Posts Tagged ‘printing’

How To Get Great Online Prints

Friday, September 8th, 2017

The master digital image file and the final print.

Note: Readers have asked some great printing questions in various locations, so I’m compiling them along with my answers at the end of the article so they are all in one place.

I often get questions about how I prepare an image for printing with an online print lab for best results, so I’ve collaborated with Artmill.com to create this tutorial which we hope will help you get great prints.

Printing online can be as simple as uploading phone pics to a lab directly from your smart phone or as advanced as working one on one with a professional print master to go through a multi-step hard-proofing process to fine tune every aspect of the final piece. Most of us who are photography enthusiasts will take an approach somewhere in the middle. Just a few simple pointers can really elevate the quality of your prints.

In the video below, I take you through my process of preparing an image for printing online. In both Lightroom and Photoshop, I cover how to address color accuracy, contrast, sizing, sharpening and the most common print challenge…prints that come out too dark. In the video, I unbox the print so you can see how it turned out.

Artmill was kind to provide the promo code OUTDOOREXPOSURE for my viewers/readers. You can use it at http://www.artmill.com to get 15% off your first order.

For more tips on printing make sure to read Zack Schnepf’s article on the Photo Cascadia blog: www.photocascadia.com/blog/5-essential-tips-when-preparing-images-for-print

You can also view my tutorial on soft proofing in Photoshop: https://youtu.be/ND_GzCueX4s

Just to be clear, I don’t work for Artmill and I was not paid to do this video. We felt some information on this topic would be welcomed and they were kind enough to provide the printing. The print itself will be auctioned as part of a fundraiser for the public library here in my home town.

Your Q’s generated by the video and my A’s:

Q: I’ve been wanting to try an online print, but worried I would mess it up.

A: If you haven’t printed online before I suggest ordering a small test print on photo paper first and if you like what you get, then order a larger, more expensive print. Some labs even offer a free small sample print on your first order for proofing purposes.

Q: I have had such awful experiences with online prints! Always dark, grainy, out of focus.

A: It’s important to remember that the print can only be as good as the original image file. Issues that may not be noticeable at a small size on screen, such as noise or soft focus, will become very obvious in a large print. It’s important to zoom in to 100% magnification to inspect and evaluate images. If you see noise, focus or other issues that bother you at this magnification then they will be visible in a large print…and the larger the print the more visible they become.

Q: When you were in Photoshop did you increase the size of the image? I always thought this would make it blurry and lose sharpness and detail.

A: Yes, I did enlarge the image in the video…both in the Lightroom example and the Photoshop example. If you want to print a photo bigger than the size it comes out of your camera it must be enlarged somehow. You can either do it or the print lab will do it…but somebody is doing it. There are two ways that Photoshop can enlarge images for printing. It can either increase the number of pixels in the image (interpolation) or it can increase the “size” of the pixels (decrease the pixels per inch). Taken far enough, both of these methods will eventually lead to decreased image sharpness and detail. But Lightroom/Photoshop now do an excellent job enlarging. I find that I can at least double the output size of my original image file and still get excellent results. For example, without any enlarging an image from my 30.4 megapixel Canon 5D4 will print at roughly 15 x 22.5 inches at 300 ppi. This means that I can enlarge up to 30×45 at 300 ppi with very good detail and even up to 40×60 or larger if the image is very clean or when printing on textured paper or canvas, which doesn’t show as much fine detail anyway. Depending on the viewing distance, you could potentially go even larger. I have printed wall murals 15 feet high that look great because you have to stand back several feet to view them. They are not as sharp up close, but that’s not how they are meant to be viewed. So, if you want to print images larger than they come out of your camera I say go for it!

Q: Before you apply the sharpening for print, do you remove all other sharpening that might have been applied before in Lightroom?

