Best of 2017: 10 Awesome Customer Print Projects

From school pride and works of art to corporate design and thesis exhibits, 2017 was an inspiring year of print output by LexJet customers around the country. Take a look at 10 of the top applications we discovered from our amazingly creative, inventive and sometimes super feisty customers:

Illinois Company Revs Up Custom Car Show Signs Sometimes a passion can turn into an excellent business opportunity, which is exactly what happened to Gary Hedlin, who owns Show Car Signs, a business that specializes in designing, printing and mounting customized signs for car shows. The signs are displayed on the ground, on easels or mounted onto a 4-foot brushed-aluminum stand, and the verbiage on the sign describes details like the car’s make, model and year, horsepower, wheel types, suspension, vehicle upgrades and other tidbits to help the car stand out in the competition. READ MORE

How Bumblejax Gives Mounted Photos Some Real Pop When Seattle, Wash.-based Bumblejax wanted to create an ecommerce site that allowed anyone to have access to high-end, modern face-mounted photo displays, they tested out several different photo papers before settling on the winning product. About five years ago, they came across the award-winning LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper, and they were sold. READ MORE

Prints that Win: The Economic Recovery

The Economic Recovery by Nick Jones

In a print competition, the print itself should have some say in who wins the top award. At the Professional Photographers of Idaho competition, The Economic Recovery, created by Nick Jones, made it to the finish line for the coveted Sunset Print Award, but it was the print that took it over the top.

Jones, who co-owns Harmony and Nick Portrait Artists in Blackfoot, Idaho with his wife, Harmony (of course!), had his winning image, The Economic Recovery, printed on Sunset Photo Metallic Paper to help bring out the detail and give it an almost three-dimensional quality.

“When it came time for the Sunset Print Award there were a couple of rounds of judging and it kept getting split between mine and another print. The clincher was when one of the judges said that if any image is going to push the print and the printer it would be mine, and that put it over the edge,” says Jones. “We do a lot of printing on the Metallic; most of our client work is printed on it because it gives it that pop. I think it’s awesome. When it’s under the light it gives a new dimension to it; it’s almost 3D.”

Jones put a lot of himself into the image. In fact, Jones is actually in the image, standing next to the burning barrel on the far right side of the final composite. The main subject is his father, and you can see in the six panels below the main image all the pieces and parts Jones brought into a cohesive award-winning whole.

“I was planning on doing a different image with my father, because he has interesting features. It was a quick setup in house. I put it together with a background I like that has warm and cool tones. Then, I put it on Facebook and it got a lot of attention just as it was,” recalls Jones. “I looked for some additional elements to put in there to provide more storytelling. It grew from there. It built itself in a way. It was over several months that I added elements and tried some different ideas.”

Jones used Photoshop to create the composite from the six original images, painstakingly “hand-painting” the divergent images to create an accurate blend; a blend that makes the final image look like it was shot as-is, rather than composited. To bring out additional contrast and saturation, Jones applied nik Software filters.

“We do a lot of composite imaging with our sports teams and portraits. I first came into the studio doing Harmony’s retouching work. Along the way I starting seeing cool artwork, by Mark Bryant and others who are masters at composite work, and it intrigued me. So we started taking their courses and now use it in a lot of our photography, such as the pinup work we do in the summer,” explains Jones.

In addition to a Sunset Print Award, The Economic Recovery also won Photographer’s Choice at the Idaho print competition and went loan at the International Photographic Competition (IPC).

Prints that Win: The Mechanic

The Mechanic by Jeff Gulle

Jeff Gulle has found photogenic locations to demonstrate photography techniques to his students at North Georgia Technical College in Clarksville, Ga. The garage featured in this Sunset Print Award winner at the Georgia Professional Photographers Association competition, The Mechanic, is one of those favored spots.

Though it has the appearance of an HDR capture, Gulle says in situations like this where there is a lot of clutter he “cranks up the clarity and sharpness.” And, during processing, he did some cloning to clear out some of the distractions, like hoses, shelving and the cinderblock background, and shaded the edges.

