What you print your image on is nearly as important as what the image is. These days the trend is toward media that offers the same quality as silver halide, as well as those papers that allow photographers to flex a little more of their artistic muscle. "With regard to inkjet-receptive paper products as used by high-end photographic professionals, the dominant trend has been fiber-based papers and textured fine-art papers," says Max A. Bowers, VP, marketing and sales for BF Inkjet Media. "These product types provide substrates that are very different, yet each has its own unique photographic application. Inkjet-receptive canvas has become a dominant requirement in the photo market and canvases made for photo applications (versus just fine-art canvas) has become a key requirement."
Photographers wanting to branch out has led to new demands in the inkjet media domain. "There are several dominant trends affecting the manufacture of today's media for professional photographers," explains Ed McCarron, director of marketing at InteliCoat. "One of the major trends is the development and expansion of high-quality imaging platforms across a wider variety of media. This has resulted in increased demands by photographers for the development of non-traditional products that feature the attributes of photo-specific media."
Another dominant trend, according to McCarron, is that the growing demand in this marketplace has resulted in an increasing number of manufacturers and brands introducing products specific to the photography and fine-art industry. "However, there are limited media options available on the market today that meet the unique quality standards required by the photo industry," he adds.
Dan Steinhardt, senior marketing manager, Epson America, agrees that paper choice is key in being able to express oneself creatively, but he also offers that it's a complete system that allows photographers to really shine. "Recent developments in digital workflows and inkjet technology have opened the door to exciting new creative possibilities," he says. "In particular, new papers have been developed that not only rival revered silver-gelatin products of the past, but which allow for greater creative control in both B&W and color, which was not possible in the darkroom. However, instead of evaluating paper as an independent entity, the highest exhibition-quality prints we see today are those that were created with files optimized for a complete system-of the printer, the ink, and the paper."
The Holy Grail of Inkjet Media
What are photographers' output requirements? There are both practical and emotional needs that have to be met. "Photographers are looking for an inkjet-printed image that equals a silver-halide-based image in color gamut, tonality, depth, and chromacity," explains Bowers. "And, since BF Inkjet is one of the premier manufacturers of inkjet canvas, we were approached about making an inkjet canvas created especially for B&W photography. There was no such substrate, [so we created one and] won a DIMA award at PMA 2008 for [our] PC-12.2 UDM Black & White inkjet photo canvas."
More unique printing options are on the wish list, according to McCarron. "At InteliCoat, we're finding that pro photographers are increasingly looking for more unique digital imaging substrates," he says. "To satisfy this demand, manufacturers are working to develop nontraditional products that feature the imaging performance, permanence, and consistency required by the photo market. Recent examples of media that manufacturers are producing to meet this need include canvas, textiles, and a variety of fine-art papers."
The appeal of silver-halide continues on even in the digital age. "Over the past five years, we have had thousands of professional photographers and serious amateurs tell us they need a paper with the look, feel, and that hard-to-describe emotional connection they had with revered silver-gelatin darkroom papers," says Epson's Steinhardt. "Many of those papers are no longer available; virtually all in the industry now see the overwhelming benefits of a digital workflow versus the darkroom. The darkroom holds a special place in photographic history, but a digital workflow offers so much more control-provided the right paper could be developed. Epson developed its new Exhibition Fiber Paper to meet this need. Combining the artistry of the traditional darkroom with the control of a digital workflow the paper produces extraordinary color and black-and-white prints. When utilizing all the latest tools from Epson as an entire system, including Epson's Stylus Pro Printers, UltraChrome K3 ink with Vivid Magenta, new Exhibition Fiber Paper, and the finest custom profiles created in collaboration with Pixel Genius, the results speak for themselves-and what leaders in the industry tell us are truly signature-worthy, exhibition-quality prints.
A variety of sizes is also important. "InteliCoat has been receiving a lot of requests from photographers for different media formats to fit smaller machines, including 17-inch rolls and a growing variety of sheet sizes," continues McCarron. "We've made smaller sizes available for some of our most popular products, including the nontraditional photo products that are increasingly being used in the photography market. A great example of this is our fabric products, FAB-6 and FAB-TAC, where we have found photographers are rapidly adopting these materials for the production of custom album covers."
Read on to see what media manufacturers have recently introduced for your own inkjet needs...
Adorama's ProJet Elite Linen-Texture watercolor brand is a 100% cotton, acid-free, archival natural-white paper. The paper comes in 17-inch x 50-foot rolls.
|© Steve Schapiro|
Bergger Products, Inc.
Designed especially for photographic and high-quality fine-art reproduction, PN71 White Glossy and PN70 Warm Glossy enjoy a wide color gamut and D-max rating. A specially engineered microporous gloss coating allows this paper to marry the look and feel of a traditional silver, fiber-based paper with inkjet (giclée) technology.
"Whether the final print is traditional silver or pigment, I have appreciated the look and feel of Bergger traditional and digital darkroom papers."