A: I learned from the photography gurus, Mac Holbert and Jeff Schewe, to think of image sharpening in three phases: input sharpening, creative sharpening and output sharpening. Input sharpening is the fine sharpening you can do in LR or Camera Raw to tighten up the fine edges and optimize clarity that is lost with digital cameras (caused by low pass filters and pixel bleed). Creative sharpening is the interpretive and often localized sharpening (or blurring) and clarity work we do during the developing process to help guide the eye, create depth and dimension and showcase elements. Output sharpening is the sharpening done to an output copy to optimize the image for the particular output at the particular size. For example, an image sized to 1000 pixels wide for viewing on the internet has different output sharpening needs than an image sized to 18,000 pixels wide for a 60 inch print on canvas. All three of the sharpening passes are independent of the other and need to be determined on a case by case basis based on the qualities of the image and the intent of the photographer. But, in short…all three types of sharpening work together so don’t remove one to add the other. You do want to carefully evaluate and adjust them as you go to make sure that they are working in concert with each other, however.

Q: Do you also increase the exposure, contrast and vibrance when printing on your home printer?

A: Yes I do, but at home I can also soft proof with the ICC profile for my printer and the paper I’m using and I can run test prints and make adjustments until I get it just right…so the process is a bit more scientific.

Q: You selected the printer resolution of 2880 x 1440 in Output Sharpener Pro. How did you know what to select there?

A: This is another question you could ask your lab to find out what settings they use and be the most accurate, but the differences will be slight. On my own printer that is the ink dot resolution I print with. I didn’t ask Artmill what printer resolution they use so I went with that to be safe. Choosing a lower resolution in Sharpener Pro adds more sharpening to compensate for fewer dots of ink. If I don’t know the ink dot resolution the printer will put down on paper I feel it is better to err on the side of under sharpening than over sharpening.

Q: Are the Nik/Google plug-ins still available? It was great when Google made them free…but then I heard they were going to stop offering them. If they are still available then people should grab them while they can.

A: Yes still available at the moment. There are other options as well, including PhotoKit Sharpener 2.0 by PixelGenius, Topaz and others.

 

 

Sean is a full-time photographer and photography educator. You can see more of his images and find out about his video tutorial courses and upcoming workshops, tours and classes on his website at www.OutdoorExposurePhoto.com.

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5 ESSENTIAL TIPS WHEN PREPARING IMAGES FOR PRINT

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

My favorite way to experience photography is through print.  It’s hard to describe the tremendous satisfaction I get when viewing my own prints, or prints from a photographer I admire.  I’ve always enjoyed printing myself.  I learned to print in the darkroom in my college photography classes and when I moved to digital I taught myself how to make my own prints at home.  As my photography progressed people started to ask if they could buy prints of my images.  Eventually, I started doing art festivals and gallery shows to share my work and make more print sales.  Whether you plan to print yourself, or have prints made by a dedicated print shop it’s essential that you understand a few basic concepts about color management and preparing images for print.

We live in an increasingly screen based culture.  The majority of photography I see is on some sort of screen.  A lot of photographers I meet who are starting photography exist almost exclusively in the digital universe.  Eventually though, you, or someone you know might want a print made of your photos.  Photographic printing can be daunting at first, but it’s very satisfying to see your own images in print, and you will be a better photographer if you understand the fundamentals of color management and print preparation.  In this article, I’ll share five essential tips for getting you and your images ready to print.

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Surrounded by my prints at the Sunriver Art Festival 2016

