The Sleeping Giant's Sea Lion

by Jakub

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You scout the location, bring your tripod with you, wait for the right light, become victim of weather in the meanwhile, take an insane amount of photos, work hours on getting the stitch right, and only then you decide you are satisfied with those 20 million pixels.

But.

I'd also like to get those pixels out, on the paper and on a wall, where they belong. Where can I print such a thing (online)? Quality is a must. Bonus points if the answer is Europe-friendly.

Edit:

I volountarily left out many details to have more general answer, but on a second thought they might turn out useful.

Sizes: at least 1 meter on the longest side
Ratios: let's say from 2:1 to 5:1, but I can tolerate to resize and have some border to cut out.
Materials/finish: anything worth hanging in your house.

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What sort of sizes are you interested in printing? Some places only print for specific aspect ratios, where others will print to the nearest centimetre; Have you considered what finish you'd like? Its worth adding as much detail as possible to your question to get the best from the answers. –  Rowland Shaw Sep 30 '10 at 11:30

11 Answers 11

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Let me advocate for offline printing for a second :) I used to print online, but I rely on a local print shop nowadays. I'm not talking CVS or Walmart (in the US), but small, quality print shops run by photographers. Not only is it good for the local economy, but you won't beat that kind of interaction. Print professionals are passionate about what they do, and will often give you good advices or guide through the process of large prints.

With that in mind, I would suggest you look around in your town, or a nearby town, and see what it has to offer. A local store doesn't mean you have to always drive there actually, they may have a web site for you to upload your photos. Check what kind of printer they use. I recently had this 9K x 3K panorama printed at 36" x 12" on a ZBE Chromira digital LED printer, and you can go larger/better on a Giclée printer. You will pay a price for that, but this will be quality work (not $5).

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Firstly I live in the UK so this is should all be euro-friendly! I've had photos printed at photobox 12"x5", and 20"x8", on standard photographic paper. The quality absolutely good enough to frame. Going any larger and framing becomes a problem, you end up having to get frames made which is expensive.

I've had a few panos printed on canvass when that first became available. I can't remember who I used but it's the sort of thing everyone offers now. Recently I've been looking into acrylic prints to solve the framing problem for images that don't really suit canvass. They can look tacky if the wrong image is used and you're looking at £150 for 110x47cm (43"x18.5") but they can be made to look very good and fit in well with minimalist decor.

I've never used them but PosterXXL offer some very large prints in a variety of pano formats, eg. 300x100cm

http://www.posterxxl.co.uk/products/posters/your-photo-as-a-giant-poster.html#t=format

A quick google for panorama specialists yields http://panoprint.co.uk/ despite minimal details on the website (literally they print panoramas, and that's about it) it might be worth contacting them if your images are extra wide. I wouldn't be put off by the lack of a flashy website, I've dealt with many small companies who aren't that web savvy (and can't handle huge ammounts of business) but are master craftsmen!

But do please think about framing and mounting before you print, as it can end up being 50% or more of the cost!

Having many panoramas myself I'll be watching this thread with interest.

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not sure if you realised, but clicking the star underneath the voting buttons lets you flag this as a favourite, which then shows in your profile, for easy reference. –  Rowland Shaw Sep 30 '10 at 11:27
    
yep meant to do that, thanks for reminding me! –  Matt Grum Sep 30 '10 at 12:10
    
Matt, thanks for the answer. I already expect the frame to cost even more than the print! –  Agos Sep 30 '10 at 16:41

I've used Costco to print 12"x36" prints. The only charge $5 for these.

That doesn't help you in Europe though.

Another vendor that someone once referred me to (though I haven't used them) is http://www.bigphotohelp.com/

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fotoflot will do up to 5" x 30" prints on their "floating" frame system. I used them once and was happy with the results. They are US based, but say they will ship internationally.

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really nice system! –  Agos Sep 30 '10 at 16:36

I like http://www.ezprints.com, where you can pay per inch and the prices are dirt cheap. You basically send them your photo and they print it. I've gotten good results out of them.

