by Olivia Cahoon
Photography is a vast market of landscapes, people, and historical events. Some clients request that their favorite images be printed large, generating increased revenue for print shops. The following photographers utilize large format digital printers to print their own photography and create business opportunities from art.
Jim Nickelson, Natural Wonder
Along the mid-coast of ME, Jim Nickelson incorporates photography and large format printing to cater to clients all over the U.S. and Canada, with his core business primarily in New England. Since 2005, Nickelson has photographed and printed picturesque images first at his desk and small printer, and now in a work area of 900 square feet. Nickelson is driven by the natural world and underlying science. Much of his artwork includes the concept of time passing, natural rhythms, cycles, patterns, and the mysteries of nature. His print shop, Nickelson Editions, handles fine art printing in Camden, ME, using archival inks and papers.
Nickelson began his business by providing printing, scanning, commercial work, photographing artwork, and website design. But as it grew he narrowed his focus to fine art photography, custom fine art printing, and teaching. “I have always envisioned my photography work as being embodied in large, immersive prints, so wide format printing was a natural extension of my photography practice,” says Nickelson.
In 2007 he purchased his first wide format Epson printer and now uses an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 and Epson SureColor P800. “I love the quality I can achieve with these printers and have seen no reason to pursue other brands,” he shares.
Nickelson says he’s particular to using Canson Infinity Rag Photographique 310 gsm for a smooth matte paper, Hahnemühle Museum Etching for a textured matte, and Canson Infinity Platine Fibre Rag for luster paper.
As a professional photographer and custom fine art printer, Nickelson says that wide format printing reveals flaws in the equipment and technique. The process of combining photography and large format printing has helped Nickelson to find a deeper understanding of how to make each print look exactly as he wishes.
Photographers who produce their own large format printing benefit from a separate revenue stream that eliminates the need for commercial or editorial work. But while this revenue is beneficial, it is also challenging. Large format printing is a steady business with a constant flow of client demands. “With a large and growing roster of clients, there is always work to do for others, so carving out the time for my own work is a continuing struggle,” says Nickelson.
Over a period of years, Nickelson photographed the full moon from different locations in ME. The project series is called Adventures in Celestial Mechanics and is intended to be a cohesive and unique body of work to celebrate the moon and nature in an embodied series of wide format prints.
Canson Infinity Rag Photographique 310 gsm was used for the project because it had the capability in terms of color fidelity and saturation. “My print statement for this body of work as it developed was for it to be reminiscent of Japanese woodblock prints, and a luster paper or a heavily textured paper took away from that feeling,” he shares.
The project took several years as Nickelson worked diligently to capture each full moon of the year, at moonrise or moonset. “In a few lucky instances, I was able to finalize a print just a few days after the full moon. In other cases, I spent years living with the prints trying to find something that worked,” explains Nickelson.
The photographs were printed on the Epson Stylus Pro 9900 using Adobe Systems Incorporated Photoshop and framed with a white shadowbox frame. The finished pieces varied in size but the largest includes ten 24×24-inch image area pieces, all individually framed. “I’m extremely happy with the end result and this project remains my most popular,” says Nickelson. Adventures in Celestial Mechanics is now in MA and ME.
Al Satterwhite, B&W Master
Al Satterwhite began his love for imagery and photography in high school when he landed a job as a photography intern at the St. Petersburg Times and then became a photojournalist for 15 years.
Since he went on to create Satterwhite Products, a production company that focused on national and international advertising campaigns from 1980 to 1992 in New York City, NY, and worked with clients like American Express, Coca Cola, Eastman Kodak, Nikon, Porsche, Polaroid, Saab, Sony, and Universal Studios. Satterwhite now spends his time shooting personal projects, particularly in Los Angeles, CA and New York, NY, London, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, and Venice.
Satterwhite says he has always worked where he lives, including his current home by the ocean in Redondo Beach, CA. He began printing his own B&W images in a wet lab in the 1970s and outsourced his printing when he moved into shooting Kodachrome in the 1980s. Digital print became a reality soon after and Satterwhite jumped at the opportunity.
He purchased a Canon U.S.A., Inc. imagePROGRAF iPF6200 wide format 24-inch printer. “I used it for five years until upgrading to a Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6450. Most of my clientele opt for my early B&W work, which this printer does a fabulous job with, printing my 16-bit files and showing all of the tonality in the image,” he explains.
Using the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6450, Satterwhite prints 8.5×11, 11×14-, and 16×20-inch prints for small-run portfolios for museums and galleries. For custom wide format, he uses roll papers from Ilford Imaging and almost exclusively from Hahnemühle. Satterwhite settled on Hahnemühle after testing numerous papers and finding the surfaces too glossy, thin, or dull. He also noticed problems with surface emulsion flaking off in tiny bits that required spotting or reprinting.
