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Author Q&A:
Andrew Darlow and "301 Inkjet Tips"

January 25, 2008

Harald Johnson: What's the story of this book? What gave you the idea to do it?

Andrew Darlow: First, and most importantly, I love Photography. That has been the guiding force for virtually everything I've done in the publishing world. That love for photography led to a career as a commercial studio photographer in New York City. I've been a teacher on the subject of inkjet printing for nearly 15 years, and I designed my first course, entitled "The Digital Print" in the early 1990s for an intensive 2 weekend course at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York. For that course, I produced a 50-60 page "book." It was a 3-ring binder with step-by-step procedures for prepping and making prints, information on paper and printers, and a lot of specific tips and suggestions to help people get the most from their time in the class. At that time, almost no one had an inkjet printer, but the company where I worked had an IRIS printer that could make stunning 24x24-inch prints on virtually any material. The class was very well received, so I produced similar books for other classes and workshops that I taught over the years at ICP, trade shows and for photo groups such as the APA/NY (Advertising Photographers of America/ New York Chapter). Teaching led to an invitation to join the staff of a photo/imaging magazine entitled Digital Imaging Techniques (Cygnus Business Media), where I served for two years as the magazine's Editorial Director. That experience, as well as involvement on various internet newsgroups, such as the Yahoo DigitalFineArt group, led to an invitation by a gentleman named Harald Johnson to submit a proposal for a book of tips for inkjet printing to the publisher of his (err, your) books.

HJ: Why 301 tips? Why not 101 or 10001?

AD: We started out with a goal of 500 tips but soon realized that because some of the tips were becoming rather long (1-2 pages), 301 became the magic (and feasible) number.

HJ: So who is this book for and what does it cover?

AD: The tips span the gamut from basic to advanced, and virtually anyone who loves photography (even those who don't own inkjet printers) can benefit from the advice. There are tips for people who want to work with an outside print provider, tips related to color management, tips for black and white printing, portfolio and presentation tips and much more. The book can also benefit people who use other photo processes, such as darkroom printing or direct, continuous-tone digital output, though the focus is on inkjet printing from prep to presentation. The book also contains the images and tips of more than 20 photographers working in a wide range of photographic disciplines. This helps to make the book a collection of ideas with information about a wide variety of different topics from people who use the products every day. Examples of topics covered by the guest artists include RIPs, lighting, paper selection and presentation of work (framing, making portfolios, etc).

HJ: Your Tips format looks pretty unique. How did you come up with this and how did you actually accomplish it?

AD: Tips are grouped in two ways: First by chapter (virtually all cover a general topic), such as "Choosing an Inkjet Printer,""Color Management," and "Packing, Lighting and Framing." Then within each chapter, each tip is numbered, named and described. Examples of tips are "Profile and choose the right paper setting." and "How to uncurl roll or sheet paper."


ABOVE: A page from the book 301 Inkjet Tips and Techniques with one of the "online links" circled in red. That link can be found on the book's companion site, www.inkjettips.com (under Chapter 4).

HJ: Another unique aspect of the book is the way you handle URLs and links to websites. Explain how this works.

AD: The Internet is an incredible resource, but it's not always easy to find the information you are looking for, even with fast and high quality search engines. Also, the landing pages for precise information about a product or article can be a hundred or more characters, and relying on services that shorten web URLs is risky in my opinion if the company running the site stops operating in the future. My solution was to create a simple link system, in which links are numbered and placed just after the topic, product or service that is mentioned in the book (for example L3.1 to L3.27 are the links that can be found throughout Chapter 3). The links are then available to anyone in an easy-to-read chapter by chapter table on the companion site for the book: www.inkjettips.com. These links can save readers hours of time searching for information, and there are additional links to related content, including video tutorials, product reviews and other content.

HJ: You have more than 20 guest artists contributing to the book's content. What is it that they provide and how did you pick them?

AD: My experience as an editor at a magazine taught me both the value of sharing information with others through interviews and edited articles by authors themselves. The book contains the images and tips of more than 20 photographers and other artists working in a wide range of disciplines. This helps to make the book a collection of ideas with information about a wide variety of different topics from people who use the products every day. Examples of topics covered by the guest artists include RIPs, lighting, paper selection and presentation of work (framing, making portfolios, etc). I am very honored to have had the opportunity to work with such talented individuals for the Guest Artist section, which makes up eight chapters (just about half of the book). The majority of the guest artists were invited because I had met them in the past and respected both their work, and their willingness to share their "trade secrets" with others. In many cases, I had also learned from them at seminars, through websites or on newsgroups. It was also a great honor to have Douglas Kirkland, a legendary photographer and someone who I look up to in so many ways, write the book's foreword.


ABOVE: Guest Artist Richard Ehrlich with his custom-made portfolio case and foam insert to keep the work from moving inside the case. Photo: © Andrew Darlow

HJ: I was thumbing through the book and ran into the InkjetSelector Checklist. What's that all about?

AD: I developed the InkjetSelector Checklist, which is a form with 70 parameters to help people choose which options are most important to them before heading out to a store or beginning an online search. Some of the items on the list are "Cost must not exceed _______," "Must be an all-in-one device with Fax capability," and "Must be able to feed heavy sheets (300+ gsm) from the top feed tray." I think that a quick skim over the items can help anyone narrow the field, or just learn about what options are available in today's inkjet printers.

HJ: On top of the usual illustrative images to help explain what you're writing about, you also have lots of full-page, gallery-type images. Explain your thinking behind those.

AD: When all is said and done, it's about the image and the print. I could not easily create a book filled with actual inkjet prints, but I wanted to express the feeling of holding a print in your hand when you are reading the book, which was done by allowing some white space around each photo. I also wanted to celebrate the fantastic work of the guest artists, and full page images seemed to be an ideal way to do that. Every double-page and full page image also contains captions that include not only a specific paper, ink and print size, but also camera information like F-stop and exposure values. This data can be very helpful for people who are looking to select papers or other media for their printer(s).


ABOVE: A left-hand full page image from the book.
Image title: "Dog on 45"  Andrew Darlow, All Rights Reserved.

HJ: Are you happy with the book? What are your goals for it?

AD: I'm extremely happy with the book. I am especially pleased with the reproduction quality and the fact that the pages open quite flat, despite the fact that the book is just over 500 pages. My goals (apart from hopefully selling a few truckloads of them), are to use it as a starting point for sharing additional information with people at seminars, through video tutorials, and on the book's companion site, inkjettips.com. I also look forward to getting the book into as many public and private libraries as possible. I have set up a talk at my local library in New Jersey, and every library I've showed the book to thus far has expressed an interest in adding it to their collection.

HJ: What's next for you? What's your next project?

AD: Now that I have some more time to delve more deeply into my printmaking, I'm currently working on a few print exhibitions. I'm also doing a lot of in-person and phone consulting--I really enjoy helping people get the most from their computers and printers; it's amazing how a lot of problems can be solved when you are working with someone directly. I'll also be giving a number of workshops and seminars in the coming months.

Additional content for the book, including hundreds of clickable links to many of the resources covered throughout the book can be accessed a the book's companion site at www.inkjettips.com. There, you can also sign up to receive Andrew's free newsletter, with additional tips and information, as well as a tip each week from the book.

To buy the book and see Bookstore, go here.

See list of DP&I.com essays and commentary here.

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