Monday, December 19, 2016

Turning Your Vacation Photos Into Works of Art

It’s the season for family travel and photos — and perhaps enlarging some of those images of snowy landscapes or tropical getaways to decorate your home.

There are, of course, the usual print services and methods. You can choose a glossy or matte finish, print a photo on canvas, or make it into a poster with a few clicks online at photo sites like Snapfish and Shutterfly, professional photo shops like Adorama and Mpix, or drugstores and big-box chains like Walgreens and Costco. But the web is also home to many lesser-known printing services, as well as uncommon surfaces on which to enlarge photos for display, be it burlap, wood boards, acrylic or stick-and-peel fabric. Why not try some fresh sites and methods?

I recently sent some ho-hum quality iPhone vacation photos to a handful of companies that I’d never used before and had them enlarged to various sizes and printed on different surfaces. I’ve also offered some guidance about bulk digitizing those boxes of old travel photos sitting in your closet or basement so that you can begin the New Year if not with a vacation, then with a clutter-free home.

Engineer Prints

Of all the ways to turn photos into wall art, I was most interested in trying engineer prints, named for the large, lightweight prints used by architects. For less than the cost of a couple of movie tickets, you can make huge enlargements. Mind you, it’s a particular aesthetic, one that’s most likely to appeal to people who are after an industrial, shabby chic or bohemian look. The paper is thin and the lines of the images are softer than a fine art print. And engineer prints need not be formally framed. People stick them to their walls with washi tape, a crafting tape that comes in innumerable colors and prints; or they hang the prints using wood poster rails or skeleton clips. For a while, engineer prints from photos were primarily available in black and white, but now you can find them in color, too.

One of the easiest ways to order them online is through Parabo Press, which is run by Photojojo, an online photography gear shop, and Zoomin, a photo printing service in Asia. As with all printing sites, you upload your image, zoom in closer if you like, and then click to buy.

The site’s engineer prints are 4 feet by 3 feet, and cost $20 in black and white, and $25 in color. I sent out two different photos to be made in black and white, and they came out, to my surprise, beautifully. I was impressed that they were able to be enlarged to such a degree and not look blurry. And the paper (while so thin I was worried about accidentally tearing it) lends it an artful, careless look rather than the expected framed print over the couch.

Parabo Press is a breeze to use: It’s clean and easy to read, your options are straightforward, and there are no annoying upsells. The site also offers prints on metal, glass, newsprint and Zines (handmade magazines); calendars; photo books; and prints from its Risograph machine, which uses soy-based ink and is described by Parabo as having “a cult following since its invention in 1980s Japan.”

Fabric Prints

A fabric print — not soft like a bedsheet, more like a place mat made of matte woven fabric — is another departure from a traditional photo enlargement. Order one from a site such as SnapBox and instead of framing it, you can peel and stick it on your wall. The site’s fabric posters adhere to (and can be peeled off) smooth surfaces such as untextured walls, glass, ceilings, tile and finished wood surfaces (avoid surfaces like stucco, concrete blocks, brick, unfinished wood, canvas or freshly painted walls). SnapBox offers fabric posters in more than a dozen sizes from 4x4 to 36x54, from less than $2 to about $80.

I ordered a 24x36 fabric poster for $34.99, a discounted price thanks to a holiday coupon — not cheap (you can buy fine art prints on other sites for less), but you’re printing on special material. Regardless of the cost, I expected the finished product to look like the sort of cheap thing one might see in a dorm room (it sticks to walls, after all), but I was pleasantly surprised. The fabric was durable and the details in the photo — crevasses in a glacier; onlookers on a bridge — were nicely defined.

SnapBox is a user-friendly site with clear instructions and pricing. In addition to fabric posters, it also offers fine art prints, photo books and prints on canvas and pillows.

by Stephanie Rosenbloom, NY Times |  Read more:
Image: Stephanie Rosenbloom