Year after year, the digital fine art photography market continues to grow.
Its key drivers? One is the creative inspiration of those working in the field; another, the steady evolution and continuing improvement in new media products.
This month, we'll expose the trends impacting this market, and the growth and opportunity in this industry niche. We bring into sharp focus the unique applications made possible by the digital technology and photographic inkjet media used, and the specific enhancements those new media products have brought about.
Finally, we enlarge on how digital fine art photography pros are coping with a sputtering economy that has eroded discretionary spending on fine art purchases.
Explorer of Light
Few are better equipped to comment on the growth of digital fine art photography that Atlanta-based photographer Eddie Tapp (www.eddietapp.com). Not just a photographer, Tapp is an educator who travels worldwide to train photographers, corporations, government agencies, and large and small studio operations in digital print media.
He also is an Explorer of Light, part of an exclusive Canon-sponsored program including just 50 or 60 photographers around the world, and a Canon USA PrintMaster.
Most giclee printing today is inkjet printing, Tapp says, noting photographers are generating stable fine art pieces through the use of large-format printing. "With the exception of scanning technology, the inkjet technology has improved the most," he observes, adding that those improvements are seen most in four areas.
The first is the longevity of today's ink and paper, resulting in prints that can last 100 years or more, depending on the combination of ink and paper used. The second is color management, or the ability to control delicate and brilliant colors and tones. That's important to both artists and photographers, because with respect to reproducing the work they've created, color management is the means to ensure color matching.
The third is an improvement in the ability to control some inkjet properties, such as bronzing, the tendency of a pool of ink to create a bronze-like tone from a certain angle. Bronzing falls under the heading of metamorisms, anomalies that result in viewers seeing in inkjet print different colors, depending on light sources. "With improvements in inkjet technology, metamorisms are somewhat controlled," Tapp explains. "The shock of going from one room to another is not as severe."
The fourth key improvement is the ability to attain proper printing highlight detail, therefore avoiding a problem called "gloss differential." Says Tapp: "For many years, you could take an inkjet print and tilt it a certain way, and there wouldn't be any ink in the highlight. That would show up as a higher gloss. The situation today is that the drivers generate a combination of ink to eliminate this problem."
How is the digital fine art photography market coping with the state of today's economy? Tapp reports most photographers he knows have seen a decrease in their business in the past year, but are handling the situation well. In some cases, the decline has been as much as 20 percent; in other instances, photographers have witnessed gains. "Most of them are just cutting back on all their expenditures," he says. "As a way of coping, they're not spending as much."
One factor in photographers' ability to weather the decline has been the growth in production facilities, he adds. "I was just in Dubai teaching a workshop, and students told me they didn't have any sources of large-format inkjet printing, so they have to send their photographic work out of the country to gain high-resolution prints," he says. "Here in the states, every city has a service bureau or lab, and 10 to 15 percent of the professional studios have in-house operations that produce their own printing."