    1. CALIBRATE YOUR MONITOR:
      It’s hard to stress how important this is.  There is no point spending hours processing your photos for print if you haven’t calibrated your monitor.  It’s the foundation of color management, and brings everyone into a common color standard.  I remember when I got started in photography many years ago, I read on some forums about the importance of calibrating my monitor.  At the time I was more concerned with acquiring more lenses and gear and didn’t see why it was a big deal.  When I started printing I learned a hard and expensive lesson.  The first prints I made were a huge disappointment.  They didn’t look like what I saw on my monitor at all, the colors were off and it came out really dark.  With a little more friendly advise I finally invested in a decent calibrations package.  Once I calibrated my monitor I realized two important things.  One, it’s really helpful when everyone is using the same color standards and profiles, otherwise what may look red on my screen could look orange, or purple on another.  Two, I had my monitor set way too bright.  Reflected light from a print will never look as bright as transmitted light from a screen.  Lowering screen brightness much better reflects how an image will print.  Here is a link to the colormunki screen calibrator I use now.  Very easy to use and profiles really accurately.  All of their products work really well, but I like the customization options with the colormunki display model: http://xritephoto.com/colormunki-display
    2. UNDERSTAND BASIC COLOR MANAGEMENT:
      Whether you are printing yourself, sending your files to a dedicated print shop, or preparing an image for a publisher, you will get much better results if you understand the basics of color management.  There are two basic concepts to understand when managing color on your computer. The first is using the correct color space when exporting from Lightroom, or Adobe Camera Raw and the right color setting in Photoshop.  I always use the Pro Photo RGB color space as it has the widest color gamut, I prefer to start my editing with as many colors as possible especially if I will be printing the image.  The second concept is using the right printing profile.  If you’re having someone else print for you, it’s still important to understand printer profiles.  You can use a printer profile to soft proof your image and get a preview of how it will look when printed with the specific printer and paper they use.  Printer profiles are scripts used by the printer to adhere to color standards, they help the printer produce an image that looks as close to what you see on your screen as possible.  I’ll talk more about soft proofing in the next section.

      Export settings in Lightroom Preferences

    3. SOFT PROOFING AND HARD PROOFING:
      Soft proofing is using software such as Lightroom, or Photoshop to preview a printer profile.  Soft proofing attempts to simulate what the image will look like when printed on a specific print paper with a specific printer.  I think soft proofing is useful to get you in the right ballpark, but I don’t trust soft proofing completely. It is still pretty unreliable when trying preview exactly what a print will look like.  I use soft proofing to get me close and then I order a test print which is called a hard proof.  Once the test print is made, or arrives from a print shop, I can evaluate it and make any adjustments that I think it needs.  This method is what I rely on when making prints for customers, art shows and galleries.  The videos below help explain soft proofing in Lightroom and Photoshop.
      Great video on soft proofing in Lightroom:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M9B8ABOb9U
      Another video about basic soft proofing in Photoshop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y47uoKE_dAs
    4. SHARPEN APPROPRIATELY FOR EACH PRINT MEDIUM AND SIZE.
      Each print medium I use requires different levels of sharpening to look it’s best.  For instance, noise from over sharpening shows up easier on metal prints.  Both acrylic and traditional inkjet prints are more forgiving and hide minor noise and digital artifacts better.  Canvas is the most forgiving.  Print size is also something to consider.  What does this mean in practical terms for my workflow?  I’ve adopted a simple and flexible approach to sharpening.  I do normal output sharpening in Lightroom or ACR to correct for softness introduced by camera, lens, and the RAW format.  The amount varies for each image.  I continue with my workflow in photoshop to produce a master file with all layers and adjustments preserved if possible.  If I’m going to make a print, I save a flattened copy of the master file and sharpen it specifically for that print size and medium.  Sometimes it doesn’t need additional sharpening, but if it does it’s usually the last adjustment I make before sending it to print.  As a general guideline, I sharpen more for smaller prints, and less for larger prints.  The is counter intuitive for many people, but I’ve found that smaller prints need more because they lose sharpness when they are scaled down, and large prints tend to show any unwanted effects that might arise from over sharpening.  This is my personal preference and there are other factors to consider including the view distance.
    5. ADJUST LUMINANCE FOR SPECIFIC PRINT MEDIUMS.
      Each print medium has it’s own perceptual brightness and ambient reflectivity.  Like I described in the sharpening section, I save a flattened copy of my master file for each specific size and print medium I print on.  Aluminum prints and lumachrome acrylic prints have high ambient reflectivity and perceptual brightness, therefore they require very little, if any brightness adjustment. Traditional inkjet prints and canvas require a lot more brightness adjustments if you want to replicate the look you see on your screen.

