To satisfy my continuing interest in the technical aspects of photography, so I can make an informed choice of what to bring to my work and what to discard, I recently attended a day-long printing workshop. It was run by Mark Wood (who has some impressive credentials) and hosted by Wilkinson Cameras in their Liverpool training suite.
I feel I make reasonable prints, but you never know what you don’t know until you know – my main motivation for attending the workshop, which covered:
The Theory & Practice Of Colour Management
Setting System and Application Colour Preferences
Calibrating Monitors and Printers
Exploring the qualities and requirements for a great print
Soft-proofing and Printing for inkjet printers and photo-labs
Benchmarking Colour Management
I learned more than I expected, and note here a few points that will be introduced to my practice:
I’ve never used Photoshop for printing – Wood demonstrated how much more control over prints there is in PS above LR – for example in the more realistic rendering of the soft proofing it generates.
I learned the differences between rendering intents: – Perceptual rendering retains colour relationships ie good for portraits, Relative – just brings out-of -gamut colours into line. I can now used this in an informed way.
We explored the use of colour spaces and why Pro RGB is standard in LR and preferred for master copies of images; the most detail / information is retained for future use – even if current screen technologies cannot use the information, future ones may be able to do so.
Screen calibration was discussed at length and how anything other than a reference monitor (showing full Adobe RGB colour) was going to be a compromise on quality – no guarantee that you will be seeing what others with properly calibrated reference monitors are seeing when viewing your work. But, the technology, would most likely do a reasonable job in rendering. Also, with a reference monitor more reliable soft-proofing of prints is possible.
Wood recommended testing accuracy of calibration by printing an sRGB image, letting the printer manage the colours, before moving on to paper specific printer-profiles. Is the printed image close to the on-screen soft-proof? If not calibration needs to be revisited before continuing.
Another suggestion was to obtain a colour reference print and compare that to your own print of the jpg file of the reference print (I found that Marrutt.com provide a print free of charge!).
Wood showed some powerful examples of how the human visual system reacts to colours and even can create phantom colours – to emphasise that despite all the efforts made during the printing process, the context in which a print is displayed can undo the effort.
A friend asked me if I could restore a photo of his youthful self, in which the black and white had become a tinted yellow/green and the emulsion had spotted, perhaps with moisture. He wanted to use the photo as an incentive for exercise.
Not having attempted anything similar before, but knowing that there would be similar photos in my own family archive, the photo presented an opportunity to study the restoration technique and try it out for a good cause.
YouTube has become my go-to resource for finding out about Photoshop techniques; there are many people who generously share their knowledge, sometimes as a draw to their paid subscriber services. Already with a good foundation in Photoshop, I’ve never felt the need for a paid subscription and can invariably find the information I need through unpaid videos; good new for me, but a perennial issue for content makers aim to make money online when so much material is shared for free. The best video I found for restoring photos is the Phlearn one, referenced below.
My approach in brief:
Scanned the image (Epson V370 photo) at a resolution of 720 dpi – the scanner is capable of much higher resolutions, but given the poor quality of the photo there seem to be little point. The image was saved as an uncompressed TIFF.
Imported the scan into my Lightroom library for cataloging purposes and onward processing in Photoshop.
Used a Huion tablet for work in Photoshop (poor man’s Wacom) – I found responsiveness issues when working on my MacBook Pro (having moved my photo studio from my iMac), which I need to investigate further.
Order of working with Photoshop tools:
Spot healing brush – to automatically take care of small areas of blemishes (used extensively to remove the spotting).
Healing brush – used for larger areas when I need to sample from specific areas (mostly on the face and legs).
Brush tool – used in a few areas where there was limited / no pixel information (sampled tones from elsewhere and brushed on).
Black and white layer mask – to remove the colour cast from the scan.
Levels adjustment – to fix the tonal range in the photo.
Here is the retouched photo – not perfect, but good for a first attempt and given the technical problems I was having with my MacBook lag. The image printed well at A4 size.
During a visit to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, I came across two photos by Keith Arnatt (1930-2008), Matresses and Miss Grace’s Lane.
The captions explained how David Hurn taught Arnatt about photography in 1973 when the two met (Arnatt was already a conceptual artist) and how these works were photographed in the warm colours of romantic English landscape paintings. The Met explains that with ’emphasis on the imagination and emotion, Romanticism emerged as a response to the disillusionment with the Enlightenment values of reason and order in the aftermath of the French Revolution of 1789.’
Constable’s work shown above is typical of the movement. That Arnatt chooses to photograph dumped rubbish with a similar colour pallet to the grand landscapes creates a sense of visual irony.
The concept of using a colour pallet in photography beyond constructing it in the scene, seems illogical in the context of photography’s indexicality. However, digital manipulation allows possibilities (see SLR lounge link below) within Photoshop. Colour toning-matches can also be achieved in Lightroom by click-and-dragging the colour swatch tool (see Lightroom Killer Tips).
I intend to explore the use of digital colour palettes in upcoming portraiture exercises.