View Full Version : Economics of Printing at Home

10-Mar-2016, 19:27
Do you think Printing at home/studio with a semi-pro printer provides any economic or fiscal advantage as compared with using a print service bureau?

Mark Sampson
10-Mar-2016, 20:13
Economic or fiscal advantage, perhaps not. The possibility of control over the qualities of your final print, absolutely. DIY!

11-Mar-2016, 02:43
Fiscal: probably not, since if you're running a business, the costs of materials would be deductable as well as the costs of outsourcing print services.
Financial: it depends on the volumes you go through. It's a simple matter of discounting the initial/periodic investments in equipment and the costs of servicing and repairing the equipment in the number of prints you make.

For me (amateur photographer, so the fiscal issue is moot for me), the reason for printing at home is not a financial one, but one of turnaround time and, in the end, fun and satisfaction. Also, I couldn't imagine sending images out for printing digital negatives and positives for alt printing, especially when calibrating for the process. I achieved a workable polymer intaglio digital positives curve in a matter of days using the printer I have here, going through several curve versions in a single day. I couldn't have done that having the transparencies printed by someone else and I most likely would have lost interest in the process before even getting halfway through calibration.

The gist is that fiscal and financial considerations are just one part of the equation. Other factors may be just as or even more important.

11-Mar-2016, 06:32
Let me put it this way. If you print digitally or wet print and can show person who just shot with you, in about hour or two, full fresh print - its bloody impressive to everyone and people love it. Which will drive things quite a bit

11-Mar-2016, 06:37
It depends on what print service is available to you. I would prefer to print myself, but I have a source that will make my prints for less than I can buy the paper and ink! As long as their prints are satisfactory or until they go out of business (inevitable), I will let them do it.

Kirk Gittings
11-Mar-2016, 08:22
Take control of your images! Buy a used Epson 3800, a great professional quality printer that is cheap these days. I still have one that I bought used 6 years ago MoL and use it. I only print a few times a year. It usually takes one cleaning and it is ready to go.

Jim Jones
11-Mar-2016, 14:45
I'm with Kirk. My Epson 3800 was new almost 9 years ago, has produced 6412 prints (large and small, and used at least 55 ink cartridges. This sounds like a big investment for someone who is mostly an amateur, but it was worth it. For example, even with a calibrated monitor (mine isn't), examining a letter size print before making the final large print lets me check for nuances that the monitor might not reveal. If this Epson ever fails, I would certainly buy another one or its replacement in the Epson lineup. Being able to print at a moment's notice can also be valuable. As for cost, there are probably cheaper alternatives. For me, money is less important than convenience and image quality.

Ken Lee
11-Mar-2016, 16:26
If you want to provide a commercial product in bulk - at an acceptable level of quality - and you don't want to spend the time and money dealing with the issues, then use a commercial service: that's their core value proposition. They climb the learning curve, maintain and calibrate, upgrade and replace, troubleshoot and repair, install and uninstall etc.

If you want to carefully control the appearance of your work, then do it yourself. However, even when we do it ourselves, if our standards are high, getting what we want is no picnic.

You can do both of course.

11-Mar-2016, 16:41
My two bits-worth - if you have clients who can bare the expense of contracting your printing, do it. Decades ago I was a custom printer and suffered the good and bad to make my customers happy, and the only way I managed was to make the critical work so expensive they almost fainted by the estimate. The better your negatives, the happier your relationship with the printer, and sometimes it translates to lower lab fees.

Otherwise do it yourself. I pray you are a good tech.

11-Mar-2016, 21:58
If you do lots of printing yes.

If you want high quality prints yes.

If you want to perfect your digital files yes.

If you just want some snapshots prob no.

Darin Boville
11-Mar-2016, 22:31
I think there's no question about it. If you are at the point of considering the purchase of a higher end printer that suggests you are already spending $$$ at commercial labs. You'll save a ton. Also will print a tone more.

A few years ago a gallery wanted to show several of my prints at 44x44-inch size. The bill was nearly $1800 bill to have them printed at West Coast Imaging (the gallery footed the bill, but ignore that for now). By contrast a few months ago I bought a Canon ipf8400 for $2800. You can see that the printer paid for itself almost immediately (because it's rare that they gallery pays the bill). I should have bought one years ago...


Fr. Mark
23-Mar-2016, 08:26
I am contemplating putting an idled, cartridge-less Epson 1400 in service again, if I can. First in color to clear backlog of un-printed files then all black inks. Part of the equation was the free printer but more so even is that with 3rd party cartridges or bottle adapters and inks (in gallon quantity of you use that much) paper becomes the issue not ink. And there, it may be possible that watercolor paper from cheap joe's or dick blick or jerry's art o rama etc on sale either in rolls or 22x30 (Arche's Hotpress 90 or 140 pound) and cut to size may cost less than stuff sold for photos.

Jim Jones
23-Mar-2016, 10:26
When using a mixture of 3rd party inks and papers you may encounter longevity problems. researching www.aardenburg-imaging.com or wilhelm-research.com if permanence is important.

Fr. Mark
23-Mar-2016, 22:57
Arches watercolor paper is more permanent than (most) inkjet paper. Carbon based monochrome ink-sets ie Eboni are as permanent as they come. I think this has been demonstrated by ardenburg. Thanks for your concern.