"Printing Excellence" - the message you are greeted with on L-Type's website home page. They recently got in touch asking if I'd like to see a sample of their prints. Their emphasis on quality intrigued me so I sent over some images to see how they turned out!
Now I am by no means a print connoisseur, paper geek, do not own my own printer, and do not have an in-depth knowledge of the overall processes involved. I do however have experience in printing my own images in the darkroom from film, as well having gotten many of my own photographs printed with various UK based companies on a variety of mediums. The service and products I've received have varied massively so I am always fairly skeptical of using a new company to print my images.
There is no doubt that first impressions are important. From the first email communication I had with L-Type they were responsive, informative and very helpful. After receiving the initial email I of course headed straight to their website to do a little research on them. While it is not easy these days to create a great looking website, it is still shocking to see how many bad ones there are out there. Luckily this isn't the case with L-Type - a beautiful and simple website makes it easy find the information you're looking for.
L-Type are a relatively new company, but their whole unique selling point (critical for any business!) is having the world's only 400ppi true continuous tone printer, producing prints with (apparently) unrivalled accuracy and sharpness. A lot of people will think of a photographic print the same as anything else they regularly print - using ink, on a standard inkjet printer. However, printing in the darkroom was always done with light-sensitive paper, and exposing this before developing it in those magic chemical baths. L-Type print by exposing traditional silver halide paper, using 21st century methods. In essence they are "true photographic prints".
Sending my images off to L-Type couldn't have been easier. I just exported a few files from my catalog in Lightroom as the highest quality uncompressed TIFF files I could, no special resizing or faffing around needed, and sent them via WeTransfer straight over. An impressively quick turn around and I'd received my prints in just a couple of days.
So enough about the technical stuff - what did the prints actually look like?
Well the initial thoughts went straight to the quality of the packaging. If you're spending a good amount of money on high quality prints you want them to arrive safe and sound. There was no doubt about this, with the prints arriving in a sturdy but slim box, and inside a beautiful black envelope with my prints sealed inside.
As I pulled the images out of this slick looking sleeve I was struck by the weight of the paper, it felt brilliant and oozed quality, not surprising when you learn it is 530gsm acid-free card. The paper is matt, but when turned does have a slight sheen to it. All the prints were A3 with a nice white border around the edge - which is generally how I would choose to produce a print myself. The addition of a border gives a little more flexibility in terms of framing, and in my opinion makes it look a little more professional.
The biggest problem I've had when ordering prints from various companies is colour reproduction. What I see on my screen is not going to necessarily going to match the final product. This is down to screen calibration, colour profiles, and the companies printers. I have never calibrated my screen, though there are many products available on the market to do this. I ensure I edit with my screen set to the same constant brightness and usually in the same room. This makes sure my eye is calibrated to what I'm editing rather than the other way around. I didn't alter any of my files when sending them off L-Type and I was pleased to see the colour reproduced pretty much exactly as I'd edited it.
The range of images I sent to L-Type was specific to test out colour reproduction and overall sharpness. Overall I was pleased to see that everything looked pretty fantastic. The only exception on close exception is the eagle image - which is not quite as sharp as I would like, or as the original is. However, this is quite likely down to either my sizing of the image, or the sharpening I applied to the original and could most certainly be improved.
So far I've been thoroughly impressed with the service by L-Type. The print quality is superb, very professional and very accurate. In short, I'll certainly be ordering some more from them so that speaks for itself!