Over the last couple of months I’ve had conversations with various folk from the Tumblr photographic community about my hesitation and reservations about buying and using a modern inkjet printer to reproduce my work.
For a long time it has concerned me that I had hundreds and hundreds of photos here on Tumblr that I considered “published work”, but little in the way of any physical material to back it up. For a few local photo shows I’ve had actual (machine-made) photographic prints made and although I was happy with the quality, and reasonable cost (for limited numbers of prints), nothing can beat the process of really studying the details of your work at an actual printer interface where you, as the photographer, control all the variables that contribute to a finished print.
So, last week, I bit the bullet and bought a Canon Pixma Pro 100S inkjet printer. As a part of the purchasing process, I did hours of homework. I felt compelled to “compromise” at the Pro 100S - Canon make other models higher (and lower) on the printer food chain. Although performance specifications guided me, so too did price. Canon regularly treat Australia (and many other countries outside the USA) as third-world markets to sell off superceded or lesser models of their goods at premium prices, whereas in the USA, they sell these models cheaply. Even the big players like B & H aren’t allowed to sell printers online from the USA to other countries, and if you travel to buy one and your home address is outside the USA, Canon will not honour the warranty. All this drove me to “compromise” on price because I simply refused to be ripped off too much.
I have a lot of experience with printers, albeit not super-recently, and this is what brings me here with this post to share my experience of the last few days. I’ve used inkjet printers in the bad old days, where everything that could possibly go wrong, did. I’ve worked in a display environment in the early days of large format inkjet and had to mix up brews of both water and spirit based clear sealers and coat giant prints worth hundreds of dollars and hope I didn’t screw it up. I’ve seen printers crash ripping 5Mb files and spew ink all over the workshop when all we had to rip “large” files was a crappy Pentium 3 that cost and arm and a leg at the time.
So, with all that said, what happened?
In short, the thing is amazing and works like a charm. I’ve made a dozen A3+ prints and two dozen A4 (and a handful of 6 x4′s). I’ve used various papers. I haven’t had anything go wrong whatsoever. The “setup” cartridges that came with the machine are all still about half full. I got a full set of replacements to be at the ready when one expires (and because it was cheaper to buy them with the printer and save on extra delivery costs down the track).
. No paper jams or misfeeds
. No ink spillage or accidents
. No printing errors or pixelation or unexplained crud or objects on any of the prints.
. There is no bullshit print head cleaning process, the machine does it by itself before and after every print.
The quality of the prints is first rate. Do I have any advice for anyone contemplating doing similar? Yes. Read up on what you need to know - essentially colour management. Don’t use the standard print driver, use the premium XPS driver. Go to the trouble of buying decent paper. I refused to put a sheet of office paper anywhere near the thing, even for the two calibration pages. Download the ICC colour profiles for the paper you use. When I first set up, my local suppliers only had Kodak paper (over the weekend, I had a friend bring me some Ilford Gallerie Prestige for the A3+ prints). I wouldn’t buy the Kodak paper again, simply because they do not seem to have downloadable ICC profiles anywhere on the ‘net.
Anything else? Yes, I need to get some decent software to calibrate my monitor - what came with the monitor is rubbish, and I need to control a more of a “what you see is what you get” workflow. One thing that’s apparent straight away is the importance of what the lighting conditions will be where you will be displaying the finished work. If you’re going to be printing for gallery display, contact the gallery and ask them about the lighting they use - colour temperature and luminance - a good gallery will know straight away what you’re asking and give you an instant answer.
All of the prints I’ve made this weekend have been of work I’ve previously edited and posted on Tumblr. I will adjust my editing technique for further prints. Obviously high res digital shots come out superbly, but I’ve made A3+ prints of stuff shot on my phone and with various film cameras, and even 35mm film shots have come up amazingly at A3+ (with appropriate editing technique).
So, I recommend that if you’ve been considering buying a printer - go for it!
