Digital Silver Halide Prints
Any reader of Luminous-Landscape knows how I feel about prints. To me, the print is the final step of the photographic process. It’s not a photograph until it’s a print. So often today, with the advent of digital cameras, I see photographers printing less. In the olden analog days, you really couldn’t count anything as photography until you had a print, seeing how you were shooting much of the time only from negative film. And if you were shooting transparency film, the slide was so small that you really couldn’t see it.
Today it’s so easy to capture a good image and share it digitally that we have become what I term swipe photographers. That means you shoot digitally, load them onto your mobile device or tablet, and then share them. A viewer will swipe the images, never taking the time to view them with all the specialness they have to offer.
We have done numerous articles and videos about Getting Back To The Print, and many photographers have gone out and purchased printers to make their own prints. It’s not really expensive to do this. It does, however, require a bit of time and patience. Our latest Shooting With The Masters series with Charlie Cramer spends a lot of time going through the workflow needed to make excellent prints.
For many, this is just too much work, especially if you have a lot of prints to make. Many people don’t have the room in their homes for printers, or would just rather take the photo and let someone else handle the printing.
Just about two years ago, I was invited to meet with Huw Williams and his team at their booth at Photokina. In a time of inkjet printing, I was surprised to see that Huw and his company, L-Type, was pioneering a new way to make traditional silver halide prints. Of course, I was a skeptic and wondered why anyone would do this when analog printing had so many variables to it, and was kind of yesteryear technology. I walked away with the understanding that once they worked a few things out I would send them some files and they would show me the kind of work they were producing. Let’s just say that I was skeptical, to say the least.
Around 10 months later, I received the email asking for files. Frankly, I was quite busy and it took me a while—after a lot of prodding from Huw—to send him some files. Around the same time, they asked Mark Segal to send some files too. Mark subsequently did an article on his experience called “LumeJet Process Overview – A New Printing Process.” Mark goes into great detail to explain the LumeJet process and technology, so I’m not going to do that. I’ll focus on the more practical side of things.
I gathered a large number of files, followed the instructions on the L-Type website, and sent off my images using Dropbox as a method of delivering the files. LumeJet has several methods of uploading available not to mention a new app for Apple mobile devices.
It took a minute to make sure that I understood how to set up files and so forth for their printing service, but after that, it all went smoothly. Like I said, I used the DropBox file hosting service. All went smoothly. Other file transfer services work just as well like, WeTransfer, Google images and even Smugmug. I received a confirmation message that the order was received, and around 10 days later I received a big box of prints.
At this point, you should watch the video below. Watch the whole video, as I show and explain a lot and there is also a SPECIAL Luminous-Landscape ONLY discount offer.
The L-Type Video
Editors Note . . . . Since the filming of this video, the l-type.com website has been updated so some screens shown above may be different
The OBE – Out-Of-Box Experience
Before I go much further I am going to make this statement. There are a lot of you that are going to want more technical information and such. If you are one of those, please refer to Mark’s article linked above. For me, it is all about the print and what I received. The beauty of using L-Type is you don’t have to get caught up in all the technical aspects. All you have to do is send your files and tell them what you want.
As you can tell from the video, I was really impressed. For ten years of my life, I was on the management team of one of largest color labs in America, so I know a thing or two about traditional analog printing. The results I got back were beyond what I had expected.
Being familiar with the limitations and variable of this type of printing, I was surprised at the sharpness, especially the details in shadows and highlight areas. The texture and tactile feel of the prints was really nice, too.
L-Type delivered what they call L.Type prints to me in a number of their various configurations. As you saw in the video, I received a book and a portfolio, which was my favorite.
The presentation of the images in the portfolio alone is impressive. The prints are mounted on a thin substrate, which gives the prints a bit of stiffness and rigidity. Yet, the prints aren’t super thick. Each and every image was beautiful. The prints far exceeded my expectations.
The book that they made for me was also excellent. They grouped my images the best they could into categories and used different sizes as well as two-page bleeds to present my images. Yes, I was impressed.
Finally, they sent along a number of loose prints. These were not mounted and were thinner in the thickness of the paper. The prints were excellent and included a few panorama prints which were n the batch I had sent. There is an option to have information and metadata printed in the border, which was also nice. However, in future orders, I may just leave that off of the prints.
I can’t express just how happy I was. My mind started to think of how I could use L-Type for a lot of my printing. I love the portfolio box because it allows me to sit with a group of people and pass prints around. Everybody can view prints if you are with a group. I have numerous projects that I will be using a portfolio case for. These include trips to Iceland, Greenland, Svalbard, Antarctica, Palouse, and Tuscany just to start with. These boxes will be for my viewing pleasure; however, I think I could offer them as a sellable product.
The books, though, are where I’d consider making multiple copies of the same projects, and then selling or gifting them. They are also nice because the images don’t bleed through like some digital books do.
The Final Word
I love prints. I got into photography because I saw a friend’s father make prints in the darkroom. For me, that was magic and the whole idea of photography just became a passion for me. But for the best part of my life, to achieve photography as it was known then you had to make a print.
