Our Denver boudoir (Intimate Lifestyle), lifestyle portrait, and fitness studio business conducts its own printing for many of our products. How did we get here? What drove us to do our own printing? Today we’ll discuss the decision criteria for printing or outsourcing your printing.
Convenience & Timing
We are a printed art studio. We value holding art in our hands. The digital revolution – while it has presented tremendous benefit (a future discussion) – has had some costs. A decrease in the volume of printed art is one of them. Part of the issue has been the collapse of the print house market. Film’s proliferation required an ecosystem and lab presence was much greater at film’s height. With the collapse of the film market, lab access collapsed with it.
The result is that convenience has suffered. If I want to print something today with an outsourced partner, I am hard pressed to submit an order and have it in hand the same day. This does not work for our business model. We conduct reveal and select sessions with physical prints in hand. Our Denver boudoir clients are able to hold a print in hand and make a buying decision the same day we shoot if needed.
Quality and controlling the final artistic output are our primary printing reasons. All of our products are printed at archival levels (prints are on museum quality cotton, acid-free paper and matted with cotton, acid-free materials). While these raise the costs of goods sold, we select these materials because they are expected to last for over 100 years if cared for properly. We use a partner lab with the same standards for prints larger than 8×12.
Color depth, contrast and rendering are equally important, so let’s delve briefly into the science of printing to bring this to life.
The image rendering on your computer screen does not utilize the same color gamut as what is rendered in print. A computer screen relies on light and three primary colors of the light spectrum (Red, Blue & Green, all combine as white). Your computer screen uses luminance (source of light) to produce the color we see. The print operates differently, and printer and paper rely on a different rendering model (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, & Pure Black). Our eyes perceive light from the prints through reflected light. Reconciling what is rendered on our screen with what is rendered via print is a science itself. It’s a science we prefer to have direct control over.
Printing at home gives us greater latitude to match what we produce on screen (in the Digital Darkroom) with what gets printed. The result is a final print that represents the art we want to present to our Denver boudoir and portrait clients.
This is the last reason we used in making our decision. Are there cost savings when comparing like for like (same materials used)? Yes, there are some moderate savings. Reprints, continual testing and calibration, and time invested, make the costs comparable to purchases from a lab. Many people go into printing for themselves to make prints more cost effective. We have this rationale moderates found when you fully appreciate your cost structure as outlined above.
Printing requires a new body of knowledge which can be as technical as creating digital imagery, so be prepared to invest time, budget, and energy to come down the learning curve. You should consider printing your own products, particularly if convenience and quality control are critical to your business model.