This is the third in a three-part series profiling successful photographers utilizing large format printers to bring their art to life on a grand scale.
David Saffir grew up a member of a creative family, "surrounded by people interested in making art," he fondly remembers. His mother and aunt were painters; his sister and an uncle both photographers.
"I didn’t get serious about photography until about two years before digital became a viable tool for commercial photography," recalls Saffir. Though Saffir has an appreciation for both film and digitally captured images, these days he mostly shoots with digital equipment from Nikon Corporation and Hasselblad. But for B&W work, he prefers film.
"I try to use the camera as a tool to show things the viewer can’t otherwise see," explains Saffir. "Whether I use a digital- or film-based camera, I want to ensure that the end product does not show the technological footprints."
For many years Saffir captured his images and searched in vain for a print supplier to output them to his satisfaction. "Sometimes the color wouldn’t be quite right, and I got to the point where I thought, ‘I’m only in control of about a third of the production and losing all the creative opportunities after I hand over the film or CD.’ So I wound up writing a book called Mastering Digital Color and started to make my own prints. Then people began asking me to make prints for them," shares Saffir.
He suddenly found himself not just an accomplished working photographer, but also a print service supplier. "Manufacturers did an excellent job of making the technology easy to use. It wasn’t like it was five years ago, when it was uphill all the way," notes Saffir.
Prepress and color management technologies also contribute to ease of use, he asserts. "It’s really straightforward to lock down color, without breaking a sweat over it. There are little maintenance things you have to do, but if you attend to those, you can always make A-level fine art prints. Before certain color advancements, you had to understand color science and how to use a number of sophisticated tools. A lot of them are built into the printer or software now, making them transparent to the user."
Saffir deploys three Hewlett-Packard (HP) printers to reproduce his and customers’ work—a 44-inch HP Designjet Z3200, a 44-inch HP Designjet Z3100, and a small-format HP photographic printer, which uses the same ink set as the two larger machines, ensuring consistency.
"One of the nice things about HP systems is the media flexibility," notes Saffir. "When I work with an artist, we look at samples and swatch books and talk about the base tone of the paper in relation to the artist’s color palette. The sort of feeling we want people to have when they look at the print is an important consideration," he explains.
Read more about David Saffir and view a selection of his work in the February issue of Digital Output.