Recommendations for gallery-quality prints from digital file?
December 15, 2008 1:39 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in printing a few of my wife's digital photographs as a gift to her. I don't know a thing about photography (my wife is the expert), so I'm looking for some advice. Here's some details: I have the original hi-res versions (she uses a Nikon D70, so I think the files are large jpegs). I'm interested in pretty large prints - probably around 24" x 18". I'm not too concerned about cost - my priorities are the highest possible quality, and longevity. Ideally, I'd love to use someone local (Boston, MA). Can anyone recommend a printer? What specifically should I ask for? (Types of printing, types of paper, etc.). Many thanks in advance!
posted by stuehler to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I can't suggest a printer near Boston, but more generally:

Assuming she took the pictures on the highest image quality settings, 18x24" is around the limit of what you can get away with with 6 megapixels. It won't be super-sharp if you look at it up close, but 18x24" means you're mostly looking at it from at least a few feet away. Dropping the size down a little will produce sharper looking results (though of course you have to be closer to see it as well)
posted by aubilenon at 2:14 PM on December 15, 2008

I always recommend Perfect Posters for printing out anything large. They ship nationwide, are cheaper than anyone else I've ever seen, and produce good output. They recently started offering archival prints on canvas.
posted by nomisxid at 2:22 PM on December 15, 2008 [4 favorites]

Chromacolor, Inc. / Joe Gora / 617-542-1933 / 45 Waltham Street

It's a small owner-operated basement shop in the South End. My office uses them to print large scale (36x48) high resolution mixed-media prints for presentation. For the size you want, I'll think you'll be paying about $40 to Joe, but don't quote me. If you want a bigger shop, I suggest Seaport Graphics.
posted by spoons at 2:50 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]


Many thanks for the recommendations!

One of my key questions is what exactly, I should ask for.

For example, spoons recommendated Seaport Graphics, so I checked out their site. One of their services is "Heidelberg Drum Scanning". Of course, I have no idea what that is. Plus, a whole lot more jargon I don't understand.

I'm looking for a print that's comparable to what you'd see in a high-end art gallery. Is there a specific type of paper or printing process I should request (or avoid?) What about ink?

I'm happy to trust the proprietor at any of the shops I call, but I'd love any additional guidance...
posted by stuehler at 3:09 PM on December 15, 2008

If you have the digital files on your computer you should be able to easily figure out what the resolution of the images are. Posting that info might help.
posted by jlowen at 3:18 PM on December 15, 2008

Good point Jlowen.

The original files are jpegs with resolutions of 3008 x 2000.
posted by stuehler at 3:23 PM on December 15, 2008

Dorian Color in Arlington is a well respected local pro lab, who do a lot of work with newspapers judging from the prints on their walls. I've used them for film development but not printing.
posted by galaksit at 4:53 PM on December 15, 2008

I highly recommend for printing. Anything I need for my clients over 12x18 goes there. they do great work, super fast turnaround, and their packaging is so good that you can nearly drive a truck over their boxes when they arrive.

Also, a quality 6 megapixel file can be enlarged to pretty much whatever size you want. with a good printer using their own RIP. I've had billboards, bus wrappers, and 6'x9' shopping mall art reproduced from good clean sharp 6mp files.
posted by imjustsaying at 4:58 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

2nding perfect posters. I found them on Ask.MeFi and I loved the print they made me!
posted by majikstreet at 5:06 PM on December 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I just had some 11x17's done at Adorama. I have a 7 megapixel camera (prosumer) and the prints came out perfect. I found the online order, upload and "store front" easy to work with and the turn around was a few days. I just looked and they will print up to 24x36, assuming you have the resolution for this.

One thing I tried on a few of the prints was a metallic paper. I have to say I love it, as the images pop off the page. I would presume this is not for every type of picture, but something I will have to explore. The images I used this on were nature shots from around the equator, so the light was intense - hence this 'metal' paper just makes it pop off the page. Adorama has about 6 types of paper to choose from, which is different from what I have seen.

The other option they offer, but I can only mention it as I have only begun to explore this company, is color-correction. I am not going to believe they have people with degrees in color theory looking over my prints, but if adjustments can be made (which is an option you check off) then so much the better. I tried this, and again for my intense lighting pics, it made a difference compared to how I have printed them before.

Lastly, if you pick up a pro-level photo magazine, there are some companies in there that offer services for printing as well. Wedding photogs and professionals are shipping their stuff to be printed and printed well. I want to try some of those as well but have not as of yet.

posted by fluffycreature at 5:58 AM on December 16, 2008

"I'm looking for a print that's comparable to what you'd see in a high-end art gallery. Is there a specific type of paper or printing process I should request (or avoid?) What about ink?"

How serious are you about this? I mean, I just went to an Elger Esser show that used digital prints, and they fooled both myself and a friend who works at Gemini Printing (probably best known as the go-to printer for Rauschenberg and Serra), and I can call the gallery to get the exact process name (or you can—it's the Sarah Lee Gallery in Santa Monica, in Bergamot Station). I know that he's done C Prints before, and usually face mounts them on plexiglass. The process had a long German name (that looked like a place, though I am totally blanking on it now).

Couple of other questions—I assume this is color stuff, not black and white, right? I have a lot more familiarity with B&W, but can say, generally, that printing is part of the artistic process and if you want "fine art" level prints, the artist should be involved. That's because the choice of paper and process affects the finished prints quite a bit—palladium prints look different from gum prints or gelatin silver, etc. Due to the complexity of the chemistry, there are fewer options for color printing.

If you're really serious, you can look into having digital negatives created at whatever size you want the final print to be, then use laser processing to transfer that to traditional color paper, and if you want more details about that, I can provide some, but the process can easily get prohibitively expensive, and I don't want to muddy the waters if you're actually looking for something that's just a "good enough" print for home display. But if you're looking to market these prints to high-end galleries, that's a different matter (and, in fact, many good galleries should have ongoing relationships with printers whom they can recommend).

But as, again, this is something that I only have a passing familiarity with (being mostly into film and black and white), you can either let me know before I go do more legwork or hope that someone who has a better fine-art background can tell you more about your options.
posted by klangklangston at 11:28 AM on December 16, 2008


Just wanted to let you know that I took nomisxid's suggestion and went with I just received my print yesterday, and it's absolutely spectacular - everything I hoped for, and then some.

Their price was the cheapest I found, the web site was easy to use, and the turnaround was fast - I ordered the print at 10pm EST, and it was shipped the next day. I received it the following day (paid about $24 for FedEx next day shipping).

There were many great suggestions in this thread, and any of those may have been just as good, if not better, but PerfectPoster certainly exceeded my expectations.

Thanks to all!
posted by stuehler at 6:48 AM on December 19, 2008

Just wanted to add an extra note...

On closer inspection of my print, I noticed a small "dent" or "crease" (about 3/4" long). When I took it to the framers, and viewed it matted and under glass, the dent was pretty noticeable.

So, I emailed They responded almost instantly, and with no questions asked, offered to reprint the photo at no extra cost.

So, in addition to the fact that the quality of the printing exceeded my expectations (in my naive opinion, it's awesome), I'd also say that they offer excellent customer service.

So, I'd heartily recommend them.
posted by stuehler at 11:09 AM on December 19, 2008

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