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The Agony of Making a Printer Purchase

I bought a new printer recently. It was a long painful process. I thought I'd share the experience in hopes that it may help you decide if buying a printer is worthwhile. The story starts about 3 maybe 4 years ago. My Epson R3000 was not working well and given that it was 7 years old I entertained the idea of buying a new printer. Facing the cost of replacing I decided that I would do everything I could to extend the life of my old printer. I learned as much as I could about maintenance, head cleaning and printer repair. I got another 3 years out of it, after much work and frustration. Finally I got to the point where it had to be replaced. It was by this time 10 years old. Here are the questions I had to ask myself to justify buying a new printer.

Question #1

Why do I even want a print?


Making a print has always been a part of my creative process. I don't feel like I've finished a photograph until I have a satisfactory print. I have a stand that I put my prints on so that I can live with them awhile, see them in different light and from different angles. If after some time I still like the image, then I know that I have something worth showing. Often over the course of a few days or weeks I'll find edits that I think would improve the photograph. This was a thing in the film days referred to as work prints and they were an important step towards a final print. So to answer the question, I need a print to complete my photography.

Question #2

Do I need a printer?


Being able to make a print at home gives instant feedback on my editing. Seldom is the first print satisfactory. Like working in a darkroom getting a print right requires several tries. Printing at home also allows me to print on different papers. I could send my photographs out to be printed. Some printers offer a variety of paper to chose from however it just seems like a clumsy process.

Question #3

Is it cost effective to do your own printing?


Not likely and that depends on how demanding you want to be. If all you want are a stack of 4x6 prints then printing at home is not an economical option. If quality prints on quality paper are important and you produce them regularly then printing at home starts to be close to the cost of lab prints. Doing your own printing is not cheap and its not something you want to do unless there is some other value in it for you such as control over the final product. If the question of cost effectiveness is an important question to you then maybe doing your own printing is not for you. A 8x10 print from a lab runs about $5 and a 8x10 print on similar paper printed at home might cost $2.50 but you might make several versions. A "fine art" print by a lab runs at $22 and up, which is about what it would cost to print at home.

My thought on the cost of doing my own printing is that it's part of the price of being an artist. I need to do my own printing as part of my creative process.

So now that I'm satisfied that it is a justifiable purchase, what printer did I buy? Wait for part two!


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