Now, the number of photos being taken every day is astounding. However, only a very small portion of those images are being printed. Most of these are being shot on mobile phones. My son-in-law, for example, has two beautiful girls and we are constantly being sent photos of the kids by email and instant messenger. While it is great to see these images, there is no lasting tactile print of them. The print is gold, and its value increases with age. There is no excuse to not be printing these great images and putting them away for safe-keeping. These prints will be of such emotional value many years from now. I now realize this as I have been going through all my boxes of prints, finding prints of my mom who recently passed away.
My wife Debra and I have a small Epson printer, the Epson PictureMate PM-400, hooked up to our home wireless network, and we use this to make prints from our mobile devices all the time. You can check out the article I wrote about this HERE. So, for us, prints are a big part of our photography.
I run many workshops—as you are most likely aware. Many attendees return over and over again. Too many of these folks take really great images but never have prints made from them. They miss the point that photography is about many things. Capturing the images is a very enjoyable part of photography. Then, working the image and improving it by using many of the tools available for digital imaging today is another big part. The end result, though, is where you can hold the image, view it and—more than anything else—share it.
L-Type has now made it possible to do this. NO MORE EXCUSES!
I highly recommend that you give L-Type a try. If printing bothers you, challenges you, or you just plain don’t have the time for it, then LumeJet could be the answer. Keep in mind that this is not a service for big prints. At this time they print on a piece of paper that is 12×39 inches (1000mm x 305mm). Their mounted prints are available up to 11.8 x 16.9 inches (300x430mm). Hopefully, in the future, they will design and manufacture a larger machine for printing. However, the sizes and prints they offer will fit the needs of a very large audience, especially if you want to make a collection by project or a portfolio.
There are three variations of prints you can purchase . . .
The basic weight is like what I show in the video – 530gsm in total. This the L.TYPE print. They are intended to be stiff enough to handle, but really should be framed or kept flat in their box.
The next weight is 830gsm – rather stiffer. This is the L.TYPE studio print and these are priced at L.TYPE + 25%. These can still easily be framed, but equally could be used for a short-term exhibition by themselves – or for a portfolio for professional qualifications, etc.
The top weight is about 1500gsm – or 2mm thick. These are called L.TYPE EXHIBITION prints and the price for these are L.TYPE + 40%. These can be hung directly on the wall for an exhibition, or just used as really stiff portfolio prints.
L-Type also tells me they can produce double-sided prints that can be bound for professional portfolios, in A3 size (16.5×11.7 inches) in portrait or landscape orientation. They also make a really cool looking 14×12 inch portrait size.
L-Type is located in the UK. This shouldn’t present a problem—I certainly didn’t experience any with my orders. You deliver the files electronically and then they ship them back to your home or office. The prints I received were packaged very well and I had no print damage through their shipping. So, don’t let the fact that they are from the UK hang you up.
Prices are somewhat higher when compared to your typical color lab. I might as well get that out front. However, the more prints you order the more all the decrease in price. For example, buy 5 prints and the price per prints drops by 12%, and even more when you order more than 25. You are paying for quality work made by passionate folks. This is very evident as you begin to work with them. If you have any doubts, send the same file to a few different labs and then compare results. I should mention that I did prints of some of the same files on my Epson P800 using ImagePrint, and the ones I produced were very close to the L.Type prints. That was actually pretty impressive.
Special Offer From L-Type
To make it even easier, L-Type and Huw Williams have made two very generous offers to you as a Luminous-Landscape subscriber.
Introductory offer of 4 – A3 prints (420x297mm) (16.5 x 11.7 inches) for £12/€20/$25 – including P&P. For this price, you also get a sample pack of their papers. This is intended to make trying L-Type essentially risk-free. You can add as many other prints as you want and get their normal volume discounts (ie the first 4 will count to the volume discount).
To take advantage of this offer, send your prints to email@example.com using Dropbox, WeTransfer or any other link and mention the code LULAMEM. The company will lay your images out on an A3 size and send you a contact sheet and payment link. Once you are completely happy and pay, they will be printed and sent to you.
This offer is 15% off all the time on prints and reduced pricing on lay-flat books, for all Luminous-Landscape subscribers. Simple as that!
15% Off All Orders – Always
When you first send your prints to L-Type – whatever method you use, including the app – use the LULAMEM code somewhere in your message. They will register your account and tag you as a LuLa subscriber and apply the discount as standard from then on. If you use the app (which does not allow the introductory 4-print offer), then use the code LULAMEM at checkout.
There is only one really important thing to remember – L-Type encourage larger file sizes (TIFFs or high-quality jpegs), which must have embedded color spaces. If you have a color-managed workflow, then their ICC profiles are available at www.l-type.com/order. L-Type prints are printed at 400ppi so they work best with high-resolution files (the company will warn you if your images will come out at less than 200 original image pixels per inch in the final print) but you do not need to re-size or resample your prints in any way. L-Type will do that for you.
L-Type has set up a special Luminous-Landscape landing page on their site explaining this offer.
This is an exciting offer and I am thrilled about it as I hope it encourages a lot of you who aren’t printing to get some files together and try L-Type out. I believe you’ll like what you get back and will be encouraged as I am to send in more files. For those of you that are printing, this is a great chance to get quantity print, portfolio boxes etc. without having to sit by a printer and do them yourselves.