If you want a more hands-on, professional experience, where you can download the color profile for the printers they use, and receive proofs in the mail of a portion of your print before the full size for approval, etc, then you can pay a lot more money and use http://www.westcoastimaging.com

Standard frame sizes are never panorama-friendly, so I recommend using http://www.framesbymail.com, where again you can pay by the inch for any sized frame, replete with glass and matting options. This is significantly cheaper (by hundreds of dollars) compared to going to your local art shop and having a proper custom frame built for your work.

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That frame shop sure is interesting! –  Agos Sep 30 '10 at 16:44
    
At least around here, a large number of the local frame shops just order the parts from the same place, or similar. Unless you go with something that's high enough volume for them to have on hand, like black or the local highschools' sports teams' colors. –  cabbey Feb 18 '11 at 17:05
    
I've ordered panoramics from EZPrints for quite a few years, great quality and prices. –  dpollitt Nov 30 '11 at 1:19

Go to the signage printing industry

Sometimes technology intended for one industry is perfect for another industry and this is a case in point. Find a small business near you that specialises in printing large vinyl signs for the advertising industry. Their rates are usually significantly cheaper than photographic printing and the results are every bit as good. And they have some advantages. The printed surface is waterproof, abrasion resistant and fade resistant in direct sunlight for five years.

Normally printing is done using a printer such as the Roland Versacam 540 on self adhesive vinyl rolls, from a company like Oracom, with a peel off backing layer.

Once printed, the backing layer is peeled off and the print is adhered onto a suitable substrate. I mount my panoramas on white 0.9 mm ABS plastic. This is commonly used in the advertising industry for mounting large display adverts. It is easily cut and mounted. This avoids the formidable costs of framing and mounting.

The scary part is trying to adhere a self adhesive 2m long panorama without wrinkles or bubbles. In fact it is amazingly easy once you know the tricks of the trade. Your signage company will be happy to show you. In outline, you peel away the backing and spray on a very dilute water/detergent solution (very dilute!). The adhesive is no longer sticky and you can easily position the print on your mount. Now you squeegee the excess water out until you have a wrinkle and bubble free result. The print is now firmly bonded to the substrate. Oracom make an excellent fabric squeegee and this is what makes all the difference, don't use anything else.

I printed and mounted many large panoramas in this way (to the dismay of my wife who is reluctantly conceding all the wall space) and can attest to the fact that it is inexpensive, quick and simple to do.

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Awesome! I really like this :) –  Agos Oct 1 '10 at 11:20

Another option for the UK: Peak Imaging

In the past I've had a 90x30cm (but I'm sure they'd do 5:1 ratio as well) pano printed there, I was very pleased with the result and it was pretty cheap as well.

For the frame, I found a 100x50cm at HobbyCraft, and had a custom mount made up at a local shop. I think for the ratios wider than that, you'll need to get a custom made frame.

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BayPhoto can do actual silver halide photographic prints up to I think it's 30" tall by like 12' long... (close to the 5:1 ratio you asked about) I have some über pano prints of this image that are about 13' long at 300ppi... they're sharp as a tack. You'll need to use their ROES tool and submit it as a special order. Heh, I miss-read that as 1m on the SHORT side.

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+1 for silver halide! :D –  Agos Feb 18 '11 at 10:04

Perfectposters.com (a US company). They'll print on HP gear with pigment, up to 96 inches on the long side. They ship and drop-ship.

I've used them for a while, and never been disappointed.

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Disclaimer: I'm about to link to a site I wrote, please don't vote me down for being a spam-lord! Unless you think the site is rubbish, then down-vote away!

On OddPrints.com you can print panoramas at 18"x4" (£3.99) which is the correct ratio for panoramic shots from an iPhone...

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I would recommend DS Colour Labs - based in the UK. I had a poster printed at A1 size from them once and they were fast and good value (I thought).

For your case, they'll do panorama prints up to 60 X 24" (152cm x 60cm). They also have a dedicated "Wall decor" section with various materials etc.

They also have a dedicated colour profile that you can download and use in Photoshop on your image before you email it to them, so that you know the colours will be accurate. Check them out.

PS. I have no affiliation with the company, just used them once :)

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