Wintertime at Aardenburg Imaging & Archives. (Photo taken December 31, 2007)

Happy New Year Everyone! 2007 – What a year! Aardenburg Imaging & Archives was founded, the website is up and growing, and the Aardenburg Digital Print Research Program is underway. The AaI&A Digital Print Research Program incorporates my custom designed environmentally monitored (EM) picture frames. Embedded dataloggers continuously measure the framed photograph’s microclimate. EM framed prints have been shipping out to subscribing members of the Aardenburg Digital Print Research Program, and are now gathering environmental data (fluctuations in light, humidity, and temperature) under real world conditions. Each print is a unique experiment using spectrally measured color patches corresponding to the image as well as a standard set of color control patches. As participation in the program increases and more prints are sent out into the world, we look forward to posting comprehensive real-world image permanence analysis of today’s digital print technologies. For additional information on the AaI&A Digital Print Research Program, click here.

Announcement: 2008 will introduce Aardenburg Imaging & Archives’ second research program, the DIY Light Fade Testing Program. Aardenburg is beginning standardized light fade testing of many popular print processes and media, using a voluntary membership model. Test results will be published for members and the annual membership fee will be graduated. Professional photographers, print service providers, and individuals who work for corporations that manufacture and/or distribute imaging products will be asked to pay slightly more than amateur photographers and printmakers. Participants are welcome to choose the category that best fits their involvement with digital photography and printing. All members will have total access to the same information (there will be no value-added components or exclusive reports for the more expensive membership categories).

Besides full access to a growing library of image permanence test results, an additional benefit of membership and indeed a key element of the DIY (“do it yourself”) light fading program is that amateur and professional printmakers alike will be able to initiate light fading studies of personally chosen products with a little help from AaI&A by submitting their own samples for testing. The tested print samples will be real world examples produced by AaI&A members with real world variability, but the standardization of the testing will be provided by AaI&A. Sample submission by the members of AaI&A will ensure that AaI&A focuses on the products most important to members. Testing of the submitted products will be performed on a first-come-first-serve basis and as test space become available.

Members of AaI&A will get to follow the test results as they unfold from early stages of light fading onward to advanced stages of fading because AaI&A does not use single endpoint criteria to rank product lifetimes as is now standard in the industry. AaI&A will track performance of the products at multiple exposure levels and furnish color difference measurements (e.g., delta E) as well as color and tonal accuracy scores derived by the I* metric and method as the fading tests proceed. For the first time in the industry, end-users of the tested products will be able to learn about the early stages of product performance. Early signs of fading are very important in certain applications such as expensive fine art prints or professional portraiture where the color balance and skin tone reproduction in particular is held to very high standards. Typical failure criteria currently used in industry-sponsored tests are too lenient for many color critical applications, and indeed subtle changes over short periods of time in some photographic prints that reportedly use very stable materials are manifest long before current industry fading limits are met. Discerning photographers and printmakers want to know about the potential changes in their work from the earliest point in time.

The concept of the “life” of a photograph has fascinated me for many years. From my perspective, it isn’t only of import how long a photograph lasts; it matters how gracefully the photograph ages over time. Aardenburg’s approach to light fastness testing will give our members a more subtle and thorough product evaluation of light fade resistance. Tests are now underway with the following printer/ink/media combinations, and more are being added as membership in the DIY Program grows:

Canon iPF5000/ Lucia ink/ Harman Gloss FB Al
Canon iPF5000/ Lucia ink/ Canon Photo Satin 240 gram
Canon iPF5000/ Lucia ink/ Crane Museo Silver Rag
Canon iPF5000/ Lucia ink/ Crane Portfolio Rag
Canon iPF5000/ Lucia ink/ Hahnemuhle Fine Art Pearl
Canon iPF5000/ Lucia ink/ Innova F-type gloss Brt white
Canon iPF5000/ Lucia ink/ Innova F-type Gloss Warm tone
Canon iPF5000 Lucia ink/ Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308gsm
Canon iPF5000/ Lucia ink/ Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper

Epson 7800/ K3 ink/ Epson Exhibition Fiber Paper
Epson 7800/ K3 ink/ Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Paper (Enhanced Matte)
Epson 7800/ K3 ink/ Crane Museo II
Epson 7800/ K3 ink/ Epson Premium Luster Photo
Epson 7800/ K3 ink/ Epson Premium Glossy Photo
Epson 7800/ K3 ink/ Crane Museo Silver Rag
Epson 7800/ K3 ink/ Crane Museo Max

Epson R1800/ Epson Ultrachrome High Gloss ink/ Red River Ultra Pro Gloss Plus
Epson R1800/ Epson Ultrachrome High Gloss ink/ Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper
Epson R1800/ MIS R800 Ultrachrome Equivalent ink/ Red River Ultra Pro Gloss Plus
Epson R1800/ MIS R800 Ultrachrome Equivalent ink/ Epson Premium Luster Photo Paper

AaI&A looks forward to growing the community of DIY Print Program members, and together we can test many interesting product combinations that otherwise would not be tested by institutionally or industrially sponsored research labs.
Look for the new member’s area on the AaI&A website and some real test results in the 2nd quarter of 2008.

Best wishes for the New Year,
Mark