Printing & Hanging a Photography Show

Seattle100 Pop Up Gallery

Seattle100 Pop Up Gallery - Quiet Before the Storm

Everyone on the our team brings an expertise and excellence to the group that is unique. As an example, Scott’s Photoshop chops are stellar, Kate is an uber-producer, Erik is the bees knees with digital cinema, and the list goes on… One of Dartanyon’s strong suits is digital printing. He’s been around digital output from the near beginning of color desktop printing. For previous gallery shows, we’ve always outsourced the printing and the framing. For the Seattle 100, I wanted for us to take on these roles. As such, I learned a ton from D–even if it’s just the basics–in the process of printing this pop-up show last fall and thought it would be good to have him share that knowledge here. Take it away Dartanyon…

Dartanyon here…and I’d like to take you on a little tour of how we went about printing and hanging the Seattle 100 Pop Up Gallery show. I should forewarn you though, this is just one method for printing. There are many ways to skin this cat. This way is by no means the only one, and it’s not the absolute BEST one. It’s simply one that I think has broad appeal because almost anyone can tackle the project with the right equipment, time, and understanding. As such, I’ll be walking through the following with the Seattle 100 project in mind so that we have something concrete to discuss, along with a rationale/decision process for the choices we made in hopes you can apply this to your future fine art printing needs.

    1. Printer Selection
    2. Paper Selection
    3. Profiling and Printing
    4. Drying
    5. Mounting and Hanging

1. Printer Selection and Setup. Chase was adamant that we bring the printing of this show in house. We wanted the creative control. Great blacks and bright whites were the directives from Chase. Couple problems presented themselves after he’d had his say… We wanted most of the images large. Many were 40×50 inches. Also, there were a ton of prints. More than 100 in total. We had to get a best in class printer. It had to be big. And fast.

So it’s important to understand that much of printing takes place long before you start spraying ink on the page. It takes far more time to set up your output device and prep your files then it does to actually print them. The time it takes to output a high quality digital print is now being measured in the seconds as opposed to the minutes or hours it used to take. This is especially true if you are lucky enough to have some friends over at Epson. They were incredibly helpful whenI approached them with our needs. And they were kind enough to put the very first working Epson 9890 in the United States into our hands. That printer makes stunning, gorgeous prints, and is fast, blazingly fast. The 9890 is a 44″ wide printer and is without a doubt twice as fast as it’s previous iteration. The speed of this printer was a bonus, but the real magic was in it’s use of the Ultrachrome K3 [vivid magenta flavor] ink set. I have used nearly every large format printer and I knew that the Ultrachrome produces a rich and dynamic black that would really help these images come to life.

2. Paper Selection. Once we had selected a printer for the project, the next step was to determine which paper we would use. We considered many factors when choosing the paper for this print run. It would not just dictate what we would hang on the gallery walls–the exhibition prints–, but it would also be the paper used for purchased prints that make themselves out into the fine art market as well. Here were our considerations: whiteness and brightness of the paper, the coatings, the reflectivity, the time to dry, durability and depth of the blacks. After trying out several different paper types, and discussing with Chase, we decided on the Epson Premium Luster. A couple primary reasons led us to this choice… First, we were after a semi-matte/luster type finish, not glossy + not art rag either. Second, it has excellent brightness and dries down quite quickly. Lastly = durability, you can figuratively beat up this paper. It’s strong. We’d printed this show at the studio, but had to be installed at the gallery location without traditional mats or frames. Chase wanted the prints to be “accessible” feeling, approachable and unpretentious. [more on this in a bit…] Given those directives, we decided to create an aesthetic that looked more like how prints would be displayed in an artist’s working loft. They were simply clipped to some rather industrial 2″ thick cardboard. As you might imagine, this made the Luster paper’s resilience one of it’s top selling points.

3. Profiling and printing. Now that we had a printer and paper it was time to get down to the brass tacks of printing. The start of any big print run comes in profiling your printer. I knew that the Advanced Black and White drivers in the Epson software are fabulous, having had some experience with them in the past, but I wanted to create a profile with a little stronger ink lay in order to get a little bit more depth in the dark shadows. The Seattle100 images are, as you probably saw in Scott’s post a while back, really contrasty and gritty, but at the same time absurdly sharp. I knew that the bright whites were going to come from the paper, as there is no way to print pure white, so I concentrated on eeking as much shadow detail as the 9890 was capable of.

