Prints That Win: Ambers Anticipation

During her junior year in high school, Abbie Thomas fell in love with life behind the lens while taking a photography class. She always knew photography was in her blood – thanks to her grandfather – but once she started getting hands-on experience in class, she knew this was her calling. At age 17, a friend asked if she would photograph her wedding. Without any experience, and only a high school’s class worth of training, she borrowed her grandfather’s camera, loaded it up with black and white film, and shot her first wedding.

“It was the first time I’d been able to capture a wedding from beginning to end,” Thomas says. “Sitting down with [the bride and groom] after everything was over was amazing, to see the joy on the bride’s face … I just knew this is what I wanted to do.”

Years later, her wedding portraiture work has evolved into award-winning art. For the Sunset Print Awards, Thomas submitted her PPA Northeast winning photo “Ambers Anticipation.” Thomas was inspired by the amber waves of grain when entering the portrait into competition. This wedding shoot was especially personal to Thomas: She used to babysit the bride, Claire, when she was just a girl, and she captured Claire’s youthful exuberance in her senior portrait.

When Claire got engaged, the family knew that no other photographer would illustrate the day the way Thomas could. She was given free rein by the bride to do what she does best: witness the wedding day from beginning to end. To have played an integral part in so many highlights of Claire’s life, Thomas wanted to ensure that everything was perfect at the wedding.

Prints That Win: Misty Morning

Last November, photographers Kathryn and Gary Meek were vacationing in China, when one misty morning, they spied a junk boat moored to just a little wisp of a dock on the Yangtze River. Even though it was at rest, Kathryn Meek said she was struck by the serenity of the scene. She pulled out her camera and started shooting. One of the images she captured would later become “Misty Morning,” winner of the Sunset Print Award – Illustrative category in the PPA Southwest District.

“It is one of my favorite shots. The trip was a cool experience and I was able to get a really cool shot,” she says.

To properly convey the ethereal feeling of the scene for the print, she used LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper. “It really made the image pop,” she said of the award-winning paper.

Prints That Win: Golden Arches

Under the royal Alcázar in Seville, Spain, are the Baños de Doña María de Padilla (Baths of Lady María of Padilla). This underground rainwater reserve is a popular tourist attraction, however, on the day that Bill Mills visited, the baths were entirely empty. “That was the beauty of this place …” says Mills, “that no one was there. I had the place to myself, and how often can you say that?”

It was here that he took his Sunset Print Award-winning photo Golden Arches. “You’re not allowed to use tripods in this area, but around this bath was a wall, and so I set my camera there on a two-second delay and shot a couple of different angles,” he says. His image eloquently captures the eerie tranquility of the architecture, earning him this prestigious award.

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.

“The thing about acrylic face-mounting is that not all papers work well with it,” says Tate Dwinnell, who runs Bumblejax with his brother, Corey. “Sometimes the texture in the paper causes ‘silvering.'”

About five years ago, they came across the award-winning LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper, and they were sold.

“After testing several metallic papers, we’ve found that the LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper offers up the best luminescence and dimensionality,” says Corey Dwinnell. “In other words, this paper really makes your images pop!”

While the metallic paper did its job with photo reproduction, adding the acrylic took their finished products to the next level. Bumblejax creates mounted imagery that’s anywhere from 6×6-inch squares to 96×48-inch panoramas. Projects range from corporate jobs and photo shows to decoration for offices and homes.

“We really see an incredible ‘pop’ from the Sunset Metallic Paper when it is face-mounted to acrylic, especially in a gallery setting with proper lighting,” Corey says.

With the right lighting, the artwork almost has a backlit effect. Bumblejax uses CrystalClear Permanent Adhesive to adhere the print to either 1/8-inch, 1/4-inch, 1/2-inch or 1-inch acrylic, which can give the finished piece an almost 3D appearance.

“It’s a more modern aesthetic,” Tate says. “It’s frameless and floats from the wall, so you don’t see any hardware. It’s a real sleek, high-end modern look.”

Take a look a the gallery below to see Bumblejax’s work:

Adding Large Format Printing to an Epic Multimedia Mix

Printing the cover of a proposal book with metallic paperWhen Cheryl Elbers joined Epic Multimedia more than a year ago she brought large format printing with her. Based in Sioux Falls, S.D., Epic Multimedia is a full-service ad agency that’s now even more versatile with the ability to print posters, banners and other advertising related materials in-house.

For the previous nine years or so Elbers ran a photo studio, pro-lab and creative agency. Given her diverse background in the graphic arts – from creative conception to production – she does a little bit of everything for Epic Multimedia. In addition to printing, Elbers does account management, photography, videography, web and print design.

Inkjet printing airport signageWhen Elbers joined the Epic Multimedia team she brought an Epson 9800 with her, as well as the expertise of her print media and ink supplier, LexJet. The combination was an excellent match, as Elbers explains: “Integrity is a big part of who we are; talking with people and not at them, just like LexJet does.”