-Steve Schapiro, Chicago, IL
|© Max Bowers|
Grand Photographer Series PC-12.2 Ultra D-Max inkjet canvas was created for use in professional quality B&W photographic applications. While focused on B&W applications, this canvas also produces stunning color imagery with razor-sharp resolution, remarkable color depth and density, clear chromacity, and excellent soft-tone color transition. The canvas also boasts water resistance, a soft matte finish, and rapid dry time, as well as superior cutting, stretching, and mounting characteristics.
Optica One is a premium-grade fine-art paper specially designed for high-resolution photographic reproductions that require exceptional color gamut and archivability. This bright-white 300gsm fine-art paper delivers a Dmax over 1.8. With exceptional tonal range value, line quality, line contrast, and raggedness, Optica One is able to produce crisp and accurate detail. This fine-art paper is designed for pigment inks, but will also work well with dye-based inks. It is available up to a width of 60-inches.
"Breathing Color carries, without a doubt, the best media canvas and fine-art papers money can buy for the professional photographer. For Dmax and tonal range, there is nothing on the market that even compares. These guys are in a class by themselves. But for me, it's always about communication. These guys are the best. When you have a problem, they're there for you. It's a company that cares. I recommend Breathing Color in all my seminars and to all my students."
-Michael Gilbert, Maui, HI
|© Vincent Isola|
Canon recently introduced new Canon Polished Rag media. The media is ideal for digital artists and fine-art photography and is a thick media providing the look and feel of traditional fiber-based photo paper for the fine-art market. The gloss finish and 90% brightness give the media an excellent display quality, while the weight and texture gives fine-art prints a high-quality look and feel.
"This paper has a great feel to it. It's like a double-weight darkroom paper with wonderful texture and a satinlike sheen that makes the image pop off the page. Gloss differential is uniform and amazingly low, and bronzing is almost nonexistent. It has a large color gamut, extremely high image definition, and three-dimensional color depth. Hands down, it's my favorite for B&W prints because of its excellent separation and definition in the grey tones and very high Dmax."
-Vincent Isola, Mountain View, CA
Canson has announced a new inkjet fine-art and photo range: Canson Infinity, with 14 new Canson Infinity media products offering a choice of four different surface structures: smooth surface; ultra-smooth surface; textured surface; and canvas. The Canson Infinity range has been engineered to allow optimum color gamut and ensure maximum resistance to aging. Sheets and rolls up to 60-inches wide are scheduled to ship in July.
|© Greg Gorman|
Epson's Signature Worthy Exhibition Fiber Paper will be available in 25-sheet packages of 8.5x11, 13x19, 17x22, and 24x30-inch sheets. Many who have contributed to the development of Exhibition Fiber Paper have commented that what sets it apart are its extraordinary blacks, clean whites, and a surface texture that is just like a true B&W silver gelatin print. Additionally, Exhibition Fiber Paper produces extraordinary color output as well.
"When I first began using Exhibition Fiber Paper from Epson, I was pleased by how much it felt like a rich, true photographic F-surface paper from the darkroom-right down to the slight curl. On top of that, the control, wide color gamut, and unequaled Dmax I get when making prints with this paper and the Epson Stylus Pro 4880 and 9880 has led me to use it almost exclusively, both for color and B&W prints."
-Greg Gorman, Medocino, CA
|© Andy Sands|
Fotospeed Pigment Friendly Satin, the latest paper to join the PF family, lies halfway between a traditional lustre and a matte paper and offers an elegant sheen. The paper is flat and stiff with a neutral white base. This paper has become popular with all types of photographers and produces superb results in both monochrome and color. It accepts both dye and pigment ink and, as with all Fotospeed papers, it comes with free custom ICC profiles. The paper is available in cut sheets and rolls to 44-inches.
"As a working professional wildlife photographer, I find I'm selling more and more prints. I have been using various Fotospeed inkjet papers for several years and have always been pleased with the results. When they launched Pigment Friendly Satin, I had to try it. As with all the Fotospeed papers, it had a great feel about it. The colors are accurate and vibrant, and the surface is superb; the pure-white base gives the print an overall brilliance, and the surface allows the print to shine from any angle in any light. The surface does not mark easily when handled-a great paper that is different from the crowd!"
-Andy Sands, United Kingdom
|© Mark Sadan|
Hahnemühle USA announced four new media products. Photo Rag Ultra Smooth 305gsm has a smooth-surface texture and an exceptional ink limit, resulting in high saturation and Dmax. Daguerre Canvas 400gsm is a specially coated artist canvas made of poly-cotton with a tactile surface texture that makes it perfect for fine-art photos. Monet Canvas 410gsm is a genuine artist canvas made of 100% cotton with a special coating that's ideal for fine-art. There will also be a Photo Rag Baryta 315gsm available fall 2008, which will be OBA-free with a barium-sulphate finish.
"Several years ago, I came upon the Hahnemühle booth and was enchanted with the look and quality of the paper and the prints. You could say it was love at first sight. Working with my pigment prints on Hahnemühle paper, I realized a unique look with an archival life of several hundred years. Since then, I have printed three solo exhibits for the National Museum of Dance and museums and galleries in the USA and abroad."
-Mark Sadan, Ossining, NY