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Monday, April 10, 2006

The Steinmuellers Try 'Print It Yourself'

Uwe and Bettina Steinmueller, Oak Tree in Storm

In a move that is either brilliant or foolish but innovative in either case, Uwe and Bettina Steinmueller are attempting a new way of selling fine-art photography: "Print It Yourself." For less than half the cost of their already reasonably-priced prints, their idea is that you will purchase just the file of the picture from them, along with a license to make one fine print for yourself. (You also get to make trial runs and test prints, of course.) "These days many of our readers have the same printers that we use to print portfolio prints," they reason. "The direct printing process is not that complicated if you know the basics about today's inkjet printers."

Many fine-art printmakers will quail at the idea of letting go of this crucial part of the process—but perhaps many serious amateurs who are heavily into printing will slaver at the opportunity to try their own interpretations. Who knows? In any case, it's certainly an interesting and thought-provoking idea.



Blogger Dave New said...

I applaud Uwe for taking this step. It will be interesting to see how it works out. In particular, I like the idea that he has not decided to treat his customers like thieves, by not attempting to node-lock his files or restrict the number of times a file may be printed.

The anti-example is the SAE, who will be glad to sell you any of their standards or World Congress papers as PDFs, but once you open one on a particular machine, it is forever locked to that computer. Further, you are allowed exactly one try to print a portion or all of the file. Printing one page only uses your one print token. Granted that SAE offers to help you, if you contact them about computer crashes, printer jams, etc., but all in all, the attitude is one of using the available tachnology to abridge one's fair use rights granted under the copyright act.

Reminds me of the line in 'Jurassic Park': "Just because we can, doesn't mean we ought to".

8:43 AM  
Blogger Geoff said...

Another great source for classic pictures that you can print yourself is the Library of Congress' archive of the Farm Security Administration photos at Some/many are available in quite high resolution archival tiff files scanned at fairly high resolution (with attendant large file sizes).

Here's one of my favorites, by Walker Evans, which helped me put my printer through its paces when I first got it set up.

9:20 AM  
Blogger Uwe Steinmueller said...

>Many fine-art printmakers will quail at the idea of letting go of this crucial part of the process

The real crucial process is making the file ready for the print. At this step mainly 3 parameters define the print:

1. Printer and printer status (not clogged, no banding, ...)

2. Driver (most drivers like the Epson R2400 or HP Designjet 90 are quite good)

3. Profile (most generic profiles for R2400 are not bad either, can depend on the image though)

I will only publish photos that I would be happy to show in any gallery using this standard print process.

The key to all this is actually that I am happy to share photos that I like in this process.


Mike, I like this blog as it is so much about photography and not just mere technology.

1:00 PM  
Blogger eolake said...

Yes, this is interesting. I have more than once myself considered how it would go to sell art photos as downloads.

I am working on a "electronic photo art book" for my nude-art site

A paper book of the set already exists, but it is print-on-demand, so it sells for around $80. We are going to sell a download of the full sized files (around 50 pages) for $25.

Signature image (smaller rez):

4:34 PM  
Blogger scotth said...

I think I would really struggle with letting go of printing myself. To me, it is giving up the reason I press the shuitter in the first place; being able to create a print that someone else can look at. Yes, someone else may be able to print my picture and have it look more or less like I intended, but it might not. Ultimatley, the end product may or not be a product of my vision.

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting indeed, but frankly I don't care for Inkjet prints on standard photographs. I think for artistic renditions or conversions this method is fine, but for true photographic prints I prefer just that, a real photograph done on real photographic paper through a chemical process. I have tried Inkjets and the customers I have dealt with frown on them and don't want to purchase anything but real photographs.

This will definitely be interesting to see if this method truly works out and catches on.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Uwe Steinmueller said...

>Ultimatley, the end product may or not be a product of my vision.

That is of course true. But at least at the screen they see it very close to the real thing (ok, monitor calibration needs to be ok).

Also this is not ment to replace selling prints on real paper. As mentioned it is an experiment and spreads at least some fun (and maybe even sales).


8:31 PM  
Anonymous Mike Steinbach said...

As a Wedding photographer I have been asked to "just put them on a disc" quite a few times. While the customers of Uwe are more likly to know what a good print looks like, I would have a hard time having my work represented in that manner.

8:14 AM  
Blogger Motto! said...

Anonymous: Can you even get chemical prints done from colour slide anymore? I of course mean direct optical prints, not scanned and then printed onto regular photolab paper because that doesn't count. It was my understanding that the chemistry and paper required to direct print from slides isn't made anymore.

12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's next? Authorized paint by number kits from leading artists instead of finished and reviewed prints? Whatever happened to the artist's review and endorsement to give some value to the image. If you know anything about art history, you know about Salvador Dali signing blank pieces of paper only to be lithographed later without his final review. That artwork is worthless from a monetary sense, although it is well printed. This is not only unreviewed by the artist, it is also questionably printed.
Part of the charm of a fine print is knowing that the final image was reviewed by the artist, passed through his hands and approved for sale. Sorry, but this is just another step in the cheapening of what is the continuing devaluation of what is considered 'fine-art'.
A print done in this form is not a "Ewe Steinmueller" print, it is a print that I made from a file, nothing more.
The Ansel Adams saga should be another good example of why this is a terrible idea, and it surprises me that the artist himself would initiate it.

5:36 PM  
Blogger Uwe Steinmueller said...

>A print done in this form is not a "Ewe Steinmueller"

Sorry, my name is Uwe Steinmueller.

Actually the whole stock market depends on just sending out files. Our files are way more ready to print then practiced in the stock market.


7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great experiment. This could start a revolution -- or not. We will never know until we try. I applaud Uwe for challenging the photographer's possessive notion in the digital age. This could be the Visual Podcast(R).

Of course the prints will be less valuable than the print finished by the artist. That's the whole point and the reason why they are cheaper. This is like IKEA flatpack furniture, you do the rest at home... with all its benefits and limitations.

Good luck Uwe and do keep up posted on response.


1:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I forgot to add: what if you would distribute unedited raw files or scans?

What if I as a photographer wanted to have the print you made of one of my pics? Who will owe who?

The negative as the score and the print as the performance... this is the time. When is the last time you heard a niche composer complaining that his music was performed by musicians?


1:14 AM  

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