I started out by printing a series of profile targets and measuring them on our old trusty Gretag Eye-One.

An aside, accurate printing, or just accurate color in general requires some sort of measurement device. Your eyes are not the best thing for this, because they are actually too good at what they do; they have the aid of your brain that “knows” what things are supposed to look like, and will do it’s best to interpret the colors that are coming from your eyes. Our measurement device is currently an older Gretag-Macbeth Eye-One Pro. To create an accurate color profile of the printer you print out a target [a file you open in Photoshop] that has hundreds of blocks of very specific colors, and the use the Eye-one [a spectrophotometer] to measure each block and compare it to the know values of the file.

The process of measuring each color block gave me a starting point of what the printer was capable of, and allowed me to better utilize the process of soft-proofing in Photoshop.

Next it was on to the files, and just like Scott has to apply a specific bunch of adjustments to get the files to share a similar aesthetic, I have to take all of those files individually and tweak their black points, white points, and overall contrast and sharpness to make the best file for printing. It’s important to understand your output device so that you can create a file that will clip in the least amount of places, and be the most representative of the image as you move from a transmissive medium [ie your screen] to a reflective one [the paper]. Every file gets its own love, highlighting the best parts of the print, and mitigating the parts that may not reproduce as well on paper.

4. Drying. Once each file came off the printer we set it out to dry. Prints let off some gas as the ink bonds with the paper, and if they just go straight into a stack, not only do you risk smudges or scratches from the print above on the wet ink, but there can actually be some transference as prints out-gas. Ink, in it’s gaseous form, actually can move from one piece of paper to another, much like getting news print all over your hands when you spend to much time with the morning paper. So each print spent 24 hours basking in the open air before being stacked and prepped for the ride to the gallery.

5. Mounting & Hanging. The show was hung in a space NOT at all set up [at the time] for hanging art. That was by design. Chase wanted to make it feel as if you stumbled upon this display… Wanted to take the viewer out of the traditional gallery experience and drop it into a 6,000 square foot artist loft. Additionally, the show was only to hang for 3 days in celebration of the City Arts Fest here in Seattle, so we were looking for a method to display the prints that would be the least impactful on the space, and would still retain the look we were going for. We also had to devise a way to hang more than 50 44″x55″ prints up to 15+ feet high on a wall in less than 48 hours. Chase was away for the weeks leading up to the show meaning that we could not really finalize the position of any print on the wall until the last second. Our team went through dozens of possible substrates and attachment methods before finally settling on Chase’s fav 1″ hex cardboard… And Scott photographed the location extensively prior to the hanging so we could play with photo locations and hanging styles digitally rather than in person. This proved to be hugely helpful to get a sense of which images would look best next to the other. We can’t recommend this process enough. Depending on the size of the show you’re hanging, you results may vary and you might need to do some tweaking when you see the images hung in real life…but this sure helped us.

Lastly, we used construction scaffolding to access the higher locations, drills and screws from Home Depot to affix the cardboard…and we arrived at the casual ‘artist loft’ look and attached the prints to the cardboard by using repurposed, industrial strength binder clips. The binder clip technique proved an ingenious solution in that is it allowed the cardboard to be attached to the wall before the prints were to be hung on it.

Your take away from the ‘hanging’ part of this post should be this: there are many ways to hang and matte and frame a show. Run down your list of considerations before you begin. Aesthetic? Cost? Permanence? You get the picture (pun).

Wrap up. The show was installed with hours to spare [which is a lifetime in the relative chaos that we generally operate in]. Have a peak at the photos of the finished pop up show below, and check out www.chasejarvis.com/seattle100 to see all of the images from the project.

Hanging the Seattle100

Hanging the Seattle100

Chase in front of the book spreads

Chase in front of the book spreads

Seattle100 Opening Night

Final Walk Thru Before We Opened the Doors

Seattle100 Opening Night 2

Seattle100 Opening Night 2

Seattle100 Opening Night 3

Seattle100 Opening Night 3

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דפוס says:

wow, this thing looks increadible.. beautiful pictures in this gallery

Choosely says:

Are you going to publish any info/shots of the framing/mounting technique? It looks great, even from a distance of several thousand miles, so it would be really interesting to see how it was done. Hope you can find the time…..

