The Trouble With Canvas
Ink jet canvas? Yes, it can be a cheesy photo presentation, like something out of a cheap Miami motel. Also, lesser canvases have given the medium a bad name with poor shadow reproduction and drastic texture that all but obliterates fine detail. Last year, I ran through a roll of Canon’s Graphic Matte Canvas that I wouldn’t recommend for any conceivable reason to anyone (in fact, it was given to me for free by Canon, which I should have taken as a sign). I think canvas photo printing, as a general cynical consensus, has the reputation of being a technique to force mediocre photography into something that looks like art.
The appeal of canvas, on the flip side, is a modern floating presentation when it’s nicely gallery wrapped on a good stretcher frame. Tightly wrapped and well folded at the corners, the finished product is hard to beat for visual impact. Of course, it also has to be a stunning print, as there is no glass, matting, and framing to amplify the print size or quality. And, after all, canvas really is the de facto surface for certain more established schools of art and photographers can play with that.
[a review of my new favorite ink jet canvas after the jump..]
Hahnemuhle Daguerre Canvas
Besides tests, I’ve run 20-something large prints now on Hahnemuhle Daguerre Canvas and have really grown to like it. I’ve grown defensive of a printing surface I once would never consider. I’m printing on our studio’s trusty Canon iPF 6100 via Canon’s excellent “ImagePROGRAF Plug-In for Photoshop” (why does the Canon company have such trouble naming things?) The Plug-In allows 16-bit printing via the printer’s wide gamut set of 12 inks. My files are ProPhotoRGB 16 bit TIFFs at 450 ppi and 300 ppi, depending on size (as I’ve mentioned before, the Canon loves files at 450 ppi).
The printer has an internal method of calibrating itself for color output matching some sort of predetermined iPF 6100 standard. It means the printer here can run paper profiles made on the Canon iPFs at Red River or Hahnemuhle or any other paper maker’s lab and deliver very consistent results. From my experience it works very well, and has made obsolete, for this studio anyway, the old process of measuring and creating custom profiles for every paper. All that is just to say that Hahnemuhle’s downloadable profiles are spot on, as colors are a nice match for the calibrated screen (except for perhaps having a wider gamut thanks to the measly AdobeRGB gamut of the monitor). I also used the Hahny-recommended “Fine Art Watercolor” media type in the Plug-In, aka “FineArt Wtrclr” on the iPF’s screen. [Why Canon insists on asking photographers to set media type on both printer and computer is beyond me... Do they not communicate much more complex ideas already? It's an unfortunate quirk in an otherwise beautifully consistent and easy to use workflow]
The printing surface has a canvas texture, to be sure. It is strong and not to be ignored when pairing images with papers. I ran color tests as 4×6 prints and the texture is too much to discern fine image detail. The prints come to life, though, at about 18 inches of viewing distance, when the surface texture gives way to excellent detail reproduction. So with this surface: print big, as a 4×6 at arms length is dinky. The surface texture is distinctly fabric. The various coatings used to create an archival pigment printable surface manage to not look like the dried liquid film of lesser canvases.
Color reproduction is awesome and this surface’s greatest asset. Reds are deep and true and blues and greens maintain a dark hansom tone, even with saturation pumped in post processing. Skin tones hold together nicely without reds and oranges running amok. Very nice.
Tonal range, also, is quite nice, with clear shadow detail and, as a matte surface, no gloss differential in highlights. Matte surfaces, and especially canvas, I believe, are often plagued by blocked blacks and puny highlights, but not here. The surface is deep and contrasty with all 88 keys of Ansel Adam’s tone piano represented.
Perhaps the only weakness (besides the strong funky pumpkin smell) is the fact that this is canvas, which as mentioned earlier, is a turn-off for many. The hefty texture is overpowering at close viewing
distance. A spectacular landscape that might otherwise invite a viewer to peer closely at intricate details will disappoint when viewers instead peer closely at a textile pattern. Also, inevitably, the surface will trigger comments unrelated to the actual image content, which may be the type of distraction photo purists will want to avoid.
For studios looking to run portrait, wedding, or certain types of fine art work, this is a nice surface. And, as far as ink jet canvas goes, it is hard to beat. Check it out!
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