After I finished the survey and posted the results, the next step of the Fine Art Prints for my photography was to find a good place to print. Friends gave a few recommendations, but in the end there were two clear leaders: mpix.com and whcc. I went through the options that both presented, and in the end I decided to go with WHCC, mostly because they were more heavily recommended by the photographers who answered, whereas mpix was favored by the artists. I have no idea if this was a worthwhile way of choosing, but oh well.
WHCC has an interesting way of getting you to the stage of actually working with them, and my work with them got delayed because my initial confirmation e-mail got sorted in to spam, but once I realized that, things proceeded apace. The first step with them took me by surprise, but is in fact totally awesome: submit 5 images which I would get free 8 x 10 samples of. I thought about it for a few minutes, and picked 5 that I thought would give me some idea what the range of prints would look like:
Lotus Leaf, because of the intense green saturation.
Sunlight on a stump, because of the depth of the image and the contrast between the brights and the darks.
Bee on a Sunflower, because of the yellow saturation.
Columbine, because of the depth of the image and the foreground/background contrasts.
Big Ben and Parliament, to see how a night image would turn out.
The end result turned out pretty excellent all the way around. Don't get me wrong, some have their problems: Big Ben shows the graininess inevitable from an ISO 800 image; the bee on the sunflower looks a little out of focus at the larger size; the Columbine flower looks oddly shadowed in a way I'm not in love with; and I've never liked how the sunlight on the stump picture looks printed, it's one of those cases where I'm taking my direction from everyone else telling me they like it. However, the prints overall look lovely and the quality of the prints is very high.
Now, if this is all I had to say, I'd not have bothered to post. However, I wanted to share a bit more about what I got from WHCC as part of this process, and how awesome it is. :)
The coolest piece of my welcoming package is a little packet of prints. There are two different images offered in 7 different printing options, which enable me to see how the same images looks on all of their different papers and finishes. This includes the regular lustre paper (which is what my 8 x 10s were printed on); lustre paper with lustre coating; lustre paper with Embassy texture; lustre paper with Pebble texture; lustre paper with Linen texture; glossy paper; and metallic paper. This is singularly awesome to get to see, because all I knew about metallic paper before (for example) was that it cost more, but on my computer screen what this price difference meant for how my prints would look wasn't at all clear to me. Now that I've seen it and can put it next to the other finishes, though, I can understand what the strengths and weaknesses of each printing option are. Which is totally awesome. The metallic is absolutely gorgeous, by the way, though I probably won't use it because I don't know if it'll add all that much to the kinds of images I've got on offer (but I'll think about it).
Next, there are cards with a range of a few images all on one, which describe the different options for printing documents (ie, brochures, etc.) and which media I can get in each paper and printing type. The paper types include: standard semi-gloss; standard semi-gloss with UV coating; art linen (which I love); art watercolor; art recycled; pearl; pearl with UV coating; satin with UV coating; satin with lustre coating; and standard 100# text. With these, you can get any of a number of products, including: press printed albums; press printed books; accordion mini books; press printed cards; business cards; bookmarks; rep cards and posters. I could attempt to describe all these different papers, but in truth, the kit is the key: it's awesome and incredibly useful to be able to hold, touch, bend, and otherwise compare these different papers. Can you tell I'm kind of in love with all this?
Finally, they sent me an awesome getting started guide. It's an excellent product for such a company to make, because it excellently highlights the printing end of their business. The guide starts with pitching how they are on my side and want to work with me and build a relationship - and I have to say, everything that they've done so far makes me really feel that that is true, and it's an excellent feeling. The book contains some good hints for getting going and some useful resources to do important things related to getting photography prints done - and as I'm still an amateur masquerading as a professional, some is stuff I don't know and very helpful for that. :)
All in all, I'm pretty happy to be working with them, and very excited about the different things in this kit and the extent to which they help me better understand my options. I'm glad I went with WHCC. :)
I will be listing one 8 x 10 a day for sale on Etsy, starting today with this listing for the Big Ben and Parliament Photograph. I'll post about the rest each day on FB and Twitter - if you're interested, and you're not already with me on those social media options, it's @unforth on twitter and Curiously Crafted Creations on FB. :)