I’ve been printing a long time, and I’ve learned several important lessons from printing over the years.  I’ve noticed that my processing workflow has evolved to accommodate printing.  I now tend to process with printing in mind first, and make specific changes to the file later when posting to the web.  I also have evolved to process in the most editable and non destructive way to preserve the image quality.  I think printing has made me a better photographer and has helped me improve my image quality.

Old video blog about basic printing from Photoshop:  http://www.photocascadia.com/blog/intro-to-photoshop-printing-video/#.WIT_MrGZMUE

Recommended printing companies:  These are the two print companies that I use.  I’ve tried a lot print shops, and these guys both produce incredible, quality prints.  I get my Aluminum prints from: http://www.hdaluminumprints.com and acrylic prints from http://www.nevadaartprinters.com

Current Trends in Photo Print Mediums

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

by Zack Schnepf

I’ve been doing art festivals and gallery shows for 8 years now.  In that time I’ve noticed several changing trends in regards to what type of prints customers prefer.  I’ve seen a huge shift away from traditional framed prints and canvas and toward newer technology like aluminum and acrylic prints.  I think there are several reasons for this shift.  In this article I’ll talk about my observations while selling prints and share my opinion on why people are buying more metal and acrylic and what advantages they offer over traditional print mediums.

A little history.  When I started doing art festivals eight years ago there were only two mediums most photographers were printing on.  Tradition printing papers like glossy and matte inkjet paper, and canvas prints.  About five years ago, I started to see a few photographers printing on aluminum, acrylic and a few other non-traditional mediums.  I really liked the look of these new mediums, but they were more expensive and in the case of the acrylic prints, really heavy.  At that time I was in the middle of a failed experiment trying out canvas printing.  Canvas prints failed for me because I specialize in highly detailed grand landscape scenes and the detail gets lost in the texture.  Certain images still sold well on canvas, but they were primarily low detail abstracts and painterly looking scenes that lent themselves to the medium.

After my failed canvas experiment I wanted to try some prints on Aluminum.  Aluminum prints have a lot of advantages over traditional print mediums.  They are much more durable, water proof, scratch resistant, light weight, very archival, don’t need to be framed, very three dimensional, and very bright.  They also have less reflection issues compared to framed prints with standard glass.  They do have a few disadvantages as well.  They are not as detailed as traditional inkjet prints and have a much more limited color gamut.  The limited color gamut is my biggest issue with metal prints.  It can be very challenging to get certain colors to render correctly.  Because of this, I have test prints made before I order a full size aluminum print.  Once I get a test print, I make adjustments to the print file and order a another test print until I get the results I’m looking for.  In my experience, green is the hardest color to render correctly.

5 years ago, when I tried aluminum prints for the first time, they were a big hit.  Very few other photographers were printing on metal so my images really stood out at shows.  They also look very impressive in person due to their 3 dimensionality, brightness and punchy colors.  Pretty soon, all of the images I displayed were printed on aluminum and I’ve enjoyed good success at shows ever since.

Photo: iPhone photo of my 2016 both setup displaying aluminum and acrylic prints.

Art Festival Booth 2016

Recently I’ve been experimenting with acrylic prints and they are my current favorite.  They represent the best of both worlds and the best overall quality in my opinion.  Like aluminum prints, they are bright and have a beautiful three dimensional glossy look, but they also retain the detail and color gamut of traditional inkjet prints.  They do have a few draw backs compared to metal prints.  They are heavier, and they scratch easier.  Scratching is the only real issue i have with the acrylic prints.  You need to be careful when moving, or cleaning acrylic prints.

