This is part of a series about my experiences in publishing a book. The series starts here.
As I’ve mentioned before, 50 copies of the book came in slipcases that Roswell made. The boxes also hold a folder that is meant to contain two actual inkjet prints from the Staccato series.
For the past four days, I’ve been getting ready to make the prints. Four days is a long time for this kind of planning and setup, and, while we’ve had house guests and I’ve not had a great deal of time to devote to the task, that’s not the whole story: this little job has proven to be more complicated than I’d anticipated:
I first had to decide what paper size to use. The prints need to be 11 1/4 by 9 1/4 inches to fit the portfolio case. Much bigger and they’ll be likely to get bent getting them into the case, and much smaller and the corner ribbons won’t hold all four edges down. I normally print these images on an Epson 4900 on C-sized (17×22 inch) Exhibition Fiber paper. If I print on C-sized paper, I could only print the images two-up, and would end up throwing away a lot of paper. I considered printing them 6-up on 24×30 inch paper, which would have used paper quite efficiently, but that would have meant that I couldn’t use the 4900, but would have to use my Epson 9800, which has a smaller gamut (It turns out that the images I chose print nicely withiu the 9800’s gamut, but I didn’t know that when I made the paper decision.).
I decided to print the images 2-up on the 4900 on 13×19 inch paper. I didn’t have any of that, so I ordered it and did my test prints on 17×22 inch paper. I also decided to use Epson Legacy Baryta instead of Exhibition Fiber. I had tried Legacy Baryta previously and liked it. It does not have the brighteners that Exhibition Fiber has, so it lacks a bit of punch. On the other hand, it doesn’t have the bluish color that makes it so hard to find good mat board for Exhibition Fiber, and the lack of brighteners means that the prints will look more like they do now in twenty years. The Legacy Baryta surface is a little smoother than Exhibition Fiber. Epson says they used unferrotyped, air-dried F-finish paper as their design target, and they hit it pretty well.
I brought some test images into InDesign and laid out a 13×19 inch page. I wanted to find out what size image looked good on 11 1/4 by 9 1/4 inch paper, nail down the positioning of the image, and print the image title, the details of the exposure and the print, and the edition size. I planned to fill in the numbers by hand when I signed the prints.
I wanted to print the images on the upper left of the paper, so that I could make three cuts and end up with the two prints sized to slip into the portfolio. But for some reason, InDesign always added an extra half inch of margin at the top and left side of the printed page. This required more cutting. I thought that the problem had something to do with the fact that I was printing a 13×19 image on 17×22 paper, but yesterday, when the real 13×19 paper arrived, the same thing happened. I tried everything I could think of, to no avail. Finally, I started over, laid out the page from scratch (well, I did copy-and-paste the printed part in), and everything went perfectly.
I don’t know what the difference was, but if may have had something to do with the fact that I used non-printing boxes to line things up in the first try, and vertical and horizontal guides — the ones you drag in from the top and left hand ruler in InDesign — for the page layout that worked. It wasn’t that the non-printing boxes were in the margin area; I made sure they weren’t.
The text is in 50% black process ink, which is similar to the spot color that Jerry used for the titles in the book. I signed the images with a 0.03 Zig Millenium archival black-ink pen. I would have preferred gray ink so that the signature is not so predominant, but I have not found gray-ink pens that work right with Exhibition Fiber. Maybe now that I’m using Legacy Baryta, I’ll have better luck.
I am using cover sheets to protect the images, so this is what the recipient of the boxed set will see when they first open the portfolio:
Should I print something on the cover sheets. or would that be gilding the lily?
Max Berlin says
This entire subject is way too much science and art for the average Joe. Not sure if I’ll ever resort to printing at home but if I do, I’ll come back here to flatten down my learning curve.. The best I have right now is letting a local shop print SRGB images for me and it’s a slightly better result than the CVS.
Just a quick look shows that the 4900 isn’t a choice for the occasional casual user, cartridges run $1000 and have a 6 month life apparently ?
Maybe best off at local photo shop after all ?
First off, Max, you may have noticed that this blog is not intended for the average Joe. Anyone who is satisfied with sRGB-based prints from a mass-market printing service would be crazy to buy a 4900. As to the life of the cartridges, I don’t know where you got your six month figure. New cartridges have an expiration date that’s usually 3 years out — I just received some from B&H that are marked to expire in mid-2019 — and I have had no problem using cartridges three years after their expiration date. The problem with the 4900 for the infrequent user is that the printer suffers clogged nozzles when left idle for a long time. If I haven’t run my printer for a few days I have to run a minor cleaning cycle before making prints, and I need a major one after two weeks. If left idle for several months, I think that a permanent clog might result. The 9800 is much better in that regard. You can let it go a year, run a deep clean, and you’re good to go, but the 9800, due to its size and cost, is even less suited to the casual user.
However, there are many who are not even close to satisfied with mass-market prints. Those people have two ways to go. They can find service bureaus who have expert image editors, and pay the freight. They may not get a perfect print by their lights, but they’ll get an excellent print by the printer’s standards. And that’s good enough for many. There is a long tradition that started with color film of top-notch photographers not printing their own work, but relying of printers with whom they had formed long relationships.
We’ve come a long way with color management, but soft proofing is still no substitute for a proof print if your standards are high. That’s why there will always be a place for photographers who print themselves. Sure, they have to learn color management. Sure, they have to worry about calibration. And printers can be recalcitrant beasts. But in making the final tweaks to an image that you’re gonna hang with pride on your wall or charge you customers money for, there’s hardly any substitute to the edit-proof-edit-proof-edit-print-final cycle.