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Professional Print proccessing?
Old 01-14-2007, 08:12 AM   #1 (permalink)
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In a previous thread, I asked about print sizes (8x10, 8.5x11), and that they had all there work done on photgraphic paper by a professional lab. At the time I started to look into printing options, I somehow got the idea that most labs made ink prints, or that ink prints were better. Maybe I have this wrong. I know that ink had a fading problem, but this seems to have been resolved. I have an Epson R2400 and a kodak dye sub printer. Both are supposed to make a print that will last 80 - 100 years. The Kodak paper I guess could be said to be photographic paper (aswell as the Epson paper) because your printing a photograph on it. But it isn't a light sensitive paper. So, could someone tell me a little about lab prints, its quality and longevity, and whether or not it is ink or light?
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Re: Professional Print proccessing?
Old 01-14-2007, 11:49 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I do only lab prints. They are usually not ink prints but you have to check with the lab, some are doing ink and then spraying to delay fade. For sake of simplicity let me call the two types ink or chemical prints. I still have most of my chemical lab prints sprayed and overall I prefer the lab print to what I get from a printer. What I found was that I was spending way too much money on ink and paper and never being quite as satisfied with the ink print as the chemical print I was getting from the lab. Plus I still do all my color work here on my color calibrated monitor and my lab is sending me finished prints in as little as a day or at the longest three days. My calibration is being tested right now by the lab, I quit the adobe gamma thing and went to the spyder so I am redoing everything on the calibration including new test prints to look over. I could go on forever, if you want to discuss this in more detail message me and I'll tell you what little I know.
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Re: Professional Print proccessing?
Old 01-14-2007, 03:15 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I have been printing on an Epson Stylus Photo 1280 for the last 3 years and after learning the tricks of getting the colour just right, am very happy with the results.
For small orders I print on inkjet and feel confident the print will last at least as long, if not longer than a photographic print. (I once taped an inkjet to my office window, face out, and it was there for over 2 years before any fading was noticeable!)
For larger jobs (weddings etc) I send the images to the photo lab, it just saves time and money.

Jeff
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Re: Professional Print proccessing?
Old 01-14-2007, 04:34 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I think its a matter of quality and cost. You can get great quality from a good lab and a moderate cost. If you do it yourself, you may get slightly superior quality once you learn the ropes, but it is still an unknown how long the prints will last and it will cost you far more than the lab prints. Keep in mind that you must factor in your time to make the prints and how many sheets of paper and how much ink you use. I figured that it costs me about $9 to print an 8x10 photo on a 8.5x11 sheet of paper after I factor everything in. Compare that to the lab price.
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Re: Professional Print proccessing?
Old 01-14-2007, 06:45 PM   #5 (permalink)
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What you are calling a color lab print comprises neither ink or light, but color dyes. In manufacture, traditional color photographic paper consists of multiple layers of dye (cyan, magenta, and yellow) and silver-halide crystals suspended in gelatin. When exposed to light, the silver-halide crystals are sensitized and form a latent image. Chemistry is used to bind the dyes to the sensitized crystals, convert those crystals to silver salts, and then wash the salts away, leaving only a dye pattern where the sensitized silver-halide crystals used to be. A traditional color photographic paper contains only dye once processed. How stable these dyes are, and how resistant they are to various chemical, biological, and environmental agents determine the longevity of the image. (Ilfochrome/Cibachrome is different, but I won't go into a discussion on that paper and process here.)

How long a color photograph lasts depends greatly on the environment in which it is kept. Kept out of direct sunlight and displayed in a "normally-lit" room (so many foot -candles of illumination for so many hours a day, blah, blah, blah), most of today's color photographic papers are projected to last somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-60 years before they show noticeable signs of change. Some of the more recently introduced papers look like they may last as long as 100 years, but we won't know for sure until a decent amount of time passes.

Quality has many meanings, but from a production standpoint, the manufacture and processing of color photographic paper is a mature process. Strict quality control at each step is pretty well understood. Exposure sensitivity, color balance, material thickness, etc. is very consistent from batch to batch.

One of the biggest advantages of a traditional photographic print over an inkjet print is physical durability. Compared to an inkjet print, the surface of a traditional photographic print is very resistant to damage, be it scratching, abrasion, contact with solid or liquid contaminants, or whatnot. This isn't a big issue once the print is mounted and framed. But with inkjet-based prints you need to be much more careful when handling loose, album, or folio mounted imagery.

Although not nearly as big an issue as it was even a couple of years ago, traditional photographic prints still exhibit a more uniform and consistent surface texture. Bronzing (color shifting under different types of light sources) and gloss differential (the difference in surface reflectivity between those portions of the paper covered with ink versus portions covered with little or no ink) still affect inkjet prints to some degree. But once under glass it's difficult to notice.

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Re: Professional Print proccessing?
Old 01-14-2007, 08:35 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks to all. It was very educational. Since I haven't mastered the printing aspects, I think I'll look into a lab. Any names anyone care to drop? Once again, Thanks for your time, wisdom, and experience.
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