“There’s really nothing in this photo that’s new and it works together in telling the story,” says Gulle.

Gulle used three lights to illuminate the image: one placed in the hinge of the pickup hood to illuminate the subject, one behind him and one illuminating the background.

“It was a little embarrassing, because my remote flash system wasn’t working and I spent 15-20 minutes fiddling with it in front of my students before I went back to using Nikon’s built-in wireless system to set off the flashes,” recalls Gulle. “I used a 24mm wide-angle lens at a 5.6 f-stop and dragged the shutter to 1/30 second.”

Gulle printed the image on Sunset Metallic Photo Paper. Gulle adds, “I’m addicted to the Sunset Metallic paper.”

Prints that Win: Narnia

Narnia by David Hyttsten

Misunderstandings sometimes pay off. David Hyttsten, owner of David’s Photography in Monticello, Minn., thought that he needed to print on LexJet Sunset inkjet media to be eligible for the Sunset Print Award at the recent Northern Light PPA print competition.

So, he picked up a box of Sunset Photo Metallic Paper and entered what would become the Sunset Print Award winner at the competition, a family portrait entitled Narnia. As it turns out, the only requirement for Sunset Print Award eligibility is that the image is inkjet-printed.

For his “mistake,” Hyttsen received a bonus prize of an iPad Mini, in addition to a Sunset Print Award trophy, pin and gift certificate. Plus, Hyttsten says the Metallic paper likely gave the image a boost at competition.

“That is a rockin’ paper. When I tried it I thought, ‘Holy cow; I need this stuff for the studio.’ I’m absolutely impressed with the paper,” says Hyttsten. “It works great for competition, but more than that, I really think it makes a beautiful, saleable image that you can get a good price for.”

Of course the real key to winning the Sunset Print Award is to capture, print and enter an image that brings the judges back for a second look.

“I was surprised to win the Sunset Print Award. When you get to that level of competition there are a lot of good prints. It’s very common for me to think I have good stuff, but when I go in there I’m pretty humbled when I see everyone else’s work,” says Hyttsten.

Shot on a winter’s day in Minnesota when frost blanketed everything in a surreal coating of white, Hyttsten took advantage of the opportunity it presented and picked the perfect spot in a field of native prairie grass on a farm in central Minnesota.

“The frost is so white on a morning like that; it overcomes everything. Makes you want to move to Minnesota, doesn’t it? We get a few of those days here and when we do I have people I call to see if they’re interested in getting pictures taken,” explains Hyttsten. “Generally, I shoot pretty close to wide open; as much as I can get away with, and I did some dodging and burning to tweak and even out the exposure. There’s a lot of emotion in it, so that may have been part of what appealed to the judges.”

Prints that Win: Love Lake

Wedding Photography by Todd Hicken

The setting for this Sunset Print Award winner at the Intermountain Professional Photographers competition last month is quite stunning, but it’s the photographer’s rendering of the scenery with the bride and groom that makes this one a winner.

The photographer, Todd Hicken, owner of Impact Photography in Heber City, Utah, wasn’t shooting with the competition in mind, but he knew he had something worthy when he captured the image.

“I shoot tethered so I was able to see how the light was and the overall composition. I have a laptop there with me so I can crop it and see the composition I want while I’m shooting. I knew it would be a nice landscape and I cropped it long and skinny for perspective,” says Hicken.

To give it that little extra boost, Hicken printed the image for competition on Sunset Photo Metallic Paper with his Epson Stylus Pro 11880.

“The Sunset Metallic is pretty darn close to what you can get from a darkroom print on metallic paper, and gives it a little more pop for competition,” says Hicken.

The Epson 11880 is a big printer; 64 inches wide, to be exact. Hicken says that the combination of a Hasselblad with a Phase One digital back makes it easier to sell the big prints he can produce on the Epson.

