"We said “we want to liberate the photographer” in the same way as PortraitPro does, liberate them to do the work themselves, and give them the tools to do it themselves" – Sebastian – theprintspace.
Earlier in the summer we met up with Rebecca and Sebastian from theprintspace, and asked them to tell us about their work with professional photographers and artists, and how they enable them to print their work in the best way possible. We went down to their offices in the heart of trendy East London, and they showed us the variety of papers and other media they use to print artwork for photographers.
We jumped straight in to look at their huge range of materials;
Rebecca: This is Fuji Matte paper; it’s a c-type. All the c-type prints are done with LED lights so they’re quite durable, whereas inkjet is done with ink on paper. So these [c-types] are really good for mounting, portfolios, and albums because it’s quite robust. It’s really good with skin tones, pastel colors. It’s got a slight gloss to it, it’s not completely matte. It’s very popular with family photographers and wedding photographers. The Taylor Wessing prize; a lot of people use Fuji Matte for that.
With C-type you always get a slightly sharper image than you do with the inkjet. It’s got a smaller gradient in the colors so it’s quite sharp, whereas inkjet softens.
Then we have Fuji Gloss. It’s a bit more dynamic than the matte, a little sharper. That’s nice for portraits, cars, buildings and things like that. It is quite reflective, is the only thing to think about for mounting, but it’s good for albums.
Fuji Flex is our high gloss paper. It’s really cool. This is really dynamic because it’s so glossy. It brings out bright colors really well. The one thing you have to watch with that is the reflection. Then you have metallic, that’s your favorite.
PortraitPro Catt: That is my favorite.
Rebecca: Metallic looks more corporate almost. Black and white works really well with that as well. It’s so unusual; there aren’t many printers who offer papers like that.
That’s all the C-types. Size-wise we have a smaller printer that goes up to 30 inches on one side and that’s a roll so it goes as long as you want. And then we have a larger printer that goes up to 50 inches on one side and with that one I’ve done prints up to three meters so you can print really long with that one.
We print the images exactly as they come through to us. So, on the website people can select the size and they can add borders and things like that on there. We can print any size as well so if you have an unusual size, we can print that.
PortraitPro: So as long as it’s within the dimensions of the roll you can print anything?
Rebecca: Yeah, it will always keep the ratio, so as long as you’ve chosen that, we can do it. We print at 300 dpi jpg or tiff and you can find all of the details on our website. So this is inkjet, this is ink on paper, and that’s a bit more ‘fine-art’.
We didn’t take any photos or video while we were chatting, but they did give us one of their sample packs, with examples of each of the papers they showed us, and they showed us some great examples of the larger, non-paper prints.
Rebecca: Here you have semi-gloss. It’s a bit softer. That’s nice for weddings and family photos. We get a lot of work from; I don’t know if you know them, SWPP. (The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers)
PortraitPro: Yes, we know them. In fact we were lucky enough to win 2 trade awards from them this year.
Rebecca: We get a lot of clients from there; really big clients. We have one lady who does c-type prints but then also uses Hahnemuhle Photorag as well. Because they're inkjets, they’re a bit different.
Here we have Warm Tone which is really popular and really good for fashion portraits. You know how sometimes you have really harsh highlights? Well with this takes that away and makes it more subtle. It’s quite rigid as well.
Here we have Pearl, Pearl is lovely. This is our most durable inkjet paper so it’s a good one to go for if you want to print inkjet. It’s still got a bit of texture to it but it’s glossy. You can see, if you rub it a little bit it’s not going to damage it too much. It’s a really good paper and it picks up color really well as well. Actually this one is my favorite; I used it for my final university project.
Then we have Photorag. This is lovely but it is really delicate. Even if you go like that [Rebecca lightly scratches the paper] it scratches. It’s fine if it’s going to go in a frame but if it’s going in an album you have to be really careful.
PortraitPro: It’s lovely, really soft.
Rebecca: With that you get really nice, punchy colors. Almost luminous colors with things like pink. Here we have Hahnemuhle German Etching. Etching’s got a bit of a texture to it. This is one a lot of our clients go for because it’s quite vintage-y. Sometimes with weddings you want to get that edge to it. This is Canson Aquarelle Rag. This is actually really popular for illustration.
PortraitPro: What are the pros and cons of the c-type vs the inkjet?
Rebecca: C-type is really durable whereas inkjet can be a bit more delicate. For example if you have a lot of black you can sometimes scratch it and it will come off slightly. If it’s going in a frame and kept carefully it will be fine, but if it’s going in an album where you will have a print on top of a print that wouldn’t be very good. C-types are a bit more resistant, more robust.