Beyond the creative powerhouse Epic Multimedia has built that has led to its significant growth over the years, building partnerships with its customers is equally important. “We don’t want to be just a company to someone. We want to partner with them and make them feel confident that we can produce the results they need.”

Inkjet printing postersLarge format printing helps boost this value proposition. Elbers says large format printing is a growing component of Epic Multimedia’s product and service mix. As clients see the quality of the output, the requests naturally pile up at the agency.

For instance, Elbers says that some of the agency’s Request for Proposal (RFP) folders have been topped with a print on LexJet Sunset Photo Metallic Paper (pictured at the top of this post), an inkjet photo medium Elbers adopted as a photographer. “After showing it to our clients, others have asked about the paper and requested prints on it,” she says.

Printing graphics for A-frames for retail and trade showsElbers also uses LexJet 7 Mil Absolute Backlit, Photo Tex PSA Fabric, LexJet Sunset Select Matte Canvas, EPSON Premium Semigloss Photo Paper and EPSON Premium Luster Photo Paper. “LexJet is so handy. Some salespeople can be overbearing, but when LexJet calls it’s not like that at all. I’ve worked with four or five reps over the years, and they must get great training because every one of them has approached it in such a friendly manner that you’re immediately comfortable.”

Breaking the Mold with Large Format Inkjet Printing

Printing and framing at American MouldingIt wasn’t a stretch for Melbourne, Fla.-based American Moulding to re-direct its business into large format inkjet printing, but it did break the mold and continues to do so with great success. American Moulding started out about 12 years ago as a distribution company for picture frame moulding and supplies. When the economy took a turn for the worse, American Moulding’s primary distribution business took a hit.

Rather than mourn the decline, American Moulding took a proactive approach and decided to start printing. Since that time three years ago the company has tripled its revenues, outpacing its original picture framing distribution business model. In other words, American Moulding’s product line has shifted almost entirely to large format inkjet printing for artists, corporations and interior decorators, while leveraging its previous expertise in framing by offering a fully finished, high-quality product.

“We do art reproduction and framing, so now it’s the total package. We had brand equity in the American Moulding name and we didn’t want to lose that with companies we were already working for. We have one large client who helped drive that for us. We did most of the framing for their art galleries and other venues. The door opened up for us when they asked if we could print a small background for them, so we bought an Epson 3800. Then the requests came in more frequently and that’s when we expanded into a 24-inch [Epson 7880] and two 44-inch printers [a Canon iPF8100 and an Epson 9900],” says Chris Bryant, owner of American Moulding. “Cutting out the distribution business was nerve-wracking at first, but we’ve been able to exceed our revenues. We’ve managed to grow it and continue to grow it by introducing new products and becoming more of a credible source with our clients. Every day and every week we continue to win more business.”

Printing fine art and photographyAnother key component of American Moulding’s success has been customer service. Bryant has a simple explanation for American Moulding’s customer service philosophy: “We become an extension of who they are.”

Bryant explains that their concept is to be on call as if they were in the office next door, ready for action at a moment’s notice. “That way, if there’s a problem, they can call us as if we were right there on their property with them. The more we do that the deeper we ingrain ourselves in the fabric of what they do, so it makes us more in line and in tune with their philosophies.”

The most difficult part of the transition to large format printing was getting the workflow and color management issues down pat. The team at American Moulding buckled down, learned the software and utilized the technology to its fullest so that it was print-ready almost from day one.

“That was probably the biggest adjustment – making sure we had a critical eye in evaluating the art and colors and that we were getting it right every time. We’re still learning every day, but we did a good job from the beginning. The feedback we were getting from our clients was that we were getting it right the first time, rather than having to color proof it two or three times to get it right. They started having confidence in what we were doing and began shifting more work our way. We have a three-person signoff on each piece of art we produce just to evaluate color,” explains Bryant. “We went from printing small jobs of one or two prints to running limited editions. Now we have about 150 pieces of art that are still active and it grows every day.”

Building a large format inkjet printing business
Chris Bryant and Heather Bailey of American Moulding. Their customer service philosophy is simple: To be an extension of their client's business.

Bryant adds that keeping up with the latest technology and printable media has played a crucial role in the company’s growth. American Moulding is not afraid to experiment and try new media out, much to the delight of their clients.

“Canvas always comes out great, but I like playing with the fine art and watercolor papers. We also love the Sunset Photo Metallic Paper and the artists we work with love it as well. We don’t put it on everything and overuse it, but the art we print on it just jumps off the paper and the artists jump at the chance to work with it. Some paint specifically for that paper,” explains Bryant. “LexJet is constantly introducing new products to us, and they have lot of the same philosophies we have in customer service. They touch base regularly to learn more about who we are and what we do so that they’re able to give us new product ideas to effectively move our business forward. Our customer specialist, Rob Finkel, and his team have been awesome and helped us get over some of the learning curve. LexJet has been a catalyst in our growth.”