(I’ll be continuing my slow-build of a print darkroom for actual photographic prints, but I now feel I can take the time to do that project properly and cost effectively).
Do the practice booklet that you got when you signed up. This will make you familiar with the directions for each section so you won’t waste time reading them on the test.
Borrow a watch or buy a cheap watch for the test day. You may not be able to see the clock in the room easily, and watching your time on each section is very important.
If you want to buy a prep book, I recommend Barron’s. It’s the least boring because the exercises aren’t just taking the test over and over. It also contains a lot of tricks.
Establish a pattern of going to sleep early and getting eight or nine hours of sleep for a week before the test.
On the day before the test, do not study. Relax. Watch something you like. Talk to a friend who doesn’t stress you out.
Before bed, pack a bag with your supplies for the test: a watch, a large clear water bottle, an ID with your picture and legal name on it, carb-and-protein snacks like nuts or granola bars, a small box or bottle of juice, mint gum, a scientific or graphing calculator with extra batteries, pencils, a plastic eraser, a small pencil sharpener, some tissues, cash and coins in case you have to pay for parking, and a cardigan or zip-up sweatshirt.
If you are going to test somewhere you’ve never been before and have access to a printer, print a map to the testing location just in case your phone malfunctions in the morning. If you can’t get to a printer, at least review the directions and make sure you’re clear on how long it will take to get there. Add fifteen or twenty minutes to account for traffic and/or getting lost.
Lay out a comfortable outfit for the morning. Go with layers because the test location may be super cold or super warm.
Set two alarms to wake up with plenty of time to make it to the test location. Put these alarms far away from your bed.
Go to bed. You’ve got this!
When you are taking the test, remember that you don’t even have to answer every single question to earn a perfect score. The ACT is different than the tests that you take in your classes at school.
Also, in general, don’t change your answers. You don’t have time for that.
In the Math section, skip through and answer every single easy question first. Each question is worth one point, so your goal should be to answer as many questions as possible. Once you’ve answered all the quick questions, go back and answer the questions that require some thought. If you don’t know how to approach a question a few seconds after reading it, skip it.
In the Reading and Science sections, split the passages into parts. Usually, the first few questions are about the first few paragraphs, the next few questions are about the next few paragraphs, and so on. This means you don’t have to remember the whole passage at once.
In the English section, know that the shortest option for rewritten portions is often the correct answer. If the shortest option seems right, choose it and move on. Do not read the other options. If the shortest option seems weird, read the second-shortest option. Also, skip the questions with little squares around them and only do them if you have time. Those take longer.
In the optional Essay section, spend a whole four or five minutes prewriting—brainstorming, formulating a thesis statement, writing an outline, and choosing the evidence you will cite—before you start writing. I know you’ll feel like you’re wasting precious time that you could be writing, but, trust me, the writing will be so much easier. Do use examples from literature if you can, as many essay graders are English teachers and like examples from literature. Do use arrows to add things; this is expected. And absolutely have an introduction and conclusion, even if they are both only two sentences. Having an introduction, body, and conclusion present is a big part of your score.
FOR ALL MULTIPLE-CHOICE SECTIONS, watch the time. In the last minute or so, bubble in all the questions you haven’t answered with your favorite letter. You’ll pick up a few more points this way.
Yikes. I feel like I just gave away all my tricks. Oh, well. My ACT days are long past. Good luck!
I thought I would do a very brief review of it including test prints as I really struggled to find examples online.
The Canon Pixma IX6550 is an A3 colour photo printer, I did an awful lot of research before settling on this one and I was sad not to be getting an Epson as I’ve always had Epson printers in the past.
The print quality is excellent - the image at the top is the original digital file from a high res scan of the original drawing. The lower image is the print from the Canon IX6550 - on matte epson photo paper and high quality setting.
I am far from a printing pro but this printer is great and I think after more experimentation with colour profiles, paper profiles and paper types I will be able to achieve really beautiful results.