Photographer-turned-print provider Bill Louf finds wide-format success.
By Paula Yoho
In the wide-format digital print world, it’s rare to find a formally trained artist specializing in commercial print work. That’s where Bill Louf, owner of ImageMaster (imagemastersedona.com) in Sedona, Arizona, breaks the mold. His was a long road from the New England School of Photography to custom digital printer, and the evolution was entirely organic.
Today, Louf does nearly as much commercial print work as fine-art reproductions. And he sees each job as an opportunity to showcase not only what he knows about art, but what he has learned about digital-printing technologies and how far they can go to make a print jump off the proverbial page.
Before settling in the remote artist colony of Sedona, Louf worked for years as a custom printer – initially in New England, and then in the Pacific Northwest. His first job out of college at a photographic lab in Boston introduced him to the print side of the photography business, and he leveraged everything he learned then – in the late 1970s – about printing 16 x 20s, 20 x 30s, and other large prints in a darkroom, into a profitable income in Seattle. By the early 1990s, Louf had more business than he could handle doing custom print work for clients such as the United Parcel Service out of his photo lab near Everett, Washington.
Becoming purely inkjet
“Because of the emergence of digital printing, in 1994 both United Parcel Service and Datacom Technologies called me in the same month and said, ‘You know, Bill, we’re starting to go digital and if you went digital, we’d have more work for you, plus we’d be able to keep you as our supplier, because that’s the way the business is moving,’” Louf explains.
“I went home and told my wife, ‘Instead of buying a film processor for my lab, why don’t we buy a computer and a scanner?’ I immediately began taking in work – in fact, I was taking in work before I even knew how to use the thing. That’s one way to learn it, and it’s one way your beard turns white in one summer, too. It was pretty stressful.”