How to Work With a Print Lab
Home versus outsourcing. How are you going to choose if you should print at home or if you should outsource the work? First things is that if you print at home you get on-demand printing. You can print whenever you want which is really obvious. Now, I don't like the printing process. I'm not interested, personally, in getting a printer and printing, but I do recognize that there are many, many moments where I wish that I could just have that print right away, and I don't wanna wait for it. So that's something to consider. Faster calibration, and what I mean by that is that you can figure out if your print is going to look how you want it faster, cause you're the one doing it. Although, depending on your skill level it could take you quite some time to actually get it calibrated and matched and ready to go. So, Tori, you print. Do you find that to be something that was a learning curve for you, in terms of trying to get your printer to actually do what you wanted it to do? Yes, definite...
ly. It also made me a better photographer cause I had that cycle more quickly and thought, oh, I need to change these colors cause it's coming out weird on the print. Oh, interesting. I never thought about that. I bet it would be an amazing challenge just to really dissect your lighting and your colors, and then figure out, how does that translate. Okay. Challenge accepted, one day. Okay, so then, the argument for outsourcing would be you have more free time, cause you just have to send the file, and you don't have to worry about fidgeting with things. And if you're like me, I'm not a very technical person, so my enjoyment of my time would be better spent reading a book, for example, than printing a piece of paper. But that's just me, and I know that a lot of people love the printing process. Now, I wrote cost-effective as one of the pros to outsourcing, which you would think would be quite the opposite, and it can be, okay. So, I'm not saying that it's going to be more cost-effective if you outsource, but what I am saying is that when you print yourself, you're going to have to replace your inks quite frequently, you're going to have to pay for the actual printer, you're going to have to pay for the paper, and that can start to add up if you don't print frequently. So here's the thing about Giclée printing, for example, is that those inks, I hear, dry up after about a month, and you have to keep replacing them. Now, you could probably stretch it. I understand that, but I ended up calling someone, a printer once, and saying, "Do you recommend printing at home versus outsourcing?" And the said, "If you're printing something like 20 25 prints a month, then you're keeping your inks fresh and you're really printing a lot, then definitely print yourself. But, if you're printing quite a low volume, then it might not be cost-effective to print yourself." And again, Tori, you are the printer here, so maybe that is wrong, but that is the advice that I was given by somebody who did not seem to be trying to trick me into paying for their services. So, I like to think that that was accurate. Okay. Now how do we find a printer? We're going into this process. How do you even find the person that you want to print your photos if you're going to outsource it? And, there are many, many things that you can do, but I like to choose just a few key words for Google. Now, I'm notoriously the worst Google searcher ever. I type in every single word in every sentence that I'm thinking. And you know what, it usually works. Cause there are lots of other people who also don't know how to search Google, and there we all are, typing our sentences together. But the key words that I would use to find a printer might be 'fine art reproductions.' That's often a really good way to find somebody who does painting reproductions and things like that, who'll also do Giclée prints. Fine art photography printing, something like that. Let's see, fine art printer. Pretty obvious one. Giclée printing, or the method that you would want to print in. And these are just some of my productive searches, so when I've searched in Google, these are some of the key phrases that I have used to find printers in many different cities. I would also recommend looking in your city or some place near you, otherwise you're going to have to pay for shipping back and forth, potentially. And that can get a little bit costly. Now, that's actually what I do, which seems very odd, to send my work off and then have to pay for it to get shipped to me so that I can pay to send it to the client. But, the reason why I did that is because I used to be local to Los Angeles. I had so many printing options, as you can imagine, in LA, where there are lots and lots of artists. And I developed a really great relationship with my printer. He ended up teaching me so much of what I know about the whole fine art world. And then I moved away, to a really small town and there was one person who could print my work, and I went in to get one of my first prints and there was a giant footprint on my print. And then I went in the next time after I thought, oh this is very odd, maybe it was just a fluke. And my prints were just laying all over the floor in their space, and I was like, this is really terrible, you know. And I just couldn't deal with it. And I confronted them, and I said, "Why is there a footprint? Why are my prints on the ground? Why can't you just pick them up?" And they just didn't seem to want to answer. So here's the thing, printers are just like any other business. Sometimes you get a good vibe, sometimes a bad vibe. Sometimes they're professional, sometimes they're not. So because I live in a really small town, which I suspect a lot of people watching will, I outsource to another city where it's a more reliable relationship, that I can really count on. Now I could have picked some place closer. I don't live that far away from the closest city, just a couple of hours, but for me, I knew that I didn't want to drive those couple of hours back and forth every time I had a print. I just knew I wouldn't do it. So I'm sticking with the guy I love and we're gonna just keep that relationship going. So that's my printer, and I'm going to tell you exactly what I'm going to ask a printer if I'm going in for a little interview. Now, this had to happen to me after I had a printer. I had to print some very large format images and my printer couldn't do it, so I went somewhere else. And these are some of the questions that got brought up both from me, and also questions that they informed me to ask, which was super helpful just to have them say, "You know what, these are some of the things that we offer," and it triggered a thought process in my mind. So, questions for a printer, do you allow proofing before final