Digital Printing

Digital Photo Printing and the death of the darkroom

Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
July 31 2019,
September 26 2020

Turns out some people have never watched Stranger Things. If you’re one of them, and you’re looking for a binge-watching recommendation, it’s definitely worth a look. You can check out the trailer here for a quick taster but, in summary, Netflix describes it as a tale about “a dark force that turns a small town upside down.” The news this week though is less about its “dark force” and more about its “dark room”.


A stupid question?

A young fan of the show innocently posed a question on StackExchange asking, “What is the purpose of this ‘red room’ in Stranger Things?”  He was confused by the actions of one of the show’s characters who, after spending time in an unlit room and immersing photographs in water, magically produced what appeared to be enhanced prints of the same!


A sensible answer

Initial responses to the question were factual, and sensible. “That room is called a darkroom, and it’s part of the photographic printing process” was the reply. Of course, it is. Needless to say, it didn’t end there. In an ensuing Twitter-storm, users complained about how ancient it made them feel and discussed other relics of a bygone era such as CDs, VHS tapes…even pens! All presumably mysterious objects of witchcraft to those under the age of twenty-five.


Children of the revolution

Smartphones, the Internet and digital printing have, between them, revolutionised photography; film, cameras and darkrooms being the unwitting victims of this revolution. As to a certain extent it could be argued, are professional photographers. As the latest smartphones incorporate amazing lens technology – for example, Huawei’s partnership with the legendary Leica – and applications offer endless filters and opportunities to enhance and refine our snaps.


The digital photo printing revolution

Kodak estimated that, in the year 2000, 80 billion pictures had been taken across the world. Compare that though to the whopping 1 trillion photographs, around 85% of those captured on smartphone, during 2018. Most of those will have been simply shared, stored or just deleted, but 4 x 6-inch digital photo printing will still account for some 39 billion of them. That number may be down from 47 billion in 2014 but it’s still a heck of a lot of prints.

With numbers like those, digital print providers and producers of photobooks like us may no longer need darkrooms (or “red rooms”) but it still doesn’t leave us much time to “Netflix and chill!”

We are the market leaders in digital printing quality and colour. Our new HP Indigo 12000 sets a new quality benchmark in high-resolution HD printing capability. We are surpassing offset printing with a double print resolution, meaning better smoothness and continuous tones.

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