Wow, all the detail that went creating that – amazing and so beautiful!!!! I would have loved to see that in person!

Troy Witt says:

It would also be great if you could provide links to some of the other interesting mounting / hanging options you ran across. Don’t need a full writeup, just some starting points to jump off and explore. It’s amazing how difficult it can be to find details and tips on alternative print hanging techniques and materials.

Juan Rojo says:

That looks like it was an awesome exhibition. I also share your choice of paper given the scale of the project and the fact that you needed a strong paper. Ultra Premium Luster is my paper of choice.

Looks pretty cool. Any more information/pictures about the mounting?

Thank you so much for sharing! Looked phenomenal:)

Simon says:

Great post Dartanyon – thanks.

We have been using Epson printers for the last six years and love them – currently running the baby brother to yours, the 7900. Agree on the paper choice too – we’ve also been getting great results for similar requirements from Ilford’s ‘Galerie Smooth Pearl’… I accidentally printed some B&W’s on this paper with the matte black ink set and produced some very ‘interesting’ results.

Cheers,
Simon

Thanks for going through the decision process! It’s very helpful – especially when you don’t have a staff of experts to help out. ‘-)

I was able to view the show and thought the exhibit was gorgeous. It really drew the viewer into it. Also loved the video on iPad you guys had set up.

kettlepot says:

congrats on the show, Chase, and thanks for the details, Dartanyon!

Ryn says:

Your show looked fabulous. Too bad it is over. I too would love to see some close ups of the mounting technique. I have some shows coming up and this might be an alternative t matting and framing. Thanks, Ryn

Qua Veda says:

Really wonderful Post ! I always am moved by LARGE prints of quality images – really a wonderful change from viewing on a computer display.

Back in the day I had the pleasure of seeing Frank Avadon at his exhbit in Berkeley,CA of life size prints of high fashion models with elephants some must have been 10-12′ tall .

Matthew says:

Could you post a video going through the steps(quickly) from start to finish?

Dinty C. says:

I don’t understand why you have to spend time softproofing. Matt Kloskowski, a well known photographic artist and lightroom expert says it is not necessary and his prints are fine without it. It seems to be a waste of time.

Brandon D. says:

Well, there’s no objective way to do printing. It’s a subjective trade. Because of the unique characteristics of monitors, papers, and printers… soft proofing gives you a good sense of how the image will actually print out using the precise combination of materials you’ll be using (before the print is actually made). Some people really care to know before hand, while others don’t.

Personally, I find it very useful. Whether or not it’s a waste of time depends on how precise you are with your own printing. There’s no objective right/wrong answer to whether or not it’s a waste of time. You have to find out what works for you, so don’t be too quick to take someone else’s word for it.

Brandon D. says:

By the way, soft proofing only takes about a minute to set-up for your printer/paper combination. As soon as it’s set-up, it only takes literally one second to do. You can hit Ctrl+Y in Photoshop and instantly switch back and forth between the soft proof version and the normal version.

“Wasting” only seconds of your time here and there seems like it would be much less time consuming than making test print, after test print, after test print, after test print in order to get the print you want. Soft proofing is very simple.

@Dinty C
In that case he’s not getting the best results possible through being lazy.
I can’t imagine he knows it inside out and ignores it by choice?
Perhaps it’s resistance to taking on yet another technology that used to be outsourced.

Ignoring profiling and proofing is as limiting as saying that no image from a digital camera needs any editing in post.
If you don’t do it then you’re not getting the best results potentially possible.

Here’s a good runthrough on how and why proofing in your workflow ensures all your devices play together well.
From Adobe: http://www.callumw.com/go/AdobeProfiling/

Hope it’s useful
CW

Thank you for great article. I regret that I can’t see prints live. I can’t even remember when was the last time I had a chance to visit large-format photography exhibition.

Mark says:

Great work! Gonna come over to Europe with it? ‘d like to be dere…

hd says:

follow up? follow up? where’s our man DARTANYON?

we miss you, man!

