For gallery-ready images, the days of having to go to a lab for an Iris print or a dye-transfer are long gone. Some photographers still choose to take their work to a professional lab, but that’s more for the convenience of having a technician who really knows the ins and outs of printing or to be able to do special projects rather than because it’s your only access to a printer that’s capable of producing the work.
In the professional space, the three main players are Canon, Epson and HP. Each manufacturer has its own following, and each has a variety of models capable of 17- and 24-inch prints. We chose 24 inches as the maximum for this article because it’s a sweet spot for DSLR shooters. There are printers you can get for your studio that can print to 60 inches or even wider, but unless you have a need to make such large images on a regular basis, these printers would be overkill, and justifying the high costs might be very difficult.
If you talk to the printer manufacturers about how the business is going, they will tell you that their biggest problem is getting the word out that there’s a good reason to upgrade. In the past few years, printer technology achieved such a high level that many pros who have models built in 2006 or 2007 are sufficiently pleased with the images they get that there isn’t much motivation to look at the latest products. When you do look at what’s out there right now, you’ll quickly see that the newer printers offer distinct advantages.
Ink technology has continued to improve, and combined with the latest papers, prints not only are capable of rendering a larger color space, but they’re also longer-lasting as well. Of course, speeds also have increased, which is useful when you’re making several large prints at a time. In this article, our aim is to give you a brief overview of what’s available. Every studio has its own specific needs, and the best printer for one isn’t going to be the best for another.