Photo:  iPhone photo, acrylic print made by Nevada Art Printers

Acrylic Print

Conclusion and recommendations.  We have more options that ever for printing our photographs.  Different types of images work well on different print mediums.  For the grand landscapes I’m focusing on, metal and acrylic are my current favorite print mediums.  If I were choosing a print to hang on my own wall I would probably choose an acrylic print, unless it was an area that wasn’t lit very well.  In that case I would choose an aluminum print for it’s brightness and reflectivity.  For most customers I recommend aluminum first.  The durability, brightness, visual impact, and ease of maintenance are hard to beat.  The exception is certain images don’t print well on aluminum.  There are about 20% of my images that I can’t get to print very well on aluminum.  In these cases I recommend acrylic instead.

Where do I have my prints made?  I still produce my own traditional prints, but I use specialty printers for both acrylic and aluminum.  For aluminum prints I use: http://www.hdaluminumprints.com.  Randy at HD Aluminum Prints does a fantastic job and profiles better than any other aluminum printer I’ve used. I have my acrylic prints made at:  http://www.nevadaartprinters.com.  They produce incredible quality acrylic prints!

Needle In The Haystack – Finding Imperfections On Large Prints

Monday, May 23rd, 2016

 

Note: Don’t scroll down right away if you want to “test” yourself on this post with the first set of images before looking over the second set.

Recently I had over a dozen different photos printed for a project I am working on, many of them what I would classify as large (>=24×36) and some of them it was the first time I printed them large. Looking over the final prints as I signed them, I couldn’t find any imperfections that jumped out at me which I can’t say is always the case.

I always try what I can to see blemishes or imperfections that will only make themselves known when showing up to your doorstep or the client when printed large, but are tricky to spot before you ship the files to the lab. What looks fine as web size or even filling up the full screen on a decent size monitor may look like an issue on a large print.

Here are four examples that went to print that either myself or the client caught a potential issue after it was printed. The first set of images is for you to look over and see if you notice something that might be an issue when blown up. Realize that this is also somewhat subjective, you could notice something that I think is fine and vice versa. Plus you may not agree with what I am choosing to clean up which is another topic all together. I also realize that having a large web sized file makes it tough but know for all these cases the image you first see has an ‘issue’ that required me to reprint it. Take a look at them and see if you notice what it is, note you will need to click on them to view the larger size. I will say two of them are very hard to pick out which is my intention here. Then scroll down to the images further in the post to see if it’s the same as you found.

Paint Splatter

Painted200-30x45

TumaloMountain-022413_0084

Rocky Reflections

 

The question of course is what to do to try and spot issues when printing larger prints as early in the printing process as possible. Here are ones I have used either on their own or various combinations. I find #2 being the best choice given I have enough time for the order in question.

1.    View at Print Size – Review the photo at 100% or size you will print within Photoshop and pan around from corner to corner. Anything that looks funky or out of place will likely look the same or worse when you get the large print. For reference my processing setup includes two monitors with my main one a 24”.

2.    Test Print – Before you spend $300 or $400 for that large metal or canvas print order a less expensive paper print. Many labs have different paper options and you can choose a lower/regular quality option for this purpose.

3.    Big Screen – If you don’t have a huge 30″ monitor display on your TV or project if you have a projector. Yes the resolution won’t be the same as your computer monitor yet you can still see it large for possible issues to clean up. If you notice them here you certainly will on a finer resolution print.

4.    Stop Staring – Don’t stare at the digital file roaming around endlessly without stepping away and come back later in the day or next day. You look too long and start to see what you want, a file that’s ready to go to the lab whether it is or isn’t!

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Below are what I deemed potential imperfections or issues on each image (shown with black square zooming 100% to specific spot) with my comments on each.

Photo – lichen on rock near Lake Abert, Oregon. In this case when I got the 24×36 metal print from the lab, I was sure it was a scratch from shipping or something from the lab. Then I looked at my file. This white hair, likely from an animal was nothing that jumped out to me on my 24” monitor but once I got the metal print I realized I could not let it go to my client. I had to reorder after cleaning it up.

