You don’t have to go without good fine art printing just because you don’t have your own photo printer. Many service providers offer this on the web or in the print shop for photographers. But even if you don’t print yourself, a calibrated workflow is important. Those who cannot offer this will find appropriate service offers.
Not everything on paper is a print
Print service providers use one of two techniques to put your images on paper. For a long time the most common and qualitatively best method was exposure. It is also called Type-C printing (Continuous Tone Print) or Lightprint. This is an exposure process that is known from analog photos. Instead of enlargers and negatives, modern machines use lasers or LEDs. The paper is then chemically developed. Most manufacturers online offer a standard paper from the Fujifilm Crystal Archive series, but there are other papers, for example from Ilford or Kodak. The image quality is mostly solid; good fine-art papers are worthwhile for special exposures. Type C printing produces rich to very delicate colors with fine transitions. The surface structure ranges from high-gloss to matt. Most of these images are lightfast for between 15 and 40 years; if properly archived, they can sometimes last up to 80 years. Due to the high costs of the production facilities, exposures are usually only available from the service provider.
The second variant is inkjet printing. This is available with pigmented and non-pigmented inks. The latter are mainly used on glossy photo papers. They deliver bright, saturated colors, but their lightfastness is limited. For fine art prints, the service providers mainly rely on pigment inks, sometimes referred to as giclee print (from French sprayed). Depending on the printing device, a width of 1.0 to 1.6 meters is possible. For example, you can get larger prints from Whitewall. In cooperation with Epson, the service provider built a machine that prints up to a width of 2.40 meters. The large formats are called master prints, but are only delivered laminated between an aluminum dibond plate and an acrylic sheet and are correspondingly expensive. Depending on the size, the costs are in the four to five-digit range.
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