PortraitPro: If you were going to pick 3 papers that would be most useful for, say, wedding photographers what would be the three you'd pick?
Rebecca: Definitely Fuji Matte and Fuji Gloss, they’re just really good papers. Then for the third one; probably Pearl because it’s quite unusual but still very durable. A lot of people won’t realize how delicate prints are.
PortraitPro: And what about for Fashion photography?
Rebecca: Possibly Metallic. Although, it depends. You have to be quite careful with Metallic sometimes. Usually it works really well, but sometimes, if you have a face, a portrait shot for example, it might not work so well. Possibly Metallic. Flex would be really good; it pulls out color really well. Warm Tone would be really good.
PortraitPro: What’s the average or most common sizes that you get requests for?
Rebecca: That’s quite tricky. Some people have pre-made frames, so they have very specific sizes but lots of people just go by aspect ratio so it won’t fit into a specific size. That’s fine, because we can do that.
We get quite a lot of little ones, 7x5, 12x10 would be the next most popular size and then 20x16. Then we get some really big A0 prints. It’s really varied.
PortraitPro: You could, as a wedding photographer for example, offer a package that contained: X number of 7x5s and a bigger one and a cover photo for example.
Rebecca: Oh yes, and we have a calculator on our website so that you can literally put the size in, the quantity, the paper and it will calculate it. You can do that excluding VAT or including VAT.
PortraitPro: The majority of people these days aren’t really printing. What scenarios do you print for most often? Is it exhibitions or…?
Rebecca: We have different times of the year. So, May is really student season, we have all the students coming in for their exhibitions, portfolios for interviews, things like that. Then we have competition times, like the Taylor Wessing, so people come in in for that. Then you have Christmas, we have a lot of family photographers, obviously that’s their busiest time. Then after Christmas you get lots of families ordering prints from Christmas.
We have clients who use us all the time. We have some clients who use us for artworks that they sell. They do really well so they order really big prints. People like that we have continuously throughout the year. We have certain family photographers who order from us throughout the year and then at certain times they get busier, summer, Christmas things like that.
So it really depends on the time of year. If you’re a wedding photographer January and February are quite quiet aren’t they? And then it’s June and it’s all the weddings!
It’s good when we get regular clients. Some people do stalls and things to sell their prints, so they’ll order 20 at a time and pop in every week to collect their orders. That’s really nice because you get to know everyone.
PortraitPro: So, can we ask you a bit about the technical stuff… For example preparing prints; Say I’ve taken a portrait. I’ve put it into Photoshop, I’ve used the PortraitPro plugin, what do I do now to make sure it’s ready to print?
Rebecca: So, we have profiles that you can download from our website so that you can see your image in each of the different paper types. It just gives you a rough idea of the color and things like that. Things like a Fuji Matte and a Giclee. Just to give you an idea. With Giclees you get really bright, punchy colors, whereas with Matte, it’s not quite so vibrant, but this would be better if you wanted something really sharp. So when you preview the paper types you can see what’s happening with regards to the paper. You can download that from our website and use it in Photoshop while you’re doing your sizing.
You can size in Photoshop. Open the Image Size, make it exactly as you want, add a border and things like that. Then upload that to the website and select “Original from file”. Or, you can still prepare it in Photoshop but then when you upload it to the website, you can change the size from there. It will keep the aspect ratio. It’s quite an easy-to-use website. You can select postage and everything from there.
PortraitPro: You ship internationally, is that right? Is that for everything, even mounting and framing?
Rebecca: We ship everything internationally. Obviously you have to be careful with the framing because it can get quite big and heavy, with glass, but we ship everything internationally.
PortraitPro: Are there any common mistakes people make when they’re sending work to be printed?
Sebastian: Resolution can be a problem. Sometimes people don’t understand about resolution and they think you can print anything as big as you want. Even DSLR cameras have a limited size range. People have certain expectations if they’ve spent £1000 on a DSLR but that’s still quite a small sensor, you can’t go that big. Then you see pixelation. It looks maybe a bit grainy.
Rebecca: With things like that, if they are ordering a really big print, we can do test strips. They’re only about £3 and they can just cut a section out of the print and have it sent to them. They can even do that with the different papers if they aren’t sure about what paper they want. So that’s really handy.
The other problem people have is maybe not uploading images with the right specifications. It should be a jpg or a tiff. People might upload a tiff but it’s not flat (Layers need to be flattened in Photoshop) things like that.
Some people get confused by aspect ratios. For example if they have an image that’s really long and then they try to size it to 8x10 and they might not understand why it can’t go exactly to 8x10. We do get calls about that. But that’s just because the software doesn’t stretch the picture or do anything crazy to it. They might change the width and the height will change automatically, that’s just because it’s just keeping its proportions.