The Custom-Order Approach: David Saffir
Creating new markets and opportunities in fine-art reproduction.
David Saffir knows what his clients want: the same uncompromising print reproductions he demands for his fine-art and commercial photography. In fact, when he began offering print services to photographers and artists from his Santa Clarita, California studio, it was, in part, an attempt to recoup his investment in wide format.
At the time, Saffir had just purchased the Epson Stylus Pro 9600, his first wide-format printer. “I fell into fine-art printing as a service, to help with my cash flow,” he recalls. “I realized, however, that I could not just print and sell my own work, but had to offer printmaking services to others.”
The Epson was actually his second digital printer. “When digital first came along, I was still sending work to labs to have my prints made,” he recalls. He bought a Canon dye-based desktop printer to experiment with printing in-house, and used it for some portraits. It convinced him of the potential of digital.
Within days after installing the Epson, he was confident enough with the results to venture into fine-art reproduction. When artists and photographers saw the results, they began bringing him work. “Some could provide digital files, others needed their work scanned,” he says of those early days. “Within six months I was very busy, and making more and more prints.”
Today, Saffir offers various services for those artists in need. Basic image set-up and file prep are included with each order; advanced image retouching and file prep are priced by the hour. He digitizes original artwork with a PhaseOne scanning back on a Hasselblad medium-format body, then does image editing in Photoshop. Black-and-white originals require some special handling: “I shoot in color digital, convert to black-and-white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 in Photoshop, then print on the HP Designjet Z3200 printer – his “workhorse” – using black inks only.”
During file prep, he’ll soft proof the image on an HP DreamColor Professional 24-inch display. “I calibrate the monitor on a regular basis,” he says. “The screen-to-print match is superb.”
He produces an 8 x 10-inch scaled down print for artist approval. For printing, he favors HP Matte fine-art photo paper, Photo Satin and Photo Rag for color work, and the Matte Litho for black-and-white prints.
“I can also use third-party media, whatever my customer may want,” he adds. “One of the advantages of the Z3200 is its built-in hardware and software,” he points out. “You can take just about any printable inkjet media, and make profiles right on the printer.”
Saffir approaches each job as a custom order, taking the time to consult with each artist to make sure his work meets or exceeds their expectations. Clients end up with at least two prints of their work, one to show and one for sales purposes. “They can use this as a print-on-demand service, if that’s what they need,” he says. Many periodically return for reproduction of their latest work, and tell their friends and peers about their satisfaction with his services.
“The majority of my business comes from word-of-mouth or personal referrals,” he says. “In the photo business, I’ve always found that people will let others know when they are happy with what you’ve done.”