To Profile or Not; That is the Question!

To Profile or Not; That is the Question!

As a Moab Master photographer I’m often asked whether we create our own ICC profiles for our studio prints. After all, we do charge a premium for our work, so one might assume that we go through the intense machinations needed to create our own profiles, right?

Well, surprise!; the fact is we do not generate our own profiles and I’m here to tell you why. First off, my rationale is based on the experience of our studio’s master printer, Bob Boyer, who knows more about the science of fine art printing than most so-called Internet experts.

Could we do our own profiles? Sure, but why bother? To create an exacting ICC profile for a specific paper-printer combination takes inordinate amounts of time, which our studio never has enough of. Secondly, we work with a lean crew and creating profiles is labor intensive. Third, getting great profiles requires a significant capital investment. I’m not talking about the cheap alternatives out there for hobbyists. For a decent machine count on four to five figures. That’s a huge bite out of one’s profits.

So, what do we do to ensure we have top-notch, reliable and consistent profiles? With companies like Moab Paper (a division of Legion Paper), we know that they will give us the very best profiles possible. In fact, they have a dedicated employee on the west coast whose responsibility is to create those accurate profiles that we know will work on each of our Canon printers. And they have never failed us. Why would they? Bad profiles would sour us on using any paper manufacturer’s papers, so they have a vested interest in getting you the very best profiles. Plain common sense.

There is another plus to using the manufacturer’s profiles. They are constantly looking to improve them as new technologies emerge. Not only wouldn’t I choose to buy a $5,000 machine, I would shudder every time a better technology hit the market. I’d much rather spend that money on a new lens or on a photo trip to some exotic locale.

Bob and I also find that photographers who focus too much on the technical aspects of printing often generate technically good prints that lack emotional or dramatic pull. This is not always the case, of course, but it happens so often it can’t be mere coincidence.

I am not saying that all manufacturers are created equal. Some go further than others to deliver great profiles to their customers. We have definitely experienced bad or non-existent manufacturer profiles in the past. That is why we love Moab papers, although Hahnemuhle and Canson also do a credible job.

In our case, we have worked behind the scenes with Moab, giving them the feedback that they request so they their customers (that’s us!!) will consistently enjoy great prints. I know that other printmaker colleagues do the same with top-tier paper manufacturers. This commitment ultimately saves us money. But, as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding or, in our case, in the fine art prints we produce and that our clients love.