Dartanyon says:

It’s coming ;-) I have to get down to the garage, and take some photos … few other projects going on, try to make it happen this week.

hd says:

Thanks so much. Take care…

Thanks for sharing your printer profiling. It’s given me a few new ideas to work with.

Mark Ivkovic says:

Dang guys & gals, these photographs have pop in the book, printed that large you’re going to be blowing peoples heads off. Great post and very useful to those with exhibitions in mind. Thanks.

Great article. Hate to beat a dead horse, but would love to see a close up of the mounting. Really fascinated to see what it looked like. Seems like a great DIY method.

Chris says:

Please do a followup post on the mounting with some details and maybe suppliers. Print mounting in an affordable way is something I am very interested in.

Dartanyon says:

On it’s way.

Chris says:

Thanks a bunch. Looks like it was an awesome show.

Joe Fontenot says:

fantastic article, really wish I could have made it (New Orleans :). I, too, would love to see more on the mounting. As always, great job.

Chase, your blog is one of my top five morning reads. Perfect.

Brett says:

Great article! I also hang a lot of art, and noticed in the photos that you guys shaped the light a lot, which made for some cool blocks of shapes. I saw in one shot it looked like portable spots? Anyway, just curious, the space looks great.

Thanks!

Robert says:

We all know the saying of how to get a good picture: photographer > lens > camera. Well with good quality B&W printing the order is: ink > paper > printer (profiled), every year those three get better by their respective makers. Small quality brands like Lyson (Lysonic inks) deserve more coverage compared to the big names, their tonal range from white to black is incredible when viewed side by side against other famous brands.

Many moons ago a lecturer once asked me, “How do print for an exhibition?”…………… well he said the correct answer is according to the light where the prints will be shown, now that would be a pain in the butt to produce but it is so true.

My 2 cents.

This is great, really interesting im currently setting upa local exhibition of my photography ina similar style! ive been playing with presentation ideas and have been thinking about simply hanging each photo from bulldog clips. love the use of space! love the whole idea just amazing!

Neil says:

Awesome post!

Printing is such an art form in itself and clearly you guys have put a lot of work into getting it right. I’d love to see more from you guys on printing, possibly with smaller printers because I’m unlikely to ever afford a beast like that! ;-)

I would never have realised it was a cardboard mount if you hadn’t said so. Cool idea to keep it raw like that.

Would love to see the gallery show in person, alas I’m London, UK based so not gonna happen!

Keep up the great work

ediheld says:

great article, very interesting!
more, please.. :)

Tony says:

Great stuff well done to everyone and thanks for sharing everything ..

I’d also like to see a close up of the mounting. Also curious, where do you go about getting cardboard like that? I have a few shows coming up, and I’d love to cut my costs.
Thanks for this great post!

Nice one Dartanyon and co.
Print, prep and hanging 50 prints in a short time is no mean feat …

Q1: Slightly surprised that you used the Epson paper. I get that Hahnemuhle FA Baryta may have been a bit expensive for a non-profit project, but did you look at the Ilford papers?

Their Gallerie Gold Silk is 95% as good as the Hahn Baryta at about 1/2 the price and much cheaper than the Epson paper.

Q2: Did you do a B&W profile for the 9890 or did you use a full color chart to profile?

P.S. I figured a way of creating uber accurate 4096 swatch profiles with the i1… if you’re interested to know how then let me know and I’ll pass you the info.

Regards
CW

Dartanyon says:

Callum, I’d love to know how you get a 4096 profile out of the i1. I could have gone the Hahnemule route, I really dig that paper, part of my concerns with it were that it doesn’t have the resiliency that Luster does, to actually being moved around and handled by less than careful folks. And it would have cost a small fortune. I printed using a full color profile, always have done it that way [except for an old epson I once had lysonic quad tones in].

No probs.
I don’t have your direct email, but will sent it through to the generic one marked for you in the sunject line.

CW

Eduardo B. says:

What was the camera used for this projet?

thanks

Chris says:

Another vote for more info on the cardboard and the mounting. Thanks.

