Company Insights

The Evolution of Large Format Image Production

October 19, 2018 5:52 pm 2 Comments

It’s amazing the changes that have occurred over the years in large format image production. Photos were once shot with film. Ooh, film developed in a dark room and yes, completely black – void of all light. The film was then placed in an enlarger (a kind of projector) and projected onto a select size light sensitive paper permeated with silver halide crystals. Next, the paper was placed in a large flat basin with developer, then a bath of fix and finally a bath of water. if all settings were correct and the chemicals right the perfect photo from the film would appear - and never mind the mess, it worked.

Giant photos were a technician’s challenge or pain. The size of the paper, basin, and amounts of developer, fix and water were of particular concern making large photos extremely expensive and time consuming, but a necessary evil. A good darkroom technician would go through several test sheets before trying to make the perfect print giant-size which could make the process take hours. When the photo was perfect it could be reproduced with the same results each time but, because of the large sizes, could still take hours for just a few prints. However, it has to be pointed out that a well done print with this process is still awesome to behold. In today’s world, the chemicals for developing film and photo sensitive paper are considered somewhat hazardous and precautions suggested. My hat is tipped to the hard core photographers who still believe.

Hence the safe side of large format print using pigmented inks. The ease and speed of the process is inspiring. No dark room, light sensitive papers to protect, or chemicals to spill. Everything is complete digital bliss. The photos (which I now pretty much refer to as images) shot with a camera, or rather an instant high resolution scan, is processed on a computer using color correction and enhancement software. The sky is the limit and images are anything the imagination can conjure. The image files, sometimes massive, are sent wirelessly to the large format printer - in this case a Canon PRO6000. 

Then after a seamless rasterizing process courtesy of computing power, the print is laid down with over 18,000 tiny ink jets spraying 4 pico-liter size drops. Any one of dozens of print media from photo papers, cloth and vinyl banner materials to quality gallery canvases for the ultimate gallery wrap are available in glossy, satin or matte finishes. The entire process is almost hands-off and can be done in minutes instead of days. No chemicals beyond pigmented inks and surface treated print materials. What more can a large format lover want?

So now, processing negatives and slides, the printing of photos at a large size, the equipment and the vast amounts of space needed have all been eliminated. The darkroom has been reduced to the desktop and a corner in the office. Amazing!

It is truly amazing to see the transition from where photo processing has been to what it is today. I don’t know where it’s going to be tomorrow or ten years from now, but I’m sure the process will take new turns. If I had to speculate, large format 3D printing would be awesome!

— Mike Reisenauer, Senior Graphic Artist

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