Custom Originals – What and Why?

Custom originals are also commonly known as enlargements, blow-ups or master prints. Not everybody needs a custom original, and those that do need them don’t realize it, or don’t understand why they would… or even what they are.

A custom original is a single original print of your image, which has been custom color correct and adjusted. In the days of film, a custom original was required in order to make reproductions. Once you had that custom original done, you would then print the reproductions in mass quantities and you would have your stack of headshots!  In the digital age, it is no longer a requirement, though they are still recommended for proofing purposes. If you are unsure if you want to set up the image, simply get a custom original print and see what it looks like larger. This will allow you to see multiple images without having to set them all up.

If you shot on film, making reproductions from a custom original is recommended.  This will allow you to take full advantage of the fact you shot on film, which is admittedly much better quality than digital. Colors will be cleaner, skin tones creamier, less grain and no pixels. The transition between shadows and highlights are much cleaner.

If your shot on digital, custom originals are still extremely useful, but in a different way. Since you will not generally get an opportunity to see the true coloration of a digital photo until it is professionally printed (because monitors and LCD screens will not give you accurate colors), it is recommended that you get a custom original to proof out your top picks before you go to print with one of them. If you are not sure if you want to reproduce an image, a custom original print will allow you to see your image printed up and see if in fact that is the shot to reproduce and print up the headshots. It’s a good time to also see if you need any retouching done as well, since often once images are blown up and printed, many little details that were not visible on the computer show up on the print.

Custom originals are also useful if you wish to make a single print for framing, or display.

Rays custom originals, unlike what you would get at a Kinkos or pharmacy lab, are always color corrected and printed with professional chemicals, in a professional printing machine, on high quality archival photo paper. This produces a print that is true to color. You can elect to have your photo printed on a luster/matte finish, as well. This is something you cannot typically do at an amateur lab. Often, amateur prints have a high gloss finish that is not suitable for most artistic or industry applications.

In summary, you would get a custom original for the following reasons:

  • you shot with a film photographer and want the best possible print
  • not sure if you want to setup and reproduce the image
  • need to compare a few shots blown up to see them larger. This will save on setting up multiple images if you are unsure
  • want a nice print to give mom for her birthday to put in a frame :-)

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