Photographic Prints

Vernazza, Italy.  36″ x 21″ aluminum print “floated” ¾″ inch from the wall.

Let me create a beautiful photographic print for your home or office, or for a special gift to a favorite person.

Photographic prints seem to be a dying breed as smart phones become the repository of pictures taken by their owners.  Want to see my kids, grandkids, pet cat, summer vacation, . . .?  Just pull out your phone and show your former friend 500 of your favorites.

Prints, especially big prints, however, have a different purpose and impact.  Although they are not portable and you can’t show them to friends wherever you are, they can have incredible impact on a wall in your home.  Photographic prints can trigger wonderful memories from your life, and when tastefully mounted, are continual reminders of places you have been, family members and friends, special times.  Or if they do not particularly represent a personal memory, perhaps the raw beauty and/or emotional impact is worthy of a constant presence in your home.  Unlike the photos on your phone, you can’t help but see and enjoy them every day.

John Nesbit is an attorney and amateur historian who lives and works near Cookeville. During the 2016 ART Prowl, John visited Sandy’s home studio where she was displaying her ceramic art, and where I had a number of photo prints on display. Eight months later, John contacted me and asked about about a particular print he remembered seeing.  

John with his 36 x 24 aluminum print of a Roaring Fork scene in Great Smoky Mountains Nat’l Park.

I invited him over, and he found the 17″ x 12″ photo he remembered, an image of the Roaring Fork creek taken in Smoky Mountain Nat’l Park .  Then, I showed John the aluminum print of Vernazza, Italy I just had printed (above), and he was impressed with the color and brilliance.  Even a nice-sized 17×12 over a bed would not be at all impressive, so John decided to go with a four-times-larger 36″ x 24″ print.  (Truth be told, as much as we like the Vernazza image, we wish we have gone even larger, perhaps four feet wide.)  

Gregory Bald in Great Smoky Mountains Nat’l Park

In addition to placing an order for a new print, John also acquired an existing 24×16 aluminum image of a scene from Gregory Bald, also from Smoky Mountain Nat’l Park.

A few days later, John called with another idea for an aluminum print.  He is part of the fifth generation of Nisbets to live in Jacksonville, Alabama. His mother, Dorothy Jane Nisbet, came to Jacksonville in the 1950s after marrying John B. Nisbet Jr. John B. served as Jacksonville’s mayor for 20 years, and Dorothy Jane has been active in the town’s cultural life and efforts to preserve Jacksonville’s rich history. Supported by the Jacksonville Public Library, John and his mother co-authored a book which became part of the Images of America series.  

John had a publisher’s proof page of the front and back cover as a digital file (complete with crop marks and color samples) and wondered if that could be made into an aluminum print.  He sent me the image file, and its condition was such that I thought it would work well.  The image (pictured below) made a nice 14″ x 10″ aluminum print that John has hung in his office.  As one additional thought, he also requested a print of just the front cover as a gift to his mother.

The common theme of good memories runs through all four prints John recently acquired.  The Roaring Fork photograph reminded him of a stream once visited in North Carolina.  As a young boy, he clearly remembers hiking up to Gregory Bald in the Smoky Mountains.  Obviously, the two book cover prints will be visible reminders of the Nesbit family history in Jacksonville.

Images of America – Jacksonville, by John B Nesbit III and Dorothy Jane Nesbit

Numerous methods and print mediums are now used to produce high-quality photo prints. Methods include:

  • Inkjet printers to spray individually colored dots from four to eight separate ink cartridges onto a medium (a wide variety of papers, canvas, fabric, glass, acrylic, metal).  An array of dots is used to form one pixel which has one apparent color value.  Some inkjet output may reveal the dots on close inspection, but quality photo printers produce images where the dots cannot be discerned (at least by me).
  • Photographic printers expose light-sensitive paper according to the color values from a digital file.  Dots are not laid down on the paper.
  • Dye sublimation printers use heat and pressure to transfer dyes heated to a gaseous state to the medium (paper, ceramics, wood, metal, glass, and more).  Like the photographic process, there is a smooth gradation between pixels with no individual dots that can be seen.  This process has a reputation for being resistant to fading over time.

To produce a photographic print, you would either need a home photo inkjet printer or you would need to send a high resolution file to a commercial lab/printer.  The latter is certainly more convenient, and by the time you keep purchasing ink for your printer, it may be just about the same cost or perhaps a but higher for the convenience.  To go beyond a 12″ x 18″ print, inkjet printers take a huge price jump, and at that point, I would recommend a commercial service.

Once the print is produced, how do you display it?  Again, many of the commercial services will offer display options, and some companies who once dealt with exclusive selling picture frames now offer printing services, too.  It seems like everyone is getting into every aspect of digital printing.

The display/mounting options I use include:   (click here for more information)

  • Aluminum print with a wood frame mounted to the back, causing the print to appear to float off the wall.  The aluminum print does not need to be mounted on any substrate, and the finished look is outstanding.
  • Personally handcrafted wood box frame (maple and walnut, or oak) with the print mounted on Gator Board and inlaid into the top of the frame.
  • Traditional framing with the print attached to a back board, behind a bevel-cut mat board, behind glazing (sheet of glass or acrylic), all held together with a frame (metal or wood).
  • Print mounted on Gator Board with a wood frame mounted to the back and with a hanging wire.  The print appears to float off the wall.  A less-expensive alternative than the other options.

Aluminum is my current favorite print alternative, and it must be a favorite of many as the number of commercial vendors available seem to be innumerable.  I love the high gloss finish which makes the colors pop.  It is sturdy, and with the dye sublimation process, long-lasting.  Of course, just as the best tasting foods seem to have the most calories, my favorite print option has a higher cost. To me, the vibrance is well worth it!