5-21-2016 2-54-35 PM

Photo – White River Falls, Oregon. Here I shipped off a 30×45 paper print to a gallery/frame shop that they ordered. I got a call that there was something that looked like a black hair in the image. I said what?! I looked over the actual print before it went out. I pulled up the file and low and behold there is this hair-like line that I am guessing is from zooming is a piece of rebar that got stuck with the rocks.

5-21-2016 3-11-54 PM

Photo – Tumalo Mountain, Oregon summit in winter. This one is more obvious and I should have noticed it but goes to show you even the objects that I feel should be cleaned up sometimes are missed. You could waiver either way about it leaving the avalanche warning sign but in the end it was a distraction and I felt should not be left in the image looking at it large.

5-21-2016 3-32-14 PM

Photo – Mount Jefferson, Oregon reflected in seasonal tarn. This is one that is probably the most subjective. These white’ish rocks in this tarn looked fine small yet when I received the 24×36 canvas they looked like a printing issue, not rocks. They really did not look right to me. That said in this case I rationalized that it was part of the image and I was letting the small details take me over beyond a reasonable manner. It went to the client and they were thrilled with the canvas piece.

5-22-2016 7-21-44 AM

These are just a few examples that quickly came to mind when writing this blog post that I thought were worth sharing. Even though I am not printing or selling at a high volume I value the quality of my work which is why I pay attention to these details while trying to not let it consume me. It’s always a tricky balance. Feel free to share other tips you have on this as I would welcome hearing them.

Hard Proofing for Optimal Fine Art Prints

Monday, January 20th, 2014

Tattered-and-Swift-final

Sometimes I find that producing a print that looks as good hanging on the wall as I want it to can be a challenge. In many cases, as long as I have carefully developed my images on a calibrated monitor, ordering a print through a print lab or printing on my own photo printer yields very good results.  However, there are times when producing a print that looks right displayed in it’s intended location is elusive. The light source in which a print is viewed greatly affects its apparent brightness, color and contrast and the particular print media will also affect resolution and sharpness.

Soft proofing in the computer is helpful for getting a print under perfect lighting conditions to more closely match the way it appears on the screen. I have a previous article and video on soft proofing in Photoshop if you want to check that out.  While soft proofing is good for compensating for paper color and brightness, it can’t help anticipate how the texture of the paper, viewing distance and room lighting will affect how the image will look when viewed in its environment.

Hard proofing is a way to make fine adjustments for such variables.  Hard proofing is the process of printing a test print, evaluating it in the intended viewing conditions, making adjustments, printing again and repeating this process until you are satisfied with how the print looks. Obviously, hard proofing can be time consuming and expensive. I don’t do extensive hard proofing for every print I make, but when a print isn’t living up to expectations I use a technique allows me to get the print right. This technique can be used to optimize any variable that will affect how your final print will look, such as brightness, color balance, contrast, saturation and sharpening.

Build A Photoshop Action For Soft Proofing by Sean Bagshaw

Friday, September 28th, 2012

We work hard carefully developing our images so they sing on the monitor only to be disappointed that when we print them they don’t quite live up to what we saw on the screen. Part of this is due to the fact that there are differences in the way that monitors and paper transmit light. However, if an image has been properly optimized for printing on a specific paper then it is possible to achieve something that very closely matches what we saw on screen. Printing multiple proof copies and making adjustments between each print until it looks right is one way to approach the problem, but this is time consuming, expensive and wasteful. Soft proofing provides another option. Photoshop (and now Lightroom 4) allow for soft proofing by simulating what an image will look like when printed on a certain type of paper or other print media. Comparing the print simulation to how the image looks on the monitor allows us to make adjustments on screen that will allow the image to match our intent when printed. Soft proofing is a multi step process so it can be time consuming. In this video tutorial I show how to build an action in Photoshop that streamlines the soft proofing workflow so a “proofed” image is created with a single click.

More video tutorials of my Photoshop image developing techniques are available for download at OutdoorExposurePhoto.com or HERE on the PhotoCascadia site.