Bobbi Lane – Putting Bella Art Prints to the Test

by Bobbi Lane

As a commercial photographer, most of my images are delivered to clients as digital files, not a tangible print. In the past, I’ve had my share of Epson printers that have worked really well for making “pretty pictures” to give as wall art gifts, calendars, promos, etc. Now, however, my career also includes gallery submissions in the art world and the need for high quality prints is imperative. Without investing hundreds of hours learning to become a master digital printer (who has the time?), it’s necessary to find an excellent printing company who can consistently deliver the quality I need, on time, no hassles and also with safe packaging. And all of this for a reasonable price.
 
In a conversation with Skip Cohen, he suggested I try Marathon Press and their new Bella Art Prints. I’ve used Marathon in the past with good results and I was intrigued by his suggestion.
 
The process is so easy: sign up for an account at Marathon, load the ROES app, and follow the simple instructions. Bella Art Prints includes six paper options: Water Color, Linen, Cotton, Fine, Photo Paper, PromoMax and Pearl. One of the difficult choices a photographer must make is matching the image with the correct style of paper. For example, an image with bright and snappy colors should not be printed on a matte surface and architecture shouldn’t go on water color, etc. Of course there are exceptions, but the print’s final impact depends a lot on the surface.
 
The web portal was easy – pick the size and surface of paper on the left, upload the image (see the bottom thumbnails), select the image, and choose mounting options. The prices are excellent. I selected a 16 x 20 print for $32 and added mounting on black styrene for $10.50. It gave me sizing instructions, color corrections options: either step by step instructions, or let them do the color correcting for 50 cents an image! Hit the button and Voila! About 5 minutes start to finish.

Picture

The image I chose is one from my Hollywood Lighting in the Hurrell Style Workshop that my husband, Lee Varis and I teach at the Los Angeles Center of Photography each spring. I had the great pleasure of George Hurrell renting my studio for the last years of his life, 1980 to 1992. It was an honor and a privilege to watch this master at work, sculpting with light, superlative posing and exceptional rapport with his subjects.

This year we had exceptional models and this image is of “Angie” is a modern day interpretation of a photo that George did of Norma Shearer in 1932. Lee, being the Adobe genius that he is, used Lightroom to create the duotone of warm and cool. For my image I was drawn to the Pearl paper, which “glows with tiny glimmers of pearl dust” making it shimmer and sparkle when the light hits it just right. It’s reminiscent of Kodak’s much loved and long-gone G surface paper that had an opalescence that was perfect for portraits. I knew this image would provide a tremendous challenge to Marathon!

Picture
Click to see more of Bobbi’s work.

Picture

Just a couple of days later the print arrived! I was so surprised the turnaround was that fast. I have a pet peeve about packing and shipping, especially for something as delicate as a print. Marathon far surpassed my expectations in that department with their level of detail and care.

First we have the heavy cardboard package, which cleverly has several perforated lines to open the package. Obviously you don’t want to ruin a print by using a matte knife to cut open the outer layer. Inside it’s wrapped in brown paper and taped well.

Notice the card that reads “packaged by real people, who really care”. And that’s taped to the outer cardboard so it doesn’t flop around in transit. Open the paper and there is another layer of cardboard, and inside that is the cushioned envelope with the packing order, also taped to the cardboard to avoid jostling. Inside that (are you starting to feel like the nested Russian dolls are their inspiration?) is the print INSIDE a cellophane envelope.


Picture

Finally, and gratefully, the first view of the print knocked my socks off. Granted, it’s sitting on my dining room table under tungsten lights and my first reaction is “Wow! It’s gorgeous!”
 
Lee and I took the print outside to look under better lighting conditions and the Pearl paper gleamed and glowed. It’s hard to capture in a photo of a photo exactly how impressive this looks, but the Pearl paper adds a luminescence I’ve rarely seen in a print.
 
This is where an excellent print differentiates itself from a digital file. On the computer, images glow from the back-light, because you are looking at the light. But a real physical and substantial print elevates the viewing experience markedly. The viewer is pulled closer into the print and it comes alive, altering the perception from just a brief glance at a snapshot to a sense of wonder and awe of the interpretation of the subject.  I’ve been showing this print off to everyone who comes by and all the comments haven’t just been positive, but exemplary.
 
Marathon, with their years of experience, have stepped it up again with Bella Art Papers. It takes a lot to impress me, and well, I’m impressed! I’m looking forward to many more outstanding prints from Marathon!

Picture
Click for more information about Bella Art Prints and Albums