, and the heads are affordable and user-replaceble parts. The ipf6400 is US $1634 (delivered) with current rebates making it only slightly more expensive than a non-rebatted 3880. You would need to find space for it and it's heavy.

Sal



Jan 27, 2013 at 10:42 PM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #11 · Should I buy a large format printer?


Two of the best purchases I have ever made were my drum scanner and both of the 44 inch Epsons I've bought. All three were bought strictly for my own private personal use, but all three paid for themselves many times over. The first drum scanner, which was considerably more than a printer, paid for itself in four months. The second Epson, the 9900, which is four years old now, paid for itself literally in under a week.

The fact that I did not buy them for anything other that I just wanted them and I knew that it probably wasn't the wisest of monetary decisions, just goes to illustrate how unintended consequences can have positive outcomes.

When people find out you can make large prints, all of a sudden you will be making large prints - and charging for them. Clients who used to send out for them will often use you instead. You can - and will - spend time making test prints that you never have in the past - just because you can. And you won't even think about the money because generally it's so inconsequential as to not matter. Printing on rolls instead of sheets is far more economical. You'll be surprised at just how little it really costs per print even when ink seems expensive to buy. Not having to wait for a lab is that best thing. Being able to print on a wide variety of substrates including canvases and vinyls is a bonus.

I say go for it. You won't regret it.



Jan 28, 2013 at 01:37 AM
Shutterbug2006
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p.1 #12 · Should I buy a large format printer?


Peter Figen wrote:
You'll be surprised at just how little it really costs per print even when ink seems expensive to buy. Not having to wait for a lab is that best thing. Being able to print on a wide variety of substrates including canvases and vinyls is a bonus.

I say go for it. You won't regret it.


+1



Jan 28, 2013 at 05:13 PM
Bifurcator
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p.1 #13 · Should I buy a large format printer?


Peter Figen wrote:
Two of the best purchases I have ever made were my drum scanner and both of the 44 inch Epsons I've bought. All three were bought strictly for my own private personal use, but all three paid for themselves many times over. The first drum scanner, which was considerably more than a printer, paid for itself in four months. The second Epson, the 9900, which is four years old now, paid for itself literally in under a week.

The fact that I did not buy them for anything other that I just wanted them and I knew that it
...Show more


Ditto.



Jan 28, 2013 at 08:07 PM





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