Printing and Displaying Photos Like Peter Lik

My photo of the entrance to The Peter Lik Gallery in Key West Florida just before I went inside.

Peter Lik is an amazing landscape photographer, and I’ve admired his work for years. I’ve  been to his art galleries in Hawaii and Key West Florida, and the things that make his photos stand out to me are how he displays his work and how he prints them. I’ve studied his work and here’s what I’ve learned:

Peter Lik – Printing, Framing, and Gallery Lighting

Written here is what I know from either first-hand knowledge, from my research or from what others have said. I don’t guarantee that it is all accurate, but it is as close as I can come to being so. Here is my list:

  1. His prints seem to “glow” and this is because I believe he prints on FujiFlex Crystal Archive Pearl paper. This paper reflects light nicely and is a premium paper used for photo exhibitions. He probably prints them off of a Lightjet printer, or possibly a Chromira or Durst Lambda at 200-300 ppi. If you’re trying to achieve this look at a reduced price, you can get your photos printed on Crystal Archive Pearl at Bay Photo. An excellent alternative and comparable is also the Kodak Endura Metallic paper.
  2. His prints are most likely framed using optical grade acrylic Perspex made by Lucite. This is not regular glass or acrylic. The light transmission through this stuff is superior. He face mounts his prints to this Perspex acrylic and the combination of the Fuji Flex Crystal Archive paper and the Perspex that it is mounted against makes for excellent light transmission to the print. I also heard that his prints are sandwiched between two 1/8″ sheets of Lexan and that he may be trying to patent his polycarbonate, but this is just rumor. The adhesive film he may use is a mystery to me, but it could be the Facemount™ brand by Drytac. He has some prints that are not framed in his galleries, but most are framed with Roma Tobacchino Dark Ash molding made by Roma Molding.
  3. Lighting in his galleries is with a Lutron lighting system with MR16 halogen bulbs. The Lutron system has dimmers to get the lighting just right. Also critical is the placement of the lights and angles. Track lighting is used in his galleries, and I’ve heard that some people have had success by using Solux 4700K bulbs. 4700K may be the color temperature that the Lik Galleries use, but I can not be sure on that. Some experimentation would be needed to determine it. Also, some dull ambient lighting is always on in the Lik Galleries, so adding some amount of background light will add to the effect. His galleries seem to be dark, and that helps, but not too dark.
  4. The frames he sells with his prints come in a variety of colors and styles and are made by Roma Molding and sold under the name Italian Roma by a variety of vendors in addition to the manufacturer.

Inside a Peter Lik Gallery

Printing

If you’re making your own prints and trying to get the same effect as the Lik process, just the printing alone will set off your photos. So if you take away nothing else from this, print on some metallic paper next time and see the difference in your prints. I use Pearl Metallic UV Coated paper from Bay Photo and get great results.

One thing about the metallic paper is that it needs light to make it shine. This is why the Peter Lik galleries pay such attention to the lighting. The paper needs proper lighting. Experiment with the lighting but try to use the same halogen bulbs as Peter Lik galleries do because the color of the light makes a big difference in how the print appears.

However, don’t think that the metallic paper will not look good unless you have perfect lighting – that is just not true. The metallic paper on its own will bring out an inner glow to your prints.

As an alternative, consider printing on metal. The metal print has become very popular because the “D-max” or “blackest black” that can be produced on metal is very black. This means these prints have magnificent contrast. I’ve printed on Aluminum, and my photos turn out very well. I feel that prints on metal, are many times better than the prints on metallic paper with acrylic mounting like Peter Lik uses. I am not alone in this opinion either.

Another photo from inside a Peter Lik gallery.

The Photography

Last, but certainly not least, the quality of the photos themselves must be high. Of course, the content must be great, but the dynamic range of the photos must also extend to both ends of the histogram. There must be bright areas and dark ones to make the prints stand out. I’ve written about this [here]. Peter Lik knows how to do this very well.

When I was in Hawaii at his Honolulu gallery, I took a close look at the framed prints. I could see a lot of film grain in the photos. This, however, did not degrade the photos, and it is possible that film grain can even enhance them. Consider including some film grain in your photos.

Making your prints look like Peter Lik Gallery prints is not out of reach for you. It can be done by observing what he did and doing the same or similar! (click to tweet)

His galleries throughout the world continue to sell his works exclusively. In a bit of a surprising move, but indicative of the economic times, Peter Lik has closed all of his galleries in his home country of Australia. He’s gone to where the money is, and that is primarily Las Vegas where he has several galleries.

Summary

As a photographer, it has been my goal to emulate the best but still be unique. By studying Peter Lik and his techniques, I have learned a lot about what I can do with my art to stand out from the crowd. I hope you find the same.

 

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