Many industries rely on large format digital printers. In fine art photography, where color, quality, and archiving are of the utmost importance, they fit the requirements. New ink sets and refined media allow for the reproduction of photographs at a high image resolution in big print at a level of affordability and accessibility. The following artists utilize large format printers in unique, different ways, but what resonates from each is the passion of translating their messages through art to a broad audience.
Sean Davey: Aloha to Beach & Surf
Beginning in 1977, Sean Davey embarked on the profession of photography. It took several decades to develop his position in the industry. In the 1990s, while in Australia, he worked in commercial color labs and mastered multiple developing processes in the darkroom. In 2004, he made the switch from film to digital. “I could see that it was the future. I didn’t want to be that guy playing catch up somewhere down the road,” explains Davey.
Today Davey is based on the North Shore of Oahu in HI and specializes in beach and surf photography. As a freelance photographer his publishing career now boasts over 140 magazine covers. Despite the multiple sources of income generated through these titles, Davey looked to bring in additional profit he could control on his own terms.
“I already had a massive archive of thousands of images and so I decided to concentrate less on making images and put an emphasis on marketing what I had, so I went into the print selling business,” he shares. Realizing the potential of his portfolio, Davey turned to digital print.
Initially, he utilized third-party Web sites, but the partnership required him to surrender some of the profits. In response, he purchased an Epson Stylus Pro 9900. The printer not only enables Davey to keep all of the earnings, but allows him to control the entire process—from output to shipping. With his experience in the darkroom, he ensures that every piece of art that leaves the studio is perfect. Shipments are guaranteed within a day or two of order submission thanks to quick output and fast drying. Also, because he prints in house, Davey signs the artwork.
The Epson Stylus Pro 9900 allows for the output of prints up to 44 inches in width and over 100 inches in height. “It produces the most amazing B&W that I’ve seen on a home printer,” he continues. Epson UltraChrome HDR pigment ink utilizes ten colors, including orange and green.
Davey says the device allows him to concentrate on marketing his imagery as extra large canvases. Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper and Exhibition Canvas Gloss are commonly used. The photo paper delivers bold and clear prints and Davey cites the canvas as the best he’s ever worked with. Projects printed off the Epson Stylus Pro 9900 include traditional 11x14-inch prints to panoramic and semi-panoramic pieces at 24x72 and 24x48 inches, respectively. Davey rolls final pieces and ships in a tube. Customers then take them to be framed or gallery stretched.
There are challenges related to digital print. Davey says perhaps the biggest is properly understanding color management. “You need to have a good quality monitor and have it calibrated, and then understand the routines involved with the printing dialogue,” he recommends.
The printer is utilized several times a week to output work for many of Davey’s customers. Originally he assumed his traditional client base of publishers and readers of those works would purchase the large format prints. However, bigger business entities reach out to order ocean- and beach-related artwork and often refer him to others.
Davey’s move to in-house printing and control of his product is something he sees other photographers and artists slowly transitioning to. He believes the art world is moving away from traditional gallery sales and instead online will play a large part in the distribution of both original and reproduced pieces.
The quick turnaround associated with an in-house large format device is also essential, especially for walk-in customers looking for a quick sale. With Davey’s main location in HI—home to many tourists—the ability to print fast is a major consideration. When the sale is made, visitors take a big piece of aloha home with them. View more of Davey’s work at seandavey.com.
Onne van der Wal: A Change in Course
Onne van der Wal celebrates 25 years as a professional photographer. When digital imaging appeared, he held off on making the transition from film but after much thought felt it was a natural progression. In addition, his Canon U.S.A., Inc. film-based camera made it easy to make the switch to digital—while the body of the camera changed, the lens remained the same.
van der Wal considers himself a commercial shooter—nabbing shots of sailing and yachting, scenic oceanic views, and nautical-theme artistry for many yacht and recreational boating clients. He fell into offering his work to traditional art lovers thanks to his wife, Tenley van der Wal, looking for a change in career.
“My wife was an interior designer, but found herself wanting to do more so she suggested I open a gallery portraying my work. I wasn’t interested in running the gallery and didn’t have a lot of time to do so, so my wife said she would. She found the space and used her interior design skills. She picks all of the images that we sell in the store and online, as well as the frames,” reflects van der Wal.
The gallery, based in Newport, RI, has been in operation for about ten years. Initially photographs were outsourced to another company to be printed, but van der Wal quickly realized the potential of bringing the print aspect of the business in house. Sticking with a familiar brand, he looked to Canon for a large format digital device. The first, a 36-inch, was purchased five or six years ago. Then a 44-inch device, the imagePROGRAF iPF8100, was acquired and the first printer sold due to footprint restraints.
