It’s the perennial issue that every hobby photographer eventually faces. After weeks, months, or years of honing your craft, you finally capture that perfect photo, the one that your Facebook friends are raving about, the one that hit Popular on 500px and people are asking for your permission to use in their marketing campaign. Or even more rare, your cynical, weight of the world on her shoulders teenager managed a perfect smile in a family photo.
Now what do you do with it?
For 100 years, the only option for photographers was the custom frame. While this can be a gorgeous way to display your shots, some photos get lost in a fancy frame. It’s for this reason that museum mats are used in, well, museums; a simple white or black mat in a thin white, silver, or black frame allows the subject to be the center of attention, not the frame. For personal photos in a living room, though, the museum mat can be a bit “industrial”. This is why canvas prints, which provide a frameless look with the warmth of a painting, have been the go-to in home wall art for a number of years.
Recently, however, print companies have been experimenting with different materials, and methods for printing to those materials, with varied results. Metal has been the most popular, but finding a good metal art print is not easy. Many places print the image directly on top of the metal, which can lead to scratching, chipping and fading. Additionally, a company may focus on image quality, but the metal itself ends up warped, poorly cut, or with sharp edges.
When Aluminyze offered to send some samples of their aluminum prints, I was a bit skeptical. Too many times, print samples are too small to get a feel for the quality, and only use heavy HDR or over-contrast to blast the senses and cover up any deficiencies in the process or materials. It was refreshing, then, when they told me to pick two sample photos myself and they’d send me both large and small prints of them.
The first image I chose was of the Japanese Garden at the Denver Botanical Gardens lit up for the Christmas season. While an argument can be made that this is the exact type of photo I was just railing against in the previous paragraph, I picked it for a reason. One of the issues with printing on metal is that the high heats used can result in blacks having a greenish tint, so I wanted a test image that was dark. Also, metal prints give a feel of light to a photo, anyway, so why not test one with actual lights in it.
For the second image, I chose one of my favorite low contrast black and white shots of Union Station. As I mentioned earlier, metal prints have an advantage over paper in that they give an illusion of light, and can overemphasize colors at the expense of detail, so I wanted to see how a print would turn out that had neither color nor an excess of bright lights. Also, I really wanted this one to hang on my wall.
Before I get to unboxing, I should mention that the prints arrived pretty quickly – about what you’d expect for paper prints and much faster than some custom material stuff I’ve ordered elsewhere. According to their brochure, their turnaround time is 2-3 days, and expedited processing is available.
First out of the box was the Japanese Garden photo, and it was pretty stunning. When I showed the family, the whites were so bright they all thought it was backlit, and the blacks were true black. Holding it up to the light, and turning it at all angles, I was unable to find a single blemish in the surface. The image is printed completely to the edge, so there is no distracting border, and the edges themselves are ground down to eliminate dangerous points and sharp edges.
Unfortunately, it appears that color correction was done. This is fine for most photos, but for art pieces like this, I would prefer that the choice of colors be left to the photographer. I spoke with the folks at Aluminyze, and they said that in the past, people have requested no color correction in the comments, but going forward, they will be adding it as a check box during the order process. Full marks for being so responsive to feedback.
The Union Station print turned out beautifully as well, and is probably my new favorite wall art. Where the Japanese Garden popped with light and contrast, Union Station was perfectly muted. Printed with a silver finish that allowed the aluminum surface to come through, the 24″ x 36″ piece catches the light and gives the whole scene a sense of depth that is lacking on a computer screen or paper. I am certain I would have no problems selling this piece to a LoDo Denver business, were I not loathe to give it up. For now, it will be decorating my new office, taking the place of my museum matted print of the same photo.
For both prints, hanging was a breeze with the attached float mount that brings the print away from the wall. Aluminyze infuses the photo into the aluminum and then applies a UV resistant coating, providing a waterproof, fade and scratch resistant piece of art that, unlike paper that can get damp, wrinkle, tear, and fade, can be cleaned with regular glass cleaner and safely hung in direct sunlight. At $35 for an 8″x10″, on up to over $600 for a gigantic 40″x60″, aluminum prints are comparable to both framed prints and gallery wrap canvas, yet last longer. Aluminyze also offers a variety of sizes, shapes, and mounts for your photos on their website.