As this is a print assignment a number of questions arise and need to be considered about the production of those prints: who is to produce them,on what type of paper, with what sort of finish, with or without a border, and so on?
With regard to the first question, whilst I have a decent all round printer, it is not a dedicated photo printer. Although from previous experience the results are not bad I feel I would be better served by having the prints made commercially. I have had a few prints made professionally in the past and the results have been noticeably better, not to mention consistent, than anything I can produce at home. There is also the practical issue that my printer uses up ink like there is no tomorrow – which itself means that home produced prints are a false economy – and I do not presently have access to an adequate range of good quality papers. So, who will I use? There have been a number of companies recommended by fellow students, none of whom I have tried so far. There is a decent printer locally in the Tyne Valley who has done some decent work for me before. For now though I am going to use LumeJet. I have had good prints from them before and I now want to try their new process, L.Type, and updated approach to silver halide printing. (it helps that they have a special offer on at the moment!)
Whilst for present purposes I expect that the paper I do have at home, made by Fuji, would be more than adequate given that I understand there is no requirement at this stage that prints be of gallery/museum quality, given that physical prints are called for I want them to be of the best quality that I can manage at the moment. I have recently had some prints made professionally on Fujicolour Professional paper and have been very pleased with the results.
Finish is a tricky one. At the end of the day does this just come down to a matter of personal taste? My prints are going to be in black and white. From experience, and having run a couple of test prints at home on some glossy paper, I can see that you can get some nice ‘contrasty’ effects and rich, dark blacks. On the down side though I find the reflections that you can get with glossy paper distracting and even counterproductive; there is no point having a nice rich black if a reflection then turns it into a grey. My taste inclines more towards a “lustre” finish, not completely matt but not too shiny. For me this keeps the richness of the tone without the distracting reflections. The prints I have had made recently have been on matt paper and have worked nicely. I am also influenced by the fact that Magnum (who know thing or two about these things!), from whom I bought a couple of prints recently, use a fairly flat paper.
Border or no border? It seems to me that if prints are going to be mounted or framed it does not make a great deal of difference as any mount board will form a border. However, as these prints are going to be seen without any mount my feeling is that a border will be useful to give the image something of a frame. I have a couple of prints that do not have borders (they have not yet been mounted or framed) and to an extent the images look a little bit lost or adrift.
Almost forgot: what size? The limit for this assignment is A4 and for now I would not want to go beyond that anyway (not to mention it starts to get expensive!). That is a size that I think will suit most of my chosen final set anyway. There are though a couple that are squarer, as a result of cropping, so I guess the largest I can go with them is 8″x 8″. I will need to work out the respective costs before deciding exactly what sizes to go for.
So that is where my thinking is at the moment. Let us see what the results are like and then think again.
The prints are here. I decided upon four A4 sized prints, three portrait and one landscape to suit the subjects, and two 8″x 8″, in a lustre finish. As I expected the degree of contrast is not as strong as on the trial print I made on glossy paper. That said the range of tones is wider and more subtle, more natural. More detail has also been preserved. They are not as impactful but I think I still prefer them. Certainly I do not miss the distracting reflections that afflict the very glossy finish.
By the way, although the LumeJet website can at first be a bit fiddly, once you get the hang of it it is easy to upload your chosen images and the finished prints then came back really quickly. The prints were evidently made the day after they were uploaded last Thursday and arrived today, Monday.