What propelled me as a young photographer was the joy of being in the darkroom, preparing film, and awaiting the results with anticipation. The advent of digital photography drastically shortens this process by instantly providing the image on the back of the camera. While this has its advantages, too many images stayed on a hard drive and only occasionally became a physical print. Now, we have screens aplenty. With iPhones, iPads, and laptops scrolling photo sharing sites, prints have become even more rare. It was in this context that I became inspired to build a gallery wall in my office to feature some of my favorite images. To build the gallery, I envisioned one large format print of the Chicago skyline on Memorial Day weekend at the center.
After taking measurements, it seemed appropriate to print a 40”x14” image to serve as the core of the gallery. This would require working with a large format printing company. I value doing business locally, so I reached out to Indigo Ink Digital Printing in Columbia, Maryland. I wanted to be involved with the process, from picking the paper to understanding the inks that would be used.
With laptop in hand, I set out to visit Indigo Ink and met with project manager Jessica Manzo and CEO Matt Richardson. He looked at my image, presented paper options, and explained how the inks would interact on each. He suggested I use the Epson Fine Art cotton, with the guarantee that if I weren’t happy with the results, they would reprint on different paper. They explained which file type was necessary to ensure the best outcome.
I raced back to my desk and freshly color calibrated my monitor using the X-Rite i1 Display Pro. This is an essential step in the digital darkroom process; it ensures that the colors produced on a print accurately match the ones on the screen. Satisfied with the image, I finished the prep in Photoshop CC and uploaded to Indigo Ink’s website with details for the print and mounting board. I received my invoice for approval within an hour and ordered the print.
Within 48 hours, I received an email notice for pick-up, and I couldn’t wait to see it. I unwrapped it at the shop for a final review. I was blown away by how great it looked!
I now had the anchoring image for my gallery wall. For the surrounding images, I had purchased a Canon Pixma Pro 100 printer that prints up to 13”x19” full bleed images. After working with my wife Kate on the gallery layout, I began the process of printing 12 images that will rotate over time.
This has been a challenging, inspiring, and educational project. It has helped me enjoy images that mean a lot to me because of the time and effort it took to capture them, but now in print I appreciate the creative process even more. It has also made me a better photographer because I see things in print that I didn’t see on the screen. This project has improved my compositions in the field because now I think about the final goal for a given image. I’ve learned to slow down and enjoy the creative journey from capture to print, thereby returning to the original joy I experienced in that old darkroom in high school.
Many thanks to the great folks over at Indigo Ink -- I look forward to working with them in the future. If you have any questions about my process or have your own story, drop me a line on my Contact page.