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Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.
18 October 2016
Recently we got Fractured. A Fracture is a glass photo. It's a photo, that is, which is printed on glass using an ultraviolet cured ink process. The glass is backed by a white sheet attached to a black 3/16-inch foamcore board with a screw hanger cut out in the rear.
The glass itself isn't tempered but because it adheres to the backing, it won't scatter all over the floor if you break it.
But the real attraction is that you don't have to give any more thought to the presentation. There's no need to frame a Fracture, just hang it on the wall or use the included stand to prop it up.
We liked the concept so much we thought we'd give it a try.
WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
The Fracture "fractory," as they call it, is in Gainseville, Fla. Every Fracture is printed and hand assembled there. All you have to do is upload a photo to Fracture and in a few days, you get a Fracture delivered to your door.
The idea had its genesis in a nonprofit project run by students at the University of Florida.
Abhi Lokesh met Alex Theodore through a mutual friend in a social entrepreneurship class at the University of Florida. The three of them started a nonprofit venture that involved an online art gallery to generate revenue.
Their experience with the nonprofit art gallery taught them a lot about the framing and photo industries. "We came to realize that there had to be a better way, a more intuitive way, to get pictures off hard drives and social networks and storage sites and actually onto your walls," Lokesh said in a recent interview.
Theodore had been experimenting with painting on glass, which led him to investigate printing on glass. Early prototypes were promising, so they harnessed an industrial printing production system to Theodore's workflow concept.
They also built a Web site ordering system to make ordering simple. Which they did very well. It's straightforward, easy to navigate and quick.
The Fracture ordering process is simple enough it doesn't allow much room for procrastination. Print on glass or forget it. But there are some options. Like what size you want your Fracture to be. Here's the chart:
FRACTURE SIZES Rectangles Dimensions Resolution Price Small 4.8 x 6.4 inches 1440 x 1920 pixels $18 Medium 7.2 x 9.6 inches 2160 x 2880 pixels $40 Classic 10.8 x 14.4 inches 3240 x 4320 pixels $65 Large 15.6 x 20.8 inches 4680 x 6240 pixels $85 Extra Large 21.6 x 28.8 inches 6480 x 8640 pixels $125 Squares Dimensions Resolution Price Small 5 x 5 inches 1500 x 1500 pixels $15 Medium 11 x 11 inches 3300 x 3300 pixels $55 Large 23 x 23 inches 6900 x 6900 pixels $115
There are two important points to make about these options:
- The rectangular aspect ratio is 4:3 and the only other option is a square 1:1 aspect ratio. No 16:9, no 3:2. The glass is cut not matted.
- The resolutions are maximum rather than ideal. In fact, when you select a size for your uploaded file, you will be warned if the image has insufficient resolution for the size print you want. Fracture recommends at least a 1-MB file size with 300 pixels per inch resolution. "We will issue a warning for images below 100 ppi and refuse to print any images below 60 ppi," the FAQ notes.
As with any printing service, it's essential to learn what the production requirements are and to edit your images to match them. If you're expecting good results.
Color images should use the sRGB color profile.
For this review, we selected three representative test images. We ordered them all at the same Classic size to be able compare our black-and-white scan, digicam art filtered image and dSLR landscape.
Here were the specs:
IMAGE SPECIFICATIONS Title Resolution Profile Notes Canandaigua 5138 x 3358 pixels None Scan from 35mm negative Berkeley Bike 3240 2217 sRGB PowerShot A630 capture with Photoshop art filter Donner Lake 3872 x 2592 pixels sRGB Nikon D200 capture
All of these were 4:3 images but, as you can see, from different sources. They all also exceeded the minimum production requirements.
The ordering process, which is constantly being tweaked, was remarkably easy. You simply upload an image and pick a size. That's it.
Smaller sizes offer the additional option of a metal stand for $3.
Picking a size is simple. Your freshly-uploaded image is displayed in all its glory in the middle of the screen with available sizes displayed along the left side along with their price.
On the right side, you can adjust the quantity and see the running total.
You can also tap into the Advanced Editor or Change Photo, neither of which we needed to do.
You run through the upload/size screens for each image in your order before completing your order.
To complete your order, you check out in three steps:
- First you enter your shipping and billing information.
