Hi-Tech Studio: Wide-Format Printers

The 24-inch printer is a specialty item for most studios, but these larger printers give you some clear advantages for making gallery prints for display and for sale directly. The 24-inch printer doesn’t replace a high-end custom printing company where you consult with a master printer to fine-tune the nuances of every image, but it offers an interesting value proposition. With prices starting as low as $2,100 for the printers themselves, a unit can pay for itself quickly through print sales. Many photographers who sell prints on their websites farm out the fulfillment—printing, packaging, shipping, collecting payment—which is convenient, but it can be limiting, and the commission you pay does eat into your profit. Making your own wide-format prints can make sense when you add it all up.

Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6450

Why 24-inch models? Everyone has a "regular-size" printer in their studio. By regular, we mean something that can print up to 11×17 or so. Why not just take everything we’re saying about maximizing your profit by doing your own fulfillment and applying it to 11×17 prints? Of course, you could do just that, but the larger the print, the more you can charge for it. It’s not a coincidence that major photography galleries display so many large images in their very successful galleries. Big images certainly grab the attention of passersby, and the galleries are able to charge more for larger custom prints, too. A website isn’t the same as a brick-and-mortar gallery, but you can still command a higher price for 24-inch prints than you can for 17-inch prints.

These 24-inch printers take up space. Unlike 17-inch models, a 24-inch printer is on its own stand, and you can move it out of the way into a corner when you’re not making prints.

Beyond the cost of the printer itself, the media is an expense, but that’s one of the reasons why you can charge more for the prints. Overall, your margins on a large print are likely to be better than with smaller prints.

One specification that you might be distracted by is printer speed. Individual image files can dramatically affect speed. The way the printer is set up can make a big difference. These are some reasons why any published speed figures should be treated as approximations. At DPP, we also don’t place a big emphasis on a printer’s speed because we don’t think it’s the most important feature of a printer, particularly a wide-format printer. When photographers make big prints, we’re usually not making a lot of them in a short time. If you were cranking out 8×10 promotional mailers that you send by the hundreds, it would be a different story. For big prints, several other specs are probably going to be more important than speed for you.

Epson Stylus Pro 7890

A Sampling Of Current 24-Inch Printers

Canon makes several 24-inch printers. For Digital Photo Pro readers, the most relevant models are the imagePROGRAF iPF6450 and the imagePROGRAF iPF6400. Both printers offer nearly identical specifications. The main difference between the two is the inclusion of a 250 GB hard drive in the iPF6450. That hard drive gives you some flexibility and the ability to carry out high-volume print jobs, which, for some photographers, will be useful. If you don’t need the hard drive, however, you can save some money and get a printer with the same 12-color pigment inkset and other key features in the iPF6400.

The imagePROGRAF iPF6450 has a 12-color LUCIA EX pigment inkset. Its built-in Multisensor detects color density, and it allows you to calibrate the unit within 15 minutes. You can use non-Canon-brand media, if you choose, but always be especially careful about that to avoid damaging the printer. The imagePROGRAF iPF6450 is compatible with 130 ml and 300 ml ink containers, and a sub-ink tank holds a quantity of ink in reserve so you can change containers without halting a print. This can potentially be a huge money-saver. Nothing is more frustrating than losing time, paper and ink on an aborted print because one of your containers ran dry.

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