WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PRINT A PHOTOBOOK?
1. Offset-litho. This is the traditional way of printing a book. The presses are designed to print in bulk, offering economies of scale. A typical run is 500+ copies. Anything less and the unit book price can become prohibitively high. These days there are very few UK offset-litho printers,
so I print in Italy with EBS, who I consider one of the very best photobook printers.
2. Digital-ink. The majority of photographers I work with want to make short-run, editioned books – typically between 10-150 copies. This number of books requires a short-run press. The one I favour is the industry-leading HP Indigo. I work very closely with a wonderful printer just outside London. He is always happy to try out new papers from the myriad that are available and, unlike offset-litho, the Indigo gives similar looking results on coated and uncoated stock. The UK printer is also really into the craft of book making. So he loves to discuss different ways of finishing binding, to express an individual photographer's vision. And, unlike offset-litho printing, with Indigo it is cheap to print and handbind a prototype book, to truly experience how the final book will look, feel and handle. With this type of short-run printing, most of the binding is done in
the Envisage Books studio.
3. Inkjet. This is for anyone with a desktop printer who wants a simple way to get into making photobooks. The print quality is excellent, but it is a much more labour intensive way of printing a book, especially one that needs to be double-sided printd, folded into bound sections. The choice of inkjet papers is also fairly limited and at 200-230gsm they can sometimes be a little on the heavy side for a traditional style book. But don't be put off! I've made lovely inkjet books with clients and on book making workshops.
Which method suits you will depend on a variety of factors specific to your project. The best way forward is for you to talk through your ideas with me.
On press at EBS in Italy, printing 'Remembering Cheetahs'.
Photo © Margot Raggett.
Passing the press sheets for Joe Anthony's 'City to Wilderness Sri Lanka' book – printed with an HP Indigo digital-ink press..
Caroline Fraser's 'Land of my Father', produced as a digitally printed, hand finished, limited edition of 50 copies.
A metal die was used to foil-block the title onto the outer sleeve of Caroline Fraser's 'Land of my Father'.
Caroline Tollyfield's 'Songpost' was produced as an edition of 65 copies, of which 10 were a Collector's Edition with an original print on Japanese Awagami paper.
The foil-blocked sleeve for 'Songposts' was given a hand-cut deckle edge. The sleeve was glued with acid-free tape.
The folded sections of Caroline Tollyfield's 'Songpost' ready to be sewn at the Envisage Books studio.
A traditional 4-colour, offset-litho press, is the most economical way to print 500 copies and more.
Checking the pages of a traditional offset-litho, large print run book for Leeming & Paterson, at specialist photobook printer EBS.
Papers come in many weights, surfaces and colours. Inkjet, digital and offset-litho books each need their own type of paper.
If you want to learn about book making, here are some of the tools to make inkjet home-printed or short-run, digitally printed hand bound books.
Cotton, linen and hemp book binding threads, for hand sewn inkjet- and digitally-printed books.