“We do a lot of big prints. Two days ago I printed a 30″ x 60″ and a 30″ x 52” with it for large family portraits. I mainly photograph families and children and an occasional wedding,” says Hicken. “This bride-and-groom image was part of a high-end photography package that was one of only two weddings I shot last year.”

Since Hicken printed on a Sunset paper, he received an iPad Mini, in addition to a Sunset Print Award trophy and pin and a gift certificate. He is also automatically entered into the Sunset Print Award national competition.

In order to be entered into the national competition, you must win a Sunset Print Award at one of the competitions where it’s being presented. To find out more, and which competitions will present a Sunset Print Award, go to www.sunsetprint.com/sunset-print-award. Congratulations, Todd!

Engaging the Public with Photo Art on Walls, Paper and Fabric

Eric Mencher Instagram Installation at Photo Lounge

Photojournalist Eric Mencher interprets Instagram a bit differently than most. He sees it for it is – a social media outlet meant to connect – but more importantly as a canvas.

Eric Mencher Exhibit at Photo LoungeMencher’s interpretation of life on Instagram, using an iPhone as the capture device for the exactly 777 photos he rotates through his page, also resides physically at Photo Lounge in Philadelphia.

Ravid Butz of Photo Lounge has a long-standing professional and personal relationship with Mencher. Butz believes that his photo lab should be more than just a place where people can get their photo and fine art work reproduced; it should also reflect Philadelphia’s vibrant art community and make it accessible to its citizens.

So the two long-time partners partnered on an ongoing exhibit of Mencher’s work in Photo Lounge’s lobby printed in various formats with inkjet media.

Eric Mencher Instagram Mural on Print-N-Stick“Eric has a substantial following on Instagram and here in Philadelphia through his work when he was with the Philadelphia Inquirer, and as a local photo artist. He’s very approachable and real and his work feels so ordinary, but is clearly so masterful,” says Butz. “I brought up the idea that we would print his entire Instagram collection and display it up on the wall. At first I thought we would print 777 5x7s and tape them to the wall, but then I started talking to people in the arts community and they said it would be more artistic to arrange them on sheets and use our Epson wide-format printer to print them. That way, it’s more about the art than just 777 print samples.”

Butz enlisted Julie Blaukopf and Alex Peltz to help curate the ongoing exhibition and create a multi-media experience designed to enhance the presentation and engage and engross people in the work.

Inkljet Wall Mural at Photo Lounge“We wanted the show to be relevant to everyone in our community, and not just the art community. We also wanted those in the art community to take notice that Photo Lounge is seriously involved in their world and that we have capabilities that can expand how they present their art,” says Butz. “Additionally, there are pictures taken every day with iPhones and we see tremendous opportunity to bridge that gap to unique printing applications. Everyone knows how to share it through social media, but every day a lot of customers come in and are surprised to find out that we can print from their iPhone. There are a number of ways to bridge them from their phone to us, and we know they make beautiful prints.”

The focal point of the exhibit is a 100″ x 16′ wall mural featuring Mencher’s 777 images printed on LexJet Print-N-Stick Fabric. From those images Butz and his collaborators pulled out a number of photos reproduced on Sunset Velvet Rag and Sunset Photo Metallic Paper and mounted with a frame built on the back that stand out from the wall.

Digital Tapestries on LexJet Water-Resistant ClothMoreover, four 2′ x 4′ digital tapestries were created, printed on LexJet Water-Resistant Satin Cloth and hung in the windows. “They look different at different times of the day,” says Butz. “They’re somewhat translucent, so they look stunning from the street at night with the interior lights behind them, and great from the inside during the day with the light shining in from outside.”

The exhibit is ongoing so anyone can walk in and enjoy it, with special events sprinkled in, such as seminars and workshops.

“Our regular customers and passersby are amazed that you can do this; they’re telling us that they’ll go home, measure their walls and create their own custom wallpaper,” adds Butz.

Follow Eric @emencher and Photo Lounge @photolounge_phila on Instagram