Having bought a Mamiya 645 medium format film camera a few months ago, I wanted to make a return to the traditional chemical processing techniques which I used for many years until switching to a digital workflow in 2004. I’m interested in the difference in print quality – in terms of sharpness and colour reproduction – between traditional printing and the scanned negative printed via digital means.
If you take your digital photos to a high street lab these days, chances are that the prints you get back will be in one of two formats: printed by the quick-access (and often self-service) machines within minutes onto inexpensive paper, or on higher quality paper intended for digital printing via the professional in the shop. A third digital option is to have “plotter” prints made, which are printed at large sizes onto semi-plasticized poster-type paper. All of these methods are tried and tested and capable of perfectly acceptable results.
I strive to create the best photographs I can and as a pedantic, experienced photographic printer, I demand a lot from third party labs. (Yes, I drive some shop staff up the wall: that’s my right as a customer!) As I spend a lot of time and effort ensuring that each photo is as good as it can be, from composition right through to post-processing, I don’t want the picture to be spoiled by sub-standard printing or inaccurate cropping. To that end, I always make sure that I pay attention to the same, important aspects of the printing process.
As I go through the end-to-end process of getting good prints, I will be posting a series of articles here on my website, with examples and links to services I have used. The aim being to share with you how you can get the best results for printed copies of your photographs.