There comes a point in every creatives's life where work that has been created is deemed fit enough to print. At 16, I shot my first ever wedding, but it was only at 17 when I sold my first individual print.
The photograph was of a local solicitor's daughter, at a local event where my music academy's youth orchestra got the opportunity to play alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (she was playing the cello). The chap gave me his card and asked me to email him to let him know how the pictures turned out as he expressed a wish to perhaps buy a copy. I was apprehensive at first – I didn't think the photograph was that great, so I gave it a slightly sepia look and emailed him a copy. He liked it very much. I sent him a 10 x 8 matt enlargement that I ordered from PhotoBox (you know the stuff – that Fujifilm Crystal Archive paper you can get pretty much everywhere).
The print cost me something like £1.20; I had the cheek to ask him for £25. He paid by cheque and I felt awesome. It was a great first sale.
For years I went through this same process for various prints with various clients. I won't knock PhotoBox. It's cheap and cheerful (and certainly at the time, it was one of the cheapest photo printing companies out there), the turnaround time is pretty quick, and you can get prints in practically every size going. It's great when you're young and starting out. But apart from deciding from matt or gloss, there's not much else happening. This wasn't really a problem until I stumbled across theprintspace.
I happened to be hearing a lot about theprintspace in Hoxton at the time when I was needing to get some prints done for an exhibition. There was a lot of talk about their sample pack (which cost less than £5 at the time). I was intrigued and ordered one (and you can order one yourself here: theprintspace.co.uk/OrderSamplePack).
he sample pack blew my mind, and it changed the way I worked. It was an education. I was amazed at how different types of paper could give different kinds of work a unique feel and depth to them. I learnt about how to proof my images with ICC profiles to get them ready for print, and when I compare older prints I have from PhotoBox to prints of the same images, but having put them through proofing and then choosing a paper I like the look or feel of, the images on those prints look completely different to each other.
My very first exhibition prints were printed by theprintspace on some awesome Fujifilm Fuji Flex. It just gave my Underground shots a great amount of depth to them that I found impossible to get with the bog standard offerings of PhotoBox. The difference in price is very obvious once you start printing larger than 5 x 7, but you can say the same about the print and image quality too, and if you are planning to exhibit your work, it's worth investing in the best that you can get. And I can say that because it has allowed me to sell some of the work from my first exhibition!
I have been a customer with theprintspace now for quite a few years, and I have used the drop-in Macs at the studio to get my work to the printers, as well as using the online upload system. They've helped me get stuff out for exhibitions on time, and the customer service both online and at the studio is great. I've used a few other papers too since the discovery of Fuji Flex, and that's the beauty of having a pack of print samples to hand; you can flick through the different papers to find a texture or finish that could really bring out the best in your work.
As seen at the top of this post, another great pack of print samples you can get is from a company called WhiteWall. I'm yet to try out their range of products, but like theprintspace they've a very extensive range of papers for print, as well as a whole array of mounting options and other materials, from canvas printing, to acrylic gloss block mounting. The Alu-Dibond and and Forex samples are especially useful if you are looking to exhibit work. The sample pack itself is free, though you have to pay postage and packaging (which is fair enough, as it's quite a weighted box) – simply scroll down on the WhiteWall home page and you'll come across the sample pack image/link that will initiate a shopping cart script.
I'll hopefully be trying out WhiteWall very soon as I got some vouchers for them with my new Wacom tablet. Both WhiteWall and theprintspace offer ICC Profiles on their websites for download, so you can get the best out of your image once it's printed. Colour management is really important if you want your prints coming out the way you see your images on the monitor, and the joy of the Internet and photo sharing sites is that it's easy to learn about it too. Both websites offer help on how to "proof" your images with the profiles before you send them off to be printed and it becomes like second nature once you've done it a few times.
If you are thinking of taking that next step and going from the screen to actually printing and even selling your work, I cannot stress enough how much you should get some print samples of the various papers and materials out there. When you bring in the tactile experience of feeling the different papers and seeing the images under different lights and conditions, it can help bring so much more to your work.
I hope this is of some help to some of you!