The new digital photographer can be forgiven for being confused by any number of aspects of the sport - there seem to be so many to learn.
He or she used to be confronted only by which film to use, does the orange needle match the mark on the light meter, and is the Chemist open so that I can drop my film in? Then in two weeks it was should I buy another roll of film or a bag of barley sugar and box of bandaids?
Now it is white balances, tonal curves, video frame rates, colour spaces, and all the rest. No wonder they have started putting an " Automatic " setting on new cameras and dedicating a knob or lever to it. The relief for some shooters must be palpable.
It is nearly the same for the shooter who wants paper prints of their work. What do they do now that the chemist has gone out of photofinishing and reverted to selling overpriced vitamin supplements and something for the weekend? What are the alternatives with that card full of images?
a. Print it yourself at home on a multifunction printer from Officeworks. No, please - go ahead and do it. The printer will only cost you a hundred bucks and you'll be so disappointed with the results that you won't even have to buy expensive ink cartridges later to try again. The larger multifunctions make attractive pots for cactus.
b. Get Officeworks to print it for you on their big machine. This sometimes works to some extent if your file is perfect and your need is modest. Do not expect art. They are not going to correct your flaws. GIGO.
c. Get an Epson photo-quality printer and do it at home. This works. Start off with the Epson Surecolor SC-600 and move up to the SC-800 if you want larger prints and cheaper ink. Then cast your eyes at the even larger range of large format printers from the company. They will not be cheap but their quality of print is professional and you can be sure that the prints that emerge with K-3 ink on quality Epson, Ilford, Permajet, or Hahnemuhle paper will be be permanent and accurate.
But sad to relate, you are still going to have to be doing a good job with the files. You'll be telling the computer what you want, but you'll have to make sure your monitor is showing you the truth. ( Hint: Spyder colour calibrators, EIZO screens...) And you'll have to make sure that the computer tells the printer the right thing to do ( Hint: either, you, the computer, or the printer will have to manage the colour. Decide early.) And you'll have to make sure that the printer knows what paper you're using ( Hint: paper profiles.)
You will also need to ensure that you put the paper in the right side up. Do not ask this writer how he knows that. Take it for granted that he knows...
A little unsure about all the settings and alternatives? Then you need the Automatic solution...
d. Take the files on a hard drive, CD, or memory card to a professional photofinishing lab. They have not disappeared with the advent of digital - in fact the good ones are going strong because they are the good ones. And they are resourceful, technically skilled, and helpful.
A visit to a professional photofinisher like Fitzgerald Photo Labs at 350 Fitzgerald Street, North Perth
is almost as easy as it used to be to put your films into the chemist. There are real people there who can look at your files and advise you on the optimum sizes that they can be printed. They can suggest paper surfaces for larger works. They can frame the bigger prints - and there are so many options for modern display that you can never run out of a fresh decor idea.
They are able to handle film needs as well - lots of people still shoot on film - and converting the negatives and transparencies to digital files is easy these days. You can get your work back in dual form - digital as well as paper print.
Again you can be sure that the pictures you pay for will be permanent. The big labs use Epson K-3 ink on their big machines.
The joy of a big lab like Fitzie's is that the printing people are there to talk to you and they know what they are doing from long experience. It is not just machine minding in a large furniture or discount store for them. Their job is a profession and they produce professional quality - and that's why Camera Electronic depend on them for our advertising banners and promotional prints. These need to be right and they ARE right.
For those of you point out that I have forgotten the discount store and the furniture shop...well I remember them when I need tee shirts or kitchen chairs. But not when I need good quality photofinishing.