- Then you select your shipping options. Free FedEx home delivery is available with about a two-week lag. UPS Priority and Express Mail are available, as is FedEx 2nd Day and Next Day. In addition, you can rush your order for an additional charge. And you can confirm your order details.
- Finally, you confirm payment and checkout.
It really was a breeze.
EMAIL CONFIRMATION, STATUS
The company does an exceptional job with email communication. And they have fun doing it.
Our Welcome email said:
Well, we're flattered. It wasn't long ago that we were both strangers. Adoring each other from afar. Now look at us. You're sharing your email address, and we're sharing our feelings.
A second email followed the Welcome email.
By then we had gotten to work, uploading our images, picking sizes and finishing our order. In addition to the on-screen order confirmation, we received an Order Confirmation email shortly after.
And when our order shipped, we received a Shipping Confirmation email, too.
That wasn't the end of it, though. The Fracture Team sent us an emsil newsletter as well, with kitchen and photo tips. Just like an old friend.
Just like the ordering process, the company is constantly tweaking its email correspondence so you may not see exactly what we did. But we suspect you'll feel just as pampered.
Our order, which was confirmed about 2:30 p.m. Pacific on Monday (after hours in Florida), shipped on Wednesday as estimated in the confirmation email. The shipping notice email included a tracking number, as well.
The estimated shipping date was Wednesday, Sept. 7, and according to our order page, when we selected free FedEx ground shipping, the expected arrival date was Wednesday, Sept. 14.
What actually happened, though, was our order was shipped Wednesday, Aug. 31, and arrived via FedEx about 1:20 on Thursday, Sept. 8.
The route was amusingly circuitous, especially considering it was three glass Fractures. The package went from Ocala, Fla., to Orlando, Fla., then to Christiana, Tenn., on to Ste. Joseph, Mo., and Rawlins, Wyo. before arriving in California at Sacramento and then South San Francisco.
The Fractures are ingeniously packed. Ours were all the same size and fit into a single box just the right size for them, but with a little play on top.
Each Fracture is inset into a black foam frame attached to a cardboard backing. Three things we observed:
- The inset corners are rounded so the sharp corners of the Fracture are held by the foam itself.
- The foam has a cutout for your finger to sneak under the Fracture to lift it out. And it says, "Lift" in case you're wondering what to do.
- There's also a small cutout for the included mounting screw.
Our Classic-sized Fractures did not come with stands.
The three Fractures were stacked on top of each other and wrapped in two clear plastic bands that did not obscure the top image when we opened the box.
The only problem we noticed was that the screw in the top-most Fracture had come loose during shipping. When we picked up the package we could hear it rolling around inside.
So naturally we wondered if the metal screw had scratched the glass on the top Fracture. It hadn't.
The problem arose probably because the Fractures did not fill the depth of the box. The screw is inserted into the foam with the point embedded in the foam and the cutout snuggly holding the head of the screw, which holds it in place rather well.
But jostled on its long trip across country, it managed to come loose. A bit more padding to fill the space would have avoided the problem.
So what do they look like?
There were a few things we were curious about:
- We weren't expecting to see our images at their best when we knew they would be limited to the sRGB color space.
- We wondered if we would see a color cast from the glass itself.
- We suspected the images would be printed with a stochastic screen like an inkjet print, so we wondered what the resolution would look like.
- Finally, we wondered how our three different sources would fare. We had a digicam image, a dSLR image and a scanned negative for sources.
On those counts:
- Color was fine although not quite as compelling as our fine art prints, which were not limited to the sRGB color space. Fractures aren't going to replace fine art printing. But the limited palette of our Berkeley Bike image came through very nicely.
- We didn't notice a color cast from the glass. A framed print doesn't have one and neither does a Fracture.
- Resolution was very fine grained, approaching the continuous tone of a dye sub. We were able to distinguish individual trees in our Donner Lake image.
- Our dSLR image lost a little range going to sRGB but it was still an attractive print. Our PowerShot image held up very well and was a favorite, easily competing with the fine art print. Our scanned image had the highest resolution but the CanoScan didn't deliver much information at that resolution so the Fracture was not as sharp as the other two, ironically.
How about the general appearance?
Well, they look just like any glass-mounted photograph minus the tell-tale clips. So there's nothing peculiar about seeing them on a wall.
We don't think they mix well with framed prints. But if you do a set of them, they'll look good together.
