There seems to be a growing trend toward large prints among my clients. Vaulted ceilings in homes, large lobbies in hospitals and clinics, airy office spaces all seem to call out for huge images.
At the same time, digital cameras are steadily improving, offering crisper images from densely packed sensors, allowing even 12-megapixel images to be blown up to a decent size. Add to that some amazing software programs that use complex algorithms to blow up images and you have the photo equivalent of a super-sized Big Mac.
One of the results of the desire for larger and larger prints is that I have just begun shooting with a large-format 4x5 film camera for some of my work. I’ll continue to report on that in future blogs. It’s kind of funny, this return to the past for modern imagery, but to succeed in this business you have to be responsive to client desires, whatever direction that takes you in.
How We Work
I thought I’d describe here how we handled some work for a recent client, a financial advisement firm in the town where I live. My client’s office is in a first-floor wing of a large Victorian home. When I first saw the client reception area, I knew it needed a major makeover. The walls were a very nice, but … how can I say this politely?.. challenging color and were plastered with an assortment of artwork, awards and plaques that gave a very disjointed appearance. Certainly the initial impression was not the elegant appearance worthy of my client’s reputation and his upscale clientele.
So, we rolled up our sleeves and analyzed the space, as well as the client’s perceived needs. We then suggested a design arrangement that we thought would meet his goals while offering a quality experience for clients. We also convinced him to have the walls painted a neutral and more soothing color.
After finding out his preference for images from my stock collection, I suggested others that were similar but not on my photo gallery site (www.lesterpickerphoto.com). A few backs-and-forths later we had our selection of images nailed.
Then came the decision on display media. Our company offers several different display styles, including traditional framed prints, aluminum prints, fiberboard and face-mounted plexiglas. Within those four basic choices we offer many variations, depending on the client’s needs.
The reception area in this case fills two main functions; those that support the administrative assistant and those that serve the client. Using those two functionally distinct areas, we selected a fiberboard option for the administrative area and front-mounted plexiglas in the client environment.
With those selections made, including print sizes, we were one-third done with the project. Now came the difficult work!
Mastering the Print
I handed off the images to Bob Boyer, my very able assistant. Bob is a master at many things photographic, but I’ve got to think that printmaking is at the top of the list. Bob has an intuitive feel for a print, combined with an expert technical grasp of print-making and wide experience with software products. Bob is able to factor image size, paper weight and finish, and presentation medium and somehow always come up with the perfect recipe for presenting the image in its best light.
As soon as Bob was done and I had suggested tweaks based on my personal artistic vision, off they went to the respective labs. We can do traditional prints here in our office up to 13”x19”, using the fine HP Photosmart Pro B9180. But for larger prints or for other modalities, we have relationships with some of the finest labs in the country.
So, off went the files to be mounted on fiberboard to a lab in California, with which we have been doing business for some time. Then we sent the face-mounted plexi files to a master craftsman, Tom Rieger of Rieger Communications in Maryland.
Tom is a pioneer in digital photography and I challenge anyone to come up with another person who knows more about the topic than does Tom. His company does high-end exhibit work for the Smithsonian and for museums throughout the country.
Here I am at Rieger’s massive facility with the print run for this installation, which Bob and I drove down to inspect before going to finals (I live about 90 minutes from Rieger’s lab and workshops).
Every print is precisely color managed by Tom and his graphics staff. The next image shows the print run that we examine before mounting.
Tom’s shop has the ability to run exacting prints up to an astounding 100 inches wide!
Show and Tell
A week later the plexi-mounted prints were ready for installation. Here are some shots of my images hanging in the client’s office.
Blog readers are often curious about the process and I hope this has answered your logistical questions. But there is one other issue I’ll address up front, and that’s how this process feels to me.
It’s hard to describe how great my satisfaction is in seeing my work mounted in someone’s office or home and knowing they are enjoying it. Once every image is mounted on a wall or hanging in a space, I step back and recall every nuance of the shot. I think back on the preparation for the shoot, the weather conditions that day, the smells and sounds and visuals of the moment. I remember the discussions with my associate, Bob Boyer, as we prepped the image for printing and planned the design for the installation. Finally, after hours doing the installation we can step back and review the entire process. And, it feels great.
As always, I welcome your feedback.