Most photographers stay away from printing their photography work at home, which was true for me before I was introduced to the Epson 4900.
My thoughts on printing:
“Why would I buy a $1000 printing machine? It’s easier to send it off anyways. I’m not saving any money!”
When I started researching fine art printing and printing my portrait photographs myself, I realized the cost benefit of owning my own printer such as the Epson Stylus Pro 4900. Think about it: you can customize and maximize your print layout easily through Lightroom or other software to ensure you get the maximum number of images for the paper size you have plus be able to manage your colors and get the exact, professional print you’re looking for.
Say you’re printing a portrait session you just did where the client ordered 56 wallets, 5- 4″x6” images, 1- 5″x7” image, 2- 8″x10” images, and one large 12″x24” print. From a professional imaging company, this would cost around $25 for this print order.
A roll of Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper (16”x100’) costs around $75 a roll. By strategically planning out the print layout to maximize paper use in Lightroom, in total, only about 88” of the paper would be used to fulfill the same print order using the Epson 4900 (maximum roll paper width of 17”). This is using about 7.3 % of the total 100 feet length, so total cost of paper use is around $5.48. Do the same job several times and the savings add up. So far so good, right?
I know you’re probably thinking, what about the ink costs? As far as the use of ink, this varies depending on what you’re printing, the humidity, temperature, and settings you’ve selected to print. So how much ink you use may be different than how much ink I’d use on a job. The more white areas in the image, the less ink you’ll use. Ink prices will usually range between $0.75-$1.00 a square foot for most prints so in addition to our $5.48 print job, it will cost about $10-$15 for ink (still less than the cost of sending it out to a professional printing lab).
Another pro for printing yourself is using only what you need. Say you run a fine art printing business and someone wants to order a print from you but you’ve run out of sizes. You can easily go to your printer, print the image in a matter of minutes, put on a mat and you’re good to go! Printing yourself will cut down on delivery time to customers and ultimately help you grow as a photography professional.
Professional imaging printers are pretty daunting, but don’t let the Epson 4900 scare you away! Even for a printing novice like me, I could easily follow along the menu, do a manual clean on the system and do a test print.
So now that you’ve obviously gone out to buy the Epson 4900 (good choice, you won’t be disappointed) it’s time to print! For this blog I’ll briefly go over the printing process from Lightroom that I used to create a 12×24 photo on the Epson 4900 printer.
A key to printing anything, whether it’s at home or through a professional lab, is color management. When you see the bright, vivid colors on your editing screen, you aren’t necessarily going to get those colors in a print if you do not calibrate your monitor.
After doing your importing and catalog organization and you’re in the developing mode, turn on your clipping warnings (arrows on top left and right of histogram) to see if you have any dark or blown out areas. If you have a blown out area, there is no detail to print and therefore the printer will not print any information in that space. Same goes with deep black colors—if it’s too dark, there is no detail and so there will be dark areas with no detail in your print. In order to avoid this, either turn down highlights or whites (if blown out) or turn up shadows or blacks (if too dark). Continue to edit and crop your photo (to whatever size you’d like to print it at).
Get yourself familiar with the print tab in Lightroom. Not only can you design your own template in this setting, you can use preset templates to organize images. In the cells section, you can add sizes to your layout (even custom sizes). The print tab also has the option to add a copyright or watermarking.
Before you print, scroll to the very bottom of the side menu to “Print Job”. In this sub-menu, you’ll find a tab called color management. Make sure you select the correct paper profile (Lightroom should have most, if not all paper profiles already, but you may need to download them online if you don’t see your paper profile).
Try out a print! Make sure you’re printing regularly and maintaining your printing machine. It’s good to run a manual clean every now and then to make sure your print head is cleaned and you’re getting the best images.
Below is a sample of two prints I made with the Epson 4900 using Ultra Premium Presentation Paper and Premium Glossy Photo Paper from Epson. The colors, detail, and paper quality were better than I expected and I was amazed to see there were no ink lines whatsoever and that all the detail and contrast was exactly what I wanted.