PIY (Print It Yourself) SOS!
I NEVER print my own photographs. I’m no PIY (Print It Yourself) enthusiast. Well, not digital photos anyway. Let’s face it, digital printing is a fairly soul-less activity anyway – you press a button and out pops a print – so not likely to ever be as much fun as seeing your print emerge from a chemical soup in the darkroom.
Of course, I know lots of professional photographers who do. Most of these have invested at the very least a thousand pounds on their printers. Often, they’re photographers who print large quantities of smaller prints where, let’s say, maximum quality isn’t the primary consideration.
Similarly, I know semi-pro and amateur photographers who PIY but they don’t print in any great quantity and arguably can devote more time per image to ensure they get the best quality their machines can deliver. And I can’t deny that some of the images produced are comparable with pro printing houses in terms of quality.
Some years ago, I won some funding with which I could easily have bought a decent printer. I bought a medium format camera. And a camera bag. And a laptop… anything other than a printer, although I did consider it – for about three minutes.
My Fotofilia colleague Lisa has a “dye-sub” printer (that weighs roughly the same as a Ford Fiesta) that she regularly uses for her event work, for which it is an invaluable bit of kit, quickly and cheaply churning out large numbers of prints for her clients. But even this can’t print very large prints. The quality’s actually pretty good but she wouldn’t produce her exhibition prints with it.
Let’s be honest, the kind of machine that will consistently produce large, high-quality prints to the standard that I’d require for exhibition or my clients is going to cost me at least a couple of grand, probably more – and then there’s the inks, which need to be used fairly regularly, and the ongoing issue of trying to maintain colour consistency. Constantly (or even occasionally) having to calibrate the colours on both monitor and finished prints is frankly one more tedious task I could do without.
My philosophy is simply this: I can’t afford a £20,000 (for instance) printer so I’ll send my pictures to someone who has one.
I never run out of ink. I never run out of paper.
Instead, I send my images to the place I’ve entrusted with my photographs for over 20 years (www.Dunnsprophoto.co.uk). I upload the files (or take them in) and they’re printed in a few short days. Cost-wise, I can’t imagine that doing them PIY would work out much cheaper. Quality and convenience – and I can spend the capital I didn’t spend buying a printer on something I really want… like setting up a new darkroom perhaps.
Please note: Not all printing houses are the same! More about this in a future post.