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A Need for Better Printers Creates a Studio

Part 4 of 4

By Lorraine A. DarConte

David Saffir, who photographs everything from portraits to products to landscapes, operates his own printing service, born out of a desire to produce better prints. "I was deep into making the switch to digital photography with my first DSLR, but I wasn’t really happy with the prints I was getting from my desktop," explains Saffir. "I wanted to understand how to use it better, which made me realize the machine I had was not capable of doing what I wanted."

Hence, Saffir purchased a system from Oji ILFORD USA and created a small business to make prints for himself and others. "I found that local photographers didn’t necessarily want to invest in purchasing or learning how to run a wide format printer; what they wanted were wide format prints. So I created a 12 month budget and figured I could pay for the printer fairly quickly. The machine and software paid for themselves in about five months—half of my original forecast."

Saffir prints a lot of work for Wedding and Portrait Photographers International and Professional Photographers of America, both of which have statewide and national competitions. "That got me rolling, and along the way, I rediscovered the beauty of B&W. Although in those days, I couldn’t run fine art and photographic style paper on the same machine without switching out the inks." Saffir eventually purchased a second printer, which used matte inks and allowed him to print B&W regularly. "I could also do fine art printing for people on different types of media," he adds.

"I started working with Hewlett-Packard (HP) printers several years ago after I saw the HP Designjet 130 at a trade show. It uses dye-based inks, which in some instances provides a different color palette," notes Saffir, who still uses the printer today. "One reason I still use the HP Designjet 130 is because several of my customers have viable print editions. Once you start an edition, you can switch to a different printing platform, but most people would rather not; they’d rather have the print made on the same platform."

"Before the HP Designjet Z series printers were introduced, if you let any pigment-based printer sit for more than a few days, the pigment inks would clog the printhead, relentlessly, and it would cost money to get it running again," notes Saffir. Both HP’s Designjet Z series and Desktop B series printers don’t have that issue. When not in use, they are in a hibernation state and every once in a while they wake up and clean themselves.

"The HP Designjet Z series provides excellent print quality," says Saffir. "It also has a color management system built right in, as well as a spectrophotometer. It’s extremely accurate and instead of spending 30 to 60 minutes creating an ICC profile for the media being used, the machine does all this work according to its program. I simply load the paper in, click on the HP utility provide, and the profile generated is automatically communicated back to the computer. Color accuracy and consistency is phenomenal."

"Another primary feature is that it carries four black inks—and will print with black inks only if desired. There are two advantages to that. The first is there are no issues in terms of color cast. And, if it prints with no color, that print is going to last longer. Color fades but black inks are extraordinarily archival. This is the only wide format printer that I know with a gloss optimizer that HP treats as an additional ink channel so it doesn’t create an overcoat. In other words, it allows me to make B&W prints on glossy paper, resembling darkroom prints."

Saffir’s intense knowledge of both digital photography and printing translates to his art. You can read more about Saffir and all of the photographers mentioned throughout this series in the February 2009 print edition of Digital Output magazine.

For more information on Saffir and his art visit

Click here to read Part 1 of this exclusive online series, American Cowgirl.
Click here to read Part 2 of this exclusive online series, Bold and Offbeat.
Click here to read Part 3 of this exclusive online series, Where the Wild Things Are.

Dec2008, Digital Output

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