To start at the end, the photo we got “aluminyzed” didn’t come out well and it makes it hard to recommend the product because of that. However, while that may be the conclusion, it doesn’t really tell the story of what is a truly intriguing concept. We are, in short, not convinced that we did it all correctly… but that too represents a problem with the product.
Backing up even further, there is a company, Aluminyze, which promises to take one of your high quality digital photos and embed it in a sheet of aluminum. Their argument for doing this is that not only will the photo look cool, but that it is going to last far longer than it would on paper. A photo within a piece of aluminum won’t fade in the light and can’t easily be bent. It is its own frame and when you drop it, it won’t break. You can spill water (or soda) on it without issue. The list of advantages continue on their blog and FAQ, and their reasons are quite convincing.
Less convincing though is the actual process and, as stated, the final result.
First, privacy fans won’t necessarily like the notion that one has to create an account (or link to Facebook) in order to design a print. Next, while the upload was an easily accomplished task, editing the photo proved more difficult. We opted to (slightly) crop a photo that we wanted to use. Aluminyze analyzed the uploaded photo to determine if it was of high enough quality. Despite the large file size, ours wasn’t (it rated in the lowest section of their scale). However, upon uploading the uncropped photo, it was rated as highly as possible. We were then able to crop it online in their tool without seeing the Aluminyze analysis of the photo quality drop below “excellent.”
Maybe we should have taken that as a sign, because when the photo arrived, it did not look good. It seemed to be streaky, with little definition, and muddled colors. With an 8×10 print costing on the order of $25, ending up with a result that would be disappointing on an 89 cent drugstore print is not good.
Unfortunately, the process of getting ones print setup and ordered is less than intuitive. Consequently, I can’t tell you whether we made a mistake in how we approached it or if the issue lies in the actual manufacturing.
In fact, it is immediately after the upload that things become less than clear. Our picture was a portrait oriented one, but the default setup is landscape on Aluminyze. Clicking the big “rotate” button doesn’t change the landscape/portrait setup, it just rotates the picture within the current framework. To change from landscape to portrait one has to click a small button in the upper right hand corner of the work space which gives the photo size (10×8, in our case) and then has a couple of arrows, which, apparently indicate altering the orientation and which we only clicked on because we had no idea what it did.
Once orientation and rotation were worked out, it was time to select a white or silver surface for your picture. According to the site, white “Creates a greater depth of saturated color and superior contrasts,” whereas silver has “all colors and details pop with new life.” Whether silver or white creates a better image we couldn’t tell you. Next up, it’s matte vs. glossy, and then finally selecting whether one wants the included easel frame or a pedestal stand.
When printed, the aluminum sheet has almost a grain to it which comes through in the picture and dramatically decreases the image’s sharpness. The final effect of which, as stated, is a streaky-looking image (even if it isn’t streaked). The picture looks better from farther away, but always kind of gives off the effect of an image having been blown up far too much. That shouldn’t be the case on a slightly cropped image coming off a 10 megapixel D-SLR.
We felt a great sense of disappointment with our printed photo because it is so close to being fantastic. The shine the photo exhibits in the light is nice, the sturdiness of the picture is great, and if the clarity/sharpness of the image were adequate, Aluminyze would be a winner.
Did the problem lie in our image or how the photo was manufactured? According to Aluminyze, the photo was of high enough quality, so we assume the latter. Either way though, we followed all the directions only to get a disappointing print, so if we did something incorrectly, we were guided to the result.
We imagine that one day Aluminyze will have ironed out their process—both design and production—and that the photo will be worth the cost. At present, however, it doesn’t seem ready for primetime.