Print process, size and quality

​Let's talk marketing for a second. Most people hate the idea of marketing - associating it with data theft, unsollicited advertising, slimy content waterboarding ... - but love marketing well done. That is, marketing that goes unnoticed and speaks to them deeply and naturally. 

Whatever approach you take to good marketing, whatever methodology you consider to evaluate the value created by a product or a service, quality is at the very heart of the equation.

Crap products are very hard to push with honest marketing.

Quality is a ​must have​ to make something desirable to intelligent people. You can push any old tripe to brainwashed audiences using automated and unethical methods. But why would you want to when ​quality naturally breeds desirability?

​Max height (c) Pascal Jappy

​Consider watches, for instance. Most people aren't interested in horology. Most people find the designs of exotic mechanical watches weird. Most people find the 6-figure prices of high-end watches ridiculous, if not outrageous in an ​world where some people starve, and considering a 50 bucks quartz alternative has better performance and is far more convenient. 

If that's you, spend 2 hours with a watchmaker listening to how parts are fabricated and tested, and you'll be mesmerized. You may not want the watch. But you'll almost inevitably be drawn in by the sense of quality. May I suggest you find yourself an H. Moser & Cie dealer to put my claim to the test?

Perceived quality is (partly) what made Apple the biggest brand in human history. It's what makes me grin like a schoolboy every single time I reach for my X1D, in spite of its telluric wake up time and focusing performance. It's the obsessive selection of the finest leathers that makes Hermes stand out as a true luxury brand in the company of ​​s many mass marketed faux-luxury (but equally expensive) others. 

​Quality workmanship is palpable even in something you know nothing about.

​French welcome (c) Pascal Jappy

​The most sought-after artists are those who manage to combine a strong message with the craftmanship to match. Andreas Gursky can spend weeks fine tuning an image, for example. You could argue it's worth it when you sell your photographs for very big money. But it's actually the other way around. 

In other words, to be worth ​anything​ your prints need to be beautifully printed.

It's very tempting to use cheap third-party inks and affordable papers. And that's perfectly fine for personal use. But the "commercial" value of your work will suffer tremendously from it. You'll lose on every print a high multiple of what you are saving.​​​

Lean on me (c) Pascal Jappy

​First, there are achival considerations to take into account. 

​To be honest, the ​real​ ​life expectancy of a print depends ​​at least as much on how ​​​it is used and preserved than on the process used to create it. Leave a platinum print in full sunlight in Arizona and it probably won't last any longer than your acidic paper and cheap ink home-made alternative that's preserved in a dry box in the dark.

But that's beside the point. Anyone paying big money for a photograph probably won't want to ​have tohide it in a box to preserve it, even if the intention was to place it in ​a vault in the first place.​​​ Bad archival properties simply destroy the impression of quality. And any notion of investment ​begins to evaporate if the product you buy is no longer the same when you decide to put it back into the market.

Unless a work of art is ​designed ​to fade, fading will be equated to sloppiness, and rightly so.​​​ Who would chose a cheapo paper with faded inks over a pristine platinum print of the same image? Not me, that's for sure. But if you want to be the next Banksy with prints that fade to grey as soon as the hammer falls, be my guest 😉

​ In Kanazawa (c) Pascal Jappy

​Then, there's tactile pleasure. 

Yes, ​you can produce beautiful prints ​that have good archival properties with some cheap papers. But holding a heavy sheet of textured natural fiber paper that rolls onto the table like a smooth piece of expensive leather, that's not something you forget easily. Going back to the thin plasticky el-cheapo won't feel good. 

All of this is subjective, of course. But all purchases are irrational decisions based on deep rooted desires and later rationalised through whatever mubo jumbo convices us our minds made the decision. Even professional purchases, but particularly when it comes to art.

​There are alternatives to inkjet printing that provide a much greater sense of exclusivity and high-end quality. I won't go into them here, but you can find a lot of information on them on our dedicated tour of high-quality printing processes page.

I'll just say this: some processes cost 20 times more than others and your print price can't reflect this pound for pound. If you are using a very high quality manual process, you are placing yourself closer to the fine art end of the spectrum, where printing costs play a larger role than your artistic value multiplier. So, if you were going to price your inkjet print (which cost you 50£) 200£, you probably cannot price a same size carbro print (that cost you 500£) at 2000£. You may have to charge ​800£ and "only" multiply by 1.6 rather than 4.

​Stamina (c) Pascal Jappy

​Which leaves us with the (more objective) matter of print size. 

With the exception of a few artists who use large sizes for very specific reasons (to make you step back for a global view) large prints are just a fashion. Not all photographs work at every size. Some very intimate scenes look terrific on tiny prints while some are glorious in a 40 inch frame.

Print to the size(s) that suits the image best and don't let other considerations sway you.

When you print in multiple sizes, it's best not to price linearly. Have a larger edition small size series at an affordable price and a more limited and much larger sized one at 4 times the price, for example. Buyers for large and small prints are rarely the same people and those hunting for large prints typically have much higher budgets. 

For example: a series of 24 12x18" prints at 180£ each and a series of 7 36x54" prints at 700£ each.

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