Initially, it was daunting to operate the printer. The color management and color profiles were the hardest to grasp. However, van der Wal credits the technical support team at Canon as being top notch in troubleshooting abilities.
That same printer runs in the gallery, outputting anywhere from ten to 15 prints daily. This includes limited edition photography, posters, and mini prints. “It was an obvious decision and I highly recommend it. I come into the gallery and there is always a stack of freshly printed images ready for me to sign,” states van der Wal. He initially learned how to operate the device and then taught two other gallery employees, who are now the main operators.
Photographs are printed on glossy photographic paper or matte canvas—all from Canon. 99 percent of the canvas works are wrapped and some are finished with a frame. With the ability to print to 44 inches in width in house, van der Wal finds the possibilities endless, and likes the flexibility. The maximum width of the imagePROGRAF iPF8100 is frequently used and sometimes murals are designed out of three or four panels to create an even larger image.
With the gallery located in the busy tourist town of Newport, van der Wal receives a steady stream of out-of-state visitors studying his portfolio. Many pop in and spend an hour looking and then leave empty handed. However, these seemingly fruitless experiences result in an order placed on the Web a few days later. On the other hand, European and other international tourists visit the gallery and request a print immediately. This is where the in-house printing capabilities of the imagePROGRAF iPF8100 come in handy. “We print right there and roll the output up and place in a tube. It’s so useful, it’s like printing money,” shares van der Wal.
It is these types of sales that are made possible by digital. Before, as a commercial photographer, van der Wal didn’t have the product. Now, with the gallery and in-house wide format printer, a whole new market is available—private homes, offices, and hotels. The gallery now accounts for 50 percent of business sales. van der Wal finds that many art patrons purchase first, second, and third photographs and much of his referrals are based on word of mouth. View more of van der Wal’s work at www.vanderwal.com.
Jim Nickelson: All About the Print
Based in Camden, ME, Jim Nickelson owns Jim Nickelson Photography and Nickelson Editions Fine Art Digital Printmaking. Professionally photographing and printing for the last five years, he translates what he’s learned from his own work into a profitable business model and vice versa.
“I find that many of the problems I’ve solved for my clients also prove invaluable in my own work. Similarly, my experience as an artist helps me relate to my clients and to understand what they seek in their prints. I find that my dual roles as a printmaker and photographer are mutually beneficial,” he explains.
Nickelson always envisioned his personal work printed large, making it immersive for the viewer, an essential component to his message. He specializes in landscape and night photography, particularly in the square format. While an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 was initially purchased for his own work, he quickly learned that many other photographers, painters, and artists hoped to create large format prints.
The 44-inch Epson printer is ideal due to its great output quality and service. For color-based prints the printer’s UltraChrome HDR ink set is exclusively used, cited as “fabulous” in terms of color capability and the overall feel of the print.
Media choice is vast, as Nickelson admits to working with about 20 different papers regularly—although the most common are fine art matte or fiber-based luster. “For my personal work I usually use Canson Infinity Platine Fibre Rag for its color capability, pleasing surface texture, lack of optical brighteners, and overall brilliance,” shares Nickelson. He routinely works with papers from Canson or Hahnemühle FineArt.
Between clients’ work and his own the Epson runs daily, “all the time it seems.” The printer is designed and equipped to handle such a workload. While Nickelson admits to a bit of trial and error in the initial stages of implementing large format services into his business, today’s challenges are primarily found in the handling part of the process.
“It took some optimization of my workspace, and some costly trial and error, to get a large format print from my printer to my paper cutter and then into a box or tube without causing damage to the print,” he shares. After much experimenting, the best method for transport involves a four- by four-foot sheet of plywood that catches the print as it comes off the printer and then allows for easy maneuvering over to the cutting table. The process has minimized the potential for damaging prints.
The increase in interest from Nickelson’s peers is great. “More of my collectors and clients desire large prints, so the ability to do them is essential. Prints are the main vehicle for my photography, so the ability to print myself and in varying sizes is vital.”
While there is profit potential from bringing large format digital printing in house, Nickelson admits that it takes work to reap the benefits. He says it’s important to keep expenses in check when it comes to purchasing the latest and greatest technology. While newer printers may be attractive, if they don’t have a lot of impact on the final print then it isn’t a necessary business decision. His Epson Stylus Pro 9900 continues to output well-made prints. View more of Nickelson’s work at jimnickelson.com.