From pixels to dots: Completing the photography experience by Fine Art (Glicée) printing

June 06, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

The camera sensor registers the image projected onto it when the shutter is released. The colors on this image originate from light absorption and reflection - The oak forests in the high canyons of the Montserrat mountain are green since this is the only color not absorbed and thus reflected by their leafs. In contrast, a computer screen represents the oaks by emitting green light. Therefore, the nature of light varies when viewing the natural scene or viewing the same scene on a screen. Further, there is a massive waste of pixels. Many modern DSLR offer 24 MP of resolution, whereas a fullHD screen has only 2! Even with a last-generation 5k screen no more than 15 MP are available. Indeed, last-generation DSLR have resolutions up to 36 MP (Nikon D810) and 50 MP (Canon 5DS), easily expandable to 72 and 100 MP with a tilt-shift lens.

DOUBLE-MOON printed on Hahnemühle Photo Rag paper

Printing on paper is the process which really transforms an image into a photography. The magic of printing is the ability of representing a wide matrix of colors by means of dots instead of pixels. Pixels are the micro-bulbs emitting colored light from a computer screen, whereas dots are the micro-dots of ink absorbing and reflecting light on a sheet of photography paper. Thus, printing recovers the original nature of light, offering a more genuine perception of the image. Further, with a 24 MP file we can create a dinA3-sized print at 300 dpi (dots-per-inch) - a very high resolution (beyond the sight of most people) which allows to appreciate the image in high detail from both close and far distances. With 36 MP, we can already print at 300 dpi onto dinA2 paper, a size much larger than most computer screens. In addition, a photography can be enjoyed in several ways - you can touch and feel it, you can watch it from different angles, you can gift it, you can frame it and hang it on the wall of your apartment or office. It is something more real and lasting than the ephemeral image on a computer screen. In a way, it is an extra security copy. It is also an efficient filter (the strongest in my opinion) to select which images you really want to keep forever.

The top image quality that really makes a difference between paper and screen is achieved with the printing technique known as Fine Art or Glicée. This technique uses pigment inks applied onto high quality photography papers based on cotton ("rag", with a matte finish) or baryta (glossy finish). This combination yields very high levels of detail and persistence (up to 100 years under optimal conditions). These prints can be ordered at professional labs. They are more expensive than traditional prints due to the higher costs of the materials used. In fact, for a similar price it can be done at home by using the best printers produced by Epson and Canon. The benefits of this approach are instant availability and the possibility of testing the process to fulfil our personal taste.

Photography is a long and exciting creative process. We browse the Internet for deciding which equipment fits best our needs and possibilities. Thereafter, we go outdoors for capturing the image; sometimes before the sun rises under unpleasant weather conditions. Back home, we may spend hours on the post-processing... but we are not there yet! We still have a digital image on a computer screen. It is worth investing a few more resources for giving the opportunity to our best images of expressing themselves on a Fine Art print. With some patience and dedication, the final results will compensate and reward the extra effort. We shall then realize that an image, as the object which generated it, can be both seen and touched.


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