The black foamcore board of each Fracture has cutouts for horizontal and vertical screw holes. The proper one was removed for our convenience, we noted.
But we were not terribly thrilled with the idea of screwing that big shiny screw into the wall and leaving a large hole when we got tired of the image (it happens).
And it often is easier to hang a horizontal print using two hangers rather than one because 1) it's easier to get it straight and 2) it won't shift.
We do, though, wish the company had included instructions on hanging the Fractures with the included screw, perhaps printing them on the inside of the box.
We tried hanging a Fracture from a standard nailed picture hanger designed to hook a wire attached to the back of a frame. The nail did fit in the hole and held the Fracture up but away from the wall. There are no bumpers in the bottom corners of a Fracture (you'd have to add them yourself) to stabilize the print.
The other issue with hanging is that these are unmatted images. They don't have the benefit of pushing everything else out of the way so your eyes can take just them in. You'll want to leave some space around them, we think, so they get their due.
It took us more than a few days to get around to hanging our first Fracture.
We had a blank wall in a bathroom crying out for a lovely photo. So we measured the space, marked off the edges where the 11x14 Fracture would fall with blue painters tape, found the exact spot that the hanging screw should go into the wall and measured everything one more time.
It's wise to put a piece of painter's tape over the hole location because it will keep the paint from cracking as you make the hole. And it's also wise to drill a pilot hole. We didn't bother with a drill, hammering in a nail to make our pilot hole.
The big screw went in politely (but it does make a large hole) and held in the dry wall. We didn't hit a stud so this was a worse-case scenario and the screw did the job -- and a week later is still doing it.
We did use painter's tape folded back over itself in the two bottom corners so the Fracture would remain level.
The Fracture itself is light enough a nail would hold it up (and maybe even 3M mounting tape). But the screw worked well, too. Proving once again these guys know what they're doing, attending to every little detail.
When we took the last Fracture out of its packing frame, we noticed a small insert offering referrals $10 off and earning you a $10 credit when they use it.
The insert also reminded us that our order had been inspected "for quality and accuracy" and includes a 60 Day Happiness Guarantee and Lifetime Warranty.
While we were waiting for our Fractures to arrive, the company sent us an email offering a free Fracture:
Hi there. This is Abhi, CEO at Fracture.
Day in and day out, we're constantly overwhelmed by images on screens, in the papers and on the streets. Sadly, most of them aren't good news... or maybe it just feels like that. One way or another, it seems like too many of the images we come across nowadays are troubling.
But we feel like that's not the whole story. We know there's a lot of good going on in the world. People doing wonderful things, exploring beautiful places, acting out of love, happiness and kindness... maybe it's just a matter of finding it, capturing it and sharing it.
We thought we'd wait for the first ones before ordering again, but it's the thought that counts.
For that second order, which was a 4x6 Fracture (which you can see at the top of this review), we selected a 3-Mp digicam shot from years ago. After uploading it, we added the small black metal stand to the order and accepted the default U.S. Postal Service shipping option.
These were all free options under the Happiness offer.
But by the time we actually placed our order for the free Fracture, Hurricane Matthew was bearing down on Florida's east coast. We were a little concerned about how it would affect life in Gainsville.
Gainsville is inland in northern Florida and, it turned out, was not significantly affected by the storm. In fact, our order was processed and shipped without delay, arriving a day before we expected it. And it would have arrived sooner except for the Columbus Day holiday.
December holiday orders may not be as lucky, though.
We asked the company for advice about ordering for the holidays and were told there will be a headstart sale beginning this month. "It's definitely better to order early as our production capacity, though always increasing, is usually overwhelmed toward the end of November," the marketing director confirmed.
We were impressed by the product itself, the company and the ordering process. All three are first class.
We were the only ones around here to go through the ordering process and get the status emails so you'll have to take our word for how very well that was handled. Fracture is a fun company to do business with.
But we aren't the only ones around here impressed by the Fractures.
At first, our friends, family and visitors just liked the ready-to-hang glass-only presentation of the high-resolution and vivid images. When we explained they were looking at an image printed on glass, they couldn't believe it. They thought they had died and gone to Murano.
So we're awarding all four photo corners to Fracture for an innovative print product that takes all the anxiety out of making a remote print order and provides such stellar customer support you'll want to put them on your holiday greeting card list.