Perfect Prints Every Time: How to achieve excellent photographic prints

This is another post focused on technical aspects, rather than artistic; concerned with making prints from digital images. The main source of information was Robin Whalley’s ebook, Perfect Prints Every Time: How to achieve excellent photographic prints. However, some useful information relating to printing from Lightroom was also sourced from the internet.

The print aspect of the digital workflow does not appear to be as widely discussed as digital processing. Perhaps because many people do not make prints, but mostly share their work online, or simple do not appreciate that additional steps are necessary to get the most from digital prints. This post serves as a reminder of print steps to be added to my workflow, when printing digital images.

  1. Colour management of monitor – this needs to be regularly calibrated so screen colours match what the software (LR) thinks it is showing. The only way to do this accurately is with additional hardware – keep my x-rite i1 attached to my iMac and check calibration regularly!
  2. Print resolution – Whalley advises that images should be scaled to the native print Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 10.15.18resolution of the printer to optimise the print quality. In the case of my Epson sc-P600, this would be 360dpi.
    However, an article by Jeff Schewe in Digital PhotoPro suggests a different approach. That is if the unsampled dpi of the image is higher than the printer’s native resolution, print to the highest quality the printer can manage (for the Epson 720 dpi), otherwise information is wasted. Schewe’s test show that the eye can make the distinction between the two resolutions and perceive the additional quality.  To find out the unsampled dpi  of an image in LR check the boxes in the print module as shown above and the information then appears on the above the image as shoScreen Shot 2016-08-21 at 10.13.49wn here. Consistent with this is Whalley’s view on upscaling prints; he states, ‘typically if you’re working with a good quality file you should be able to double the dimension of the image and still produce an excellent print.’ Another observation he makes is that some matte paper types may not be able to take high-resolution prints, so it may be worth adjusting the output resolution downwards for these papers. A few test prints while making sample prints for my C&N assessment submission showed a clear difference in print quality using Schewe’s recommended approach, rather than sticking to the standard native resolution of the printer.
  3. Selective sharpening of image – this should be done prior to soft proofing of the image. Whalley recommends keeping a master version of the digital image without such sharpening and creating different versions depending on the intended output.
  4. Soft proofing – Whalley’s recommended approach is to use the relevant paper profile for the printer (aka ICC profile) used for the proof, along with ‘simulate paper and ink’ checked in LR’s proof settings. The paper profile needs to be obtained separately from the paper manufacturer – I make it a practice of selecting only papers where the relevant profile is available to avoid the hassle and expense of obtaining a custom-profile. The aim is to then get the proof image looking similar to the edited LR image (view using split screen) so that the print image looks similar to the on-screen version. It will never be exactly the same, as Whalley explains, ‘the image printed on paper will never appear as bright, vivid and have as much contrast as an image displayed on a monitor. Following on from this, different paper surfaces will have different abilities to reflect light. A gloss paper for example will reflect a lot of light where as a matte paper reflects little in comparison and may appear dull’.  Proofing entails making further processing adjustments; with local adjustments for out of gamut warnings in selected areas, ‘usually you will need to increase the “Contrast”, “Clarity”, “Vibrancy” and possibly “Saturation”” sliders’, states Whalley. It is the proofed version that should be sent to the printer.
  5. Printer set-up – this is addressed in the various LR menus and is a question of setting these to fit the printer in use. An interesting suggestion Whalley makes for black and white prints is to investigation the ABW modes of the printer, as they may produce superior results and even remove the need for proofing.

Following this research and test prints, I feel encourage to print more and make it a regular part of my workflow.

Reference

Digital PhotoPro [website]. The Right Resolution. Available from: http://www.digitalphotopro.com/technique/photography-workflow/the-right-resolution/ [accessed 21.8.16]

Killer Lightroom Tips [website]. Using print dimensions and resolution. Available from: http://lightroomkillertips.com/using-print-dimensions-resolution/ [accessed 21.8.16]

Whalley, R. (2015). Perfect Prints Every Time: How to achieve excellent photographic prints (The Lightweight Photographer Books) [Kindle iOS version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com

Leave a Reply