TroyK says:

hey Dartanyon where’s the love for the carpenter that brought the laser to dial in the layout of the prints? ;-) That’s me in the blue jeans holding the scaffold!
~ Troy The Carpenter ~

Dartanyon says:

True! Troy definitely gets most of the credit for hanging, and leveling everything [cool toys mate]

Andrew says:

I don’t suppose you could give any more specs on the cardboard backing. It looks really interesting and I’ve not seen 1″ hex cardboard for sale. Where did you pick it up?

Dartanyon says:

I’m in the process of gathering some pix and such for a follow up post about the mounting.

I would have loved to attend the show. I assume it’s over.

Dartanyon says:

Yes, Matt it was unfortunately only up for that week.

Avex Lim says:

To Chase Jarvis & the team,

You guys are really impressive! And I wish that one day if I happen to go US, I would love to drop by and meet you guys. Please keep the art and creativity alive. Anyway, I am from Malaysia =)

Will says:

Wonderful topic and great description of your work flow and troubleshooting ideas. Thank you so much for sharing. Your information will come in handy with a project I am doing here in Brooklyn. Ciao

hd says:

I third the request for detail pix of the mounting, beyond the description. Thanks for your time, Dartanyon.

HD

Becky says:

Nice Job D-thanks for all the tech stuff and the thought process. And I too swear by Epson…

Alex says:

I’ve had trying my hand at printing on the brain lately, thanks for fuelling the fire. On a related note, I am really enjoying the posts from the team covering their areas of expertise.

Adam says:

Wow! Awesome is the only word I can think of.

Hey guys,
great post. the details of printers and inks is a bit over my head but wanted to comment on the look of the show itself. I totally dig the look you achieved and the simplicity of it. It really allows the photographs to speak for themselves in an uncluttered arena. The organic look of the cardboard is great. It ads a neutral earthy look to the stark blacks and whites.

Top knotch work!

Adam lam says:

Excellent write up. It is cool seeing your thought process. Intallations of any sort are certainly nerve wracking but especially do when the subject is so delicate like a photograph. I’m glad to see that my skills would definitely make that aspect a bit easier for me when the time comes.

Now I just need to do the rest… Ya know, find a suitable venue and have a show idea and make it happen… Ya know. That’s it… /sarcasm

Dan Holt says:

I’m not a pro Photographer but I love coming to this blog for insights. I consider myself a creative and articles like this can be informative across many realms of the art and design world. Thanks for this article, it was a fun read and to see the steps.

ooblik says:

great thnig’s…but when I read that your printer choice is a “old” 9880…I smile :) This is a non-choice for quality print…even in B&W…not fast at all (just try to print with a Canon 8300….) and far far away from the stuning density and netrality of a print on a HP Z3200…

I hope you can try and compare, sincerely your photography deserves better print than a 9880 !

Ben says:

9890, 9-8-9-0. New machine.

But seriously, the best printer debate is almost as bad as the best camera debate. They have been kind enough to detail the printer they used and what qualities about the machine they felt was appropriate for their end means; who are you discredit that?

Dartanyon says:

ooblik,

While I can appreciate other folks liking other printers, I like the Epson’s. I’ve printed on several Canon image prografs [not the 8000 specifically], but a few of the 12 color units. I’ve also printed on a couple of the HPs, they’re just not my cup of tea. The printer I chose was the 9890, btw, not the 9880, completely different head, although same ink formula. I’m glad you like you Z3200, and I hope you make lots of beautiful art with it.

danvphoto says:

We use an Epson 9900 at the lab I work at, love that printer. Premium luster was definitely a good choice for what you’re trying to accomplish with this show, I would have probably gone with the same surface. Good looking show, wish I could have gone to it :P

Greetings and congratulations for such an amazing work! I wish I could be there

Looks fantastic! Great work! I’d love to see a detail shot of the mounting.

hs says:

possible to show us a closeup detail of how the print is mounted?

Dartanyon says:

I’ll see what I can dig up.

Abhi says:

Possible to “get” this gallery sometime in NYC?

Abhi.

td says:

hey dartanyon,

i’m sure you have more important things going on but a lot of people on here were interested in the material used for mounting and the process. any chance, just a quick snippet about the two?

Trevor Meier says:

+1 on seeing how the mount ended up working out

td says:

yes, i would like to see how they were mounted and know more about the “1” hex cardboard”

looks interesting

I want to be there! So awesome nice work.

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