I’ve been printing digital images using an inkjet printer for almost two decades. I started with a consumer A4 photo inkjet printer with 4 inks. I eventually moved to printing using a professional grade A3+ inkjet printer with even more inks (8-12 inks depending on the printer). I now find myself today surrounded by at least three large format inkjet printers.
It’s one thing to print images that you shot yourself. It’s a continuous learning experience if you have to print images shot by other photographers.
The large format printing service that we offer at Shuttermaster Pro QC is already more than two years old. I’ve met other photographers and made with new friends because of it. I’ve learned new things about printing that I wouldn’t have known if I had limited myself to just printing my own photos.
What are these lessons?
Lesson # 1: The job becomes easier if you are willing to share your knowledge. Educating the client takes up most of my day. I answer queries from walk-in customers, via email or social media PM.
Some questions are common. What paper do you use? We use Ilford Galerie Prestige and Ilford OMNIJET. What’s the biggest size that you can print? One of our printers uses a 44” roll. Are the prints archival? Yes. How much for a print? That depends on how big you wish to print the image. What’s the best paper to use? That depends on your taste and the image.
Lesson # 2: Most clients are willing to pay for quality. We were using commercial grade inkjet paper during the first few months of our printing service. Prospective clients began to inquire if we had archival inkjet paper in stock. Business picked up soon after we began to use the Ilford Galerie Prestige line of inkjet paper and canvas. We do have Ilford OMNIJET paper which is commercial grade paper because some print jobs don’t require archival paper.
Lesson # 3: You are post processing for a client and not for yourself. I’ve post processed images to make them darker or brighter to suit a client’s taste. I may find it too dark or too bright for my taste but my main job is to give the client to produce a print that reflects the client’s vision of how the image should look like.
Lesson # 4: Anyone who walks in through the door is either a client or a prospective client. The beauty of working in a photography showroom is that you get regular foot traffic. People tend to find their way to my workstation and see one of our large format inkjet printers producing print. They ask questions which I readily answer and we’ve gotten a lot of regular clients this way.
Lesson # 5: Don’t scrimp on your monitor. I use a Dell 27-inch UltraSharp 5K monitor because it shows nuances in detail and color that clients may not notice when they edit their images on a laptop display. Using this display monitor has saved us a lot of money in terms of ink and paper cost.
Lesson # 6: Clients appreciate being brought out of their comfort zone. I often joke that there are days that I’m like a waiter in a posh restaurant suggesting to a diner the special of the day. Clients like to talk about their photos and how the visual impact that they wish for it to impart. It’s my job to listen and suggest a paper choice. It might not have been their initial choice but they’re usually willing to experiment.
Lesson # 7: If it isn’t good enough then it isn’t good enough. Yes, I sometimes mess up. I click on the wrong color profile or there’s a head strike on a print. I reject the print and make a better one for the client. Clients who have asked for a rejected print are aghast when we tear up the rejected print in front of them. It’s strange though that I get a sense of fulfillment in tearing up a bad print.
Lesson # 8: The printing experience becomes more enjoyable if you explain what you are doing. Some print jobs become an informal and impromptu post processing and printing seminar because clients are curious about our workflow.
Lesson # 9: If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. We do receive digital files that don’t require any further post processing on our part to make them print better.
Lesson # 10: Consumables aren’t limited to ink and paper. Parts break down. We’ve already replaced both print heads of one of our large format printers. The whole printer is consumable. There will come a time when the whole printer will have to be replaced. But that’s part and parcel of offering a printing service.
Lesson # 11: Printing, post processing and color management isn’t black magic or a dark science. There are technical matters related to post processing and printing a digital file. They can always be explained briefly in simple terms.
Lesson # n+n+n+n+∞…: Is something that I have either forgotten to mention or still have to learn.