printing? Most people will, they should. I would recommend not going with someone if they're not going to let you proof a print. Proofing is so important, and we're going to talk about that in a moment. What papers do you carry? So if you don't have a paper yet, ask your printer, what do you carry already, and see if that's compatible with your work and how you like to print, and that can be a great symbiotic relationship already. How much do your prints cost per square inch? Now you might not be living in a place that uses inches, so translate that to whatever unit you use. And, it's good to mention, it might not be in square inch format. That's how most of the printers that I have found do it, where they charge per square inch of the print. It makes it really simple and easy to do the math if you start to get into a groove with the sizes that you print at. But it might be different for you, just depending. Okay, and then, what's your turnaround time? What can you expect from them. How long with it take for them once they receive the file, to when they can tell you that the print is ready to be picked up. What printer brand and method do you use? Method being Giclée, C type, et cetera. What printer brand, just in case you have a preference, just in case there's a certain paper that's compatible or not compatible, that's good to know. Do you offer matting and framing? Do you offer extra services so that you don't have to take your work from one person to another person, to another person. One extra weird little service that I really like is shrink-wrapping. So I will often get my little tiny prints, I'll get them framed and matted, and then I'll get them shrink-wrapped so that, in a gallery setting, you can have them in a bin and people can sort of thumb through them without getting them all dirty and scratching them, and stuff like that. Just a couple things to ask. Now, will they ship prints? If so, how will they ship those prints? So, it's so important, I've had countless, countless prints damaged in the shipping process. It has been such a long learning curve to figure out how is the best way to ship, and, in my experience, if it's a larger print, roughly 30 inches or bigger, I like to have it rolled so that it doesn't get bent or anything like that. If it's really big and flat, then you need extra cardboard to really sandwich it together and make sure that it's sturdy. But if it's about 25 inches or smaller, or so, then I'll usually ship it flat just so that it's not too curly, so that you don't open up your print and it's like (sucking sound), you know. (sucking sound) like that. Okay, how do you handle your prints? Of course, my bad experience with the footprint on my print has caused me to ask this. But a lot of really nice printing places will use gloves. Just soft white gloves to handle the prints, that way they're not smudging anything, getting their dirty finger on it after they've eaten their cookies or anything like that. Do you have ghost signers? A ghost signer is someone who will sign your print for you if you can't be there in person to sign. I don't recommend this, necessarily. I like to sign my own prints, but this is a thing that you can ask about should you need to. How large can you print? What is the maximum size that you can print at? My printer can print up to 44 inches full bleed. That's a really standard size of a printer, but there are other places that will print much larger, so be sure to ask. Do you do discounts for large orders? You can be a little cheeky and ask that, I think. It's good, you know, sometimes you have a really big show. It's good to know if they're gonna give you a break. And your preferred color profile. RGB, CMYK, that type of thing. Okay, expectations of a printer, and that the printer might have a view. Clear communication, I expect this. I don't always receive it, but I expect it. And I don't always give it but I expect myself to. The issue with communication with printers is that it's really easy, with so many files to be sending out, that they'll print the wrong size of a certain file that they give, or whatever the case may be. So it's good to be really clear about that, and the way that I like to do that is to name my files with my last name, the title of the image, and then the size at the end of it, so that they cannot get confused. They'll receive the file with the size written into the file, that way they always know the size. Full resolution files, they're going to expect you to not send them something that's unprintable, or that will print badly. Protection of files, so how are you sending those files and how are they keeping those files in their computer. That's really good to know. If someone's going to break in there, are they gonna be able to get those files easily or not? Where are they keeping them backed up? Damages. Who pays for what, if the printer scratches the print do I have to pay for the to reprint that or not? It's important to ask. And then we've got handling with care and shipping method. So handling with care is going to be, are they gonna do it the right way? Will they wear those gloves, will they package them correctly, are they going to tape everything down so that nothing shifts in the boxes? And the shipping method, which is rolled or flat, and then specifically, how are they going to insure that the prints aren't moving all around inside the box? Alright, process of printing. Send the file. This is what you're gonna want to do with your printer, send the file, sized and clearly labeled. Proof the print, make the print, sign and number your print, if that's something that you're going to be doing, and then ship it. Now, I always view all of my prints before I send them out. It's very, very important to me that I lay eyes on them, I sign them, I number them myself, and then they exit my hands into the world. That way, when the client receives it, they know that it's been looked at and proofed by me. I think that's an important part of trust, so I like to do that. I like to size my file to my print size ahead of time. So if I'm making, as these are, a 20 inch print, then I want to make sure that my print is sized ahead of time. That way, again, there's just no confusion when it goes off to the print, to the printer. And then naming your file with the print size. I save as a TIF, I should say a flattened layer TIF, because you don't need the extra layers, but this is a lossless file type, and uncompressed. Okay, now location of the printer. We already talked abut that just a little bit, the importance of knowing where they're located, being able to either go in, or have a really good relationship with them. So I highly recommend just being very, very confident in your printer or being very close to your printer. One or there other, hopefully both. That's the ideal situation.