By Melissa Donovan
From giclée prints to photography reproduction, print providers rely on high end capture solutions including flatbed and drum scanners, camera systems, or proprietary configurations. The correct equipment properly captures the original piece of work, pixel by pixel, and allows the print provider to replicate the image without losing quality.
Fine art and photography reproduction is more than just capture, however, the printers and media used are important considerations. Without the correct ink set in the printer or proper grade paper, the reproduction can fall short. The two print service providers (PSPs) profiled here understand the importance of the entire creation process, from capture to color correction, print, and the tools used to finish the piece.
This understanding has served them well and allowed them to take what they know and adapt it to other environments where photography-like quality is required, for example high-end fashion and museum exhibits. With significant backgrounds in fine art reproduction, these companies have avoided remaining stagnant in an ever changing business and grown into new market segments.
Based in New York, NY, Laumont Photographics celebrates over 30 years in business. 55 employees play a role in its range of services for fine art print production, from scanning, retouching, imaging, and printing to mounting, laminating, custom framing, crating, and installation. Customers are worldwide, in both North and South America in addition to Asia, Australia, and Europe.
“Early on, we developed a reputation for our ability to reproduce original paintings and other media so well that at first glance, even the owners of the originals couldn’t tell the difference. The process, of course, starts with the best scanners that allow us to match the originals precisely,” explains Philippe Laumont, president, Laumont Photographics.
The business began at the advent of digital photography and digital print, with five high-resolution drum scanners used to capture art. A few years later a 40×60-inch Cruse Digital Imaging Equipment scanner was brought in for scanning super wide pieces. According to Laumont, in the flatbed world, the Cruse scanner is a huge improvement over original hardware. The model the company uses today offers sophisticated lighting options that preserve three dimensional textures with reflections.
On the printing side, Durst Lambdas and a 72-inch Océ Lightjet 500XL were and still are used for chromogenic prints. Then several Iris printers were added to keep up with changes in technology. As digital inkjet advanced, the company brought on both pigment and UV wide format printers.
Epson devices are the PSP’s wide format printers of choice. “This is based on their reliability, achievability, and ease of use,” admits Laumont. Today its 44,000 square foot space is home to the Epson Stylus Pro 9900, Epson Stylus Pro 11880, and Epson SureColor P20000. Ink used includes Epson UltraChrome HDR, Epson UltraChrome K3, and Epson UltraChrome PRO, respectively.
“Each Epson printer has improved wiTheach evolution of the printer, and the SureColor printer line is no exception. Between custom profiles and incredible print profiles on our Epson printers, creating exceptional output has been a seamless process,” shares Laumont.
A recent printer addition is outside of the Epson portfolio, with a twometer/ 96-inch swissQprint UV flatbed printer. Both the fine art and commercial customer base that makes up Laumont Photographics is excited by the flexibility and width of this device. Laumont has great plans for its use.
For media, while admitting there are too many products to list, Laumont does cite some mainstays from Epson’s archival offerings to Awagami Factory, Canson Infinity, Hahnemühle, Innova Art Ltd., and Moab by Legion Paper. All of the company’s printers are compatible with a range of substrates, which allows Laumont Photographics to offer its clients high-quality prints on a variety of substrates including cotton rag, canvas, Japanese, luster, glossy, and satin.
Laumont specifically points to the Epson SureColor P20000 as “opening up a whole new set of options for clients that have been traditionally tied to darkroom printing.” A client base with a discerning eye looks for perfection and Epson’s printer lineup, according to Laumont, “offers optically sharper images than the traditional chemical process. While we still offer silver printers, we can also offer archival pigment prints on a myriad of substrates.”
Quality for All
Phil Paradise, CEO, Plug Production Group, founded the business in 2003 after years of working in bigger print shops. The goal—develop a smaller, boutique-style, quality-driven facility with a focus on clients’ needs. 13 years later, the company is thriving. 33 employees work out of a 30,000 square foot facility located five miles outside of New York, NY in Carlstadt, NJ.
It offers wide format printing, photographic visual display, mounting and finishing, event print production, museum and retail visuals, and dimensional cutting of multiple substrates. The shop prints on a variety of high-quality media, from fabrics to acrylic, tile, laminates, and metal.
Plug’s customer base ranges from top retailers to museums, graphic designers, event marketers, and entertainment professionals. Major customers include Aldo Shoes, Bryant Park NYC, Crunch Fitness, the NBA, NFL, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Santander Bank.
The company has followed the natural progression from lab services to wide format inkjet over the years. Specifically, it went from traditional print services to HP, Inc. DesignJet printers and now runs HP Latex devices. It started with the HP Latex 850, 300, and 370 printers and now operates three HP Latex 3500 126-inch printers.
For Paradise, the HP Latex printers’ environmental benefits, resolution, substrate compatibility, and lower maintenance costs are what make them a fit.
“The future is quality, speed, and environmentally friendly output. I have much respect for the craft and art of photo processing, however, in my opinion, the fine art and photography industry have already moved into our new technology. I’m particularly impressed with our grayscale printing on fine art paper and canvas,” he continues.
Thanks to the print capabilities of the HP Latex printers, Plug offers photoquality work outside of traditional fine art. For example, using its HP Latex 850 at the time, the PSP printed a graphic used to wrap a pool for the movie The Heist. Using 3M Commercial Solutions’ 3M Controltac Graphic Film Series 180 and 3M Scotchcal Luster Overlaminate 8519, the combination of media and ink provided both high quality and durability for this particular job.
Segue Between Markets
Both Plug and Laumont Photographics work with some of the newest technology to offer customers fine art reproductions. Because of this, additional customers outside of the traditional fine art realm benefit. A graphic used for a high-end fashion display or a set in a movie may be captured and then enlarged and printed on a wide format device. PSPs practicing these techniques are able to segue from the traditional fine art market to a whole new client base that equally admires highquality output.
Sep2016, Digital Output