Business opportunities in this market are difficult to come by. Photographers must stand out from the competition while battling clients who want to pay as little as possible for products. While Satterwhite says that the main challenges of being a professional photographer who specializes in printing relates to costs and clients, he also finds great satisfaction in his field.
“It wasn’t until digital printing came of age that I could do my own darkroom work, in a fully lit room, have much more control over the image through the use of Adobe Photoshop, and then output it using profiled monitor, ink, and paper, and getting results that are stunning. It’s all about control,” says Satterwhite.
In 1974, Satterwhite photographed Hunter S. Thompson, American journalist and author, in Mexico during a Playboy interview. Those images would be remembered decades later and displayed for a museum show at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art in Fort Wayne, IN.
In 2014, it took Satterwhite three weeks to scan and print 15 images of 16×20, 24×36, and 36×54 inches using Hahnemühle FineArt Pearl paper with the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6450.
Satterwhite says he chose the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6450 because he knows how to get the highest quality out of the printer. After the artwork was printed, he shipped it to the museum where it was matted and framed.
“It’s a great honor to have a show of your work in a museum for many people to view,” says Satterwhite. After the exhibit was completed, the prints were returned to him and shipped to the Briscoe Center at the University of Texas in Austin to be added to Satterwhite’s archive.
Taili Song Roth, Shooting Stars
Surrounded by actors, models, and talent, Taili Song Roth began photographing people in Los Angeles, CA, nearly 13 years ago, and continues the same business today in the Los Angeles and Palm Springs area. She started photographing actors and models she knew and was immediately referred to others until her clientele skyrocketed. Today, she is primarily a solo operator with the exception of commercial, editorial, and personal photoshoots when she relies on crew members. Roth’s husband, David Roth, also a product designer, assists her with technical knowledge and his experience with production. “We have an ongoing dialogue about all things visual and technical, but he lends a hand on key projects when and if he is available,” she says.
For the past seven years, Roth has offered her clients large format printing and operates in a combined space of 30×30 square feet. “I wanted my work to make a dramatic impression, and I knew that there was no substitute for printing large for exhibition purposes.,” she explains. Roth also found that larger prints commanded higher prices and a greater revenue for her work.
A year and a half ago, Roth purchased a Canon imagePROGRAF iPF8400 that prints up to 44 inches with a 12-color Lucia EX pigment ink set and a resolution of 2,400×1,200 dpi. “My Canon printer makes excellent prints, is easier and faster to use, and comes with outstanding user support and service,” she shares.
For gallery printers, Roth uses Hahnemühle papers and for commercial and work purposes she looks to Canon paper. As a professional photographer who specializes in printing, Roth finds that she has maximum control over the look and craft of the final output, and in doing so, she has maximum control over her appearance as a photographer. “My printer is also another source of revenue. It has already paid for itself many times over,” she adds.
Roth’s first exhibition with Canon took place at the Canon Experience Center in Costa Mesa, CA, as a joint exhibition of her work and prints made on the 24-inch Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2000. It uses the Lucia Pro ink set with 11-color pigment inks and a Chroma Optimizer for smooth gradients, expanded color gamut, and deeper color expression. Its PF-10 printhead is 1.2 inches wide with 18,432 nozzles and features anticlogging Fine technology.
During the event, a live print demonstration was available for photographers to bring their own files to be printed on a large format printer. “It was exciting to watch many photographers seeing their work printed large for the very first time. The Canon Experience Center is a unique hands-on center of learning where Canon’s entire line of photographic products are available for people to pick up and try—for free,” says Roth.
The images were printed on Canon 280gsm Premium Paper 2, Semi-Glossy. Canon’s paper is intended to make the media less susceptible to light illuminant changes and is created with graphic artists, photo labs, print service providers, and signmakers in mind. Roth shares that the Canon Experience Center has a unique method of displaying printed images using lighting so the prints appear as images projected on a backlit display. “They are luminous and striking, and this particular paper is part of this display system,” adds Roth.
She shot the images on several Canon cameras and used Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop to process and prepare the images for printing. The finished product was 13 24×36-inch prints. “It was a great honor to be asked to help demonstrate this new printer and to be a part of the launch,” shares Roth.
Big and Beautiful
Photography captures great moments, whether subtle or vivid, for us to view for a lifetime. Clients who take a particular liking to photographs may look for images in large format to display in their homes or art galleries. To receive the most benefit from their artwork, professional photographers invest in large format digital printers to make their images even more accessible.
Feb2017, Digital Output