In the February 2011 issue of Digital Output, we profile four photographers embracing digital cameras and wide format digital printers to promote their work and the work of others to the masses. In part one of this two part series we spotlight one of the photographers.
Frustration to Inspiration
“I was a school teacher. I taught journalism, theater, speech, debate, and English, and I was also an avid photographer,” recalls Mark Lukes, co-owner, Fine Print Imaging, based in Fort Collins, CO. “Back in the 1970s, I had a friend—a fellow school teacher and photographer—and we were looking for places that could print what we were shooting. But we couldn’t find anybody who really understood what outdoor photographers were about.”
From that frustration grew the inspiration for Fine Print Imaging, which had humble beginnings in the basement of Lukes’ colleague’s home. “We started to do our own printing, and eventually began to print for others, just through word of mouth,” he remembers. As the decades since unfolded, the business evolved—from film lab to full-service print supplier—and ebbed and flowed.
Since the beginning, Fine Print Imaging has been keenly focused on a niche market. “We print for people who are trying to make a difference—people who are telling the story of what’s really happening to this planet,” he explains. Depicting global warming to climate change, the artwork makes any viewer think twice.
Much of the print work Lukes and a staff of 16 produce is large format and for exhibition and limited edition sale purposes. Clientele is split down the middle, with approximately 50 percent representing artists and 50 percent representing photographic arts.
The company relies on 50- and 60-inch printers from Roland DGA Corporation’s Hi-Fi series, and most recently invested in an Epson Stylus Pro 11880 to produce artwork that comes in from several sources, including Fine Print Express—a fully automated e-commerce-capable Web-to-print storefront, Fine Print Imaging’s clientele, and members of Art for Conservation, which is part online gallery and part social networking site.
The site enables photographers to share stories regarding fighting conservation battles. Fine Print Imaging prints and sells their images, but part of the relationship involves a commitment that at least one percent of the photographer’s proceeds are donated to a conversation of their choosing. Fine Print Imaging matches that percentage as well.
Working with Artists
Fine Print Imaging clients rely on the staff to make educated recommendations about media. At the start of the relationship with a new client, the supplier sends out sample packages and often accommodates requests to see customer-supplied artwork printed on an array of media.
The trickiest part of supplying print to artists is not only giving them a quality reproduction, but maintaining the aesthetic integrity of the image, according to their very particular—myopic—expectations.
“My philosophy is to make the image look as good as it possibly can. So, if it was photographed in low-light conditions, I’ll bring up the shadow details as much as I can without blowing out any of the details or highlights. Sometimes the photographer will see a proof and say, ‘I printed it at home on my inkjet printer, and it was much more muted than that, and that’s what I want.’ I may, in the back of mind think, ‘but it won’t sell,’ but to that photographer it’s not about that; it’s about telling the story. As a print supplier, you have to be sensitive to that,” shares Lukes.
Read more about Lukes and Fine Print Imaging in the February 2011 issue of Digital Output, where many of the various works of art that the company prints will be displayed. In part two of this series we focus on a gallery owner reproducing work on demand.