Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Key Steps to A Better Print

Printing photographs well is both an art and a science. The science of printing involves all of the technology made for inks, papers and printers. It also includes monitor calibration, color profiles and other printing technology built into your software and computer.
DPMag Published in Printing
Key Steps to A Better Print

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Paper Type
Printing Settings
To make a print, you need to set up both your image-processing software and your printer software (called the printer driver). You need to let both know what size to print your image, how to handle proportions and how to deal with color.

Dealing with color is critical. You have two choices—the printer can manage color or the program can manage color using profiles. There’s a lot of misinformation about this because photographers think that every printer acts like theirs. Printers act very differently, and you may need to do some of your own tests. In general, high-end Epson printers need to work with program-managed color, while most Hewlett-Packard printers do fine with the printer driver managing color.

No matter which option you choose, be sure both the program and printer driver are set appropriately.

• If the program is managing color, then color management in the printer driver must be turned off.

• If the printer is managing color, then color management in the printer driver must be turned on.

Windows Print Propertires
For refined results, especially with art papers, you may gain more control if you let the software manage colors using profiles. Profiles for your printer manufacturer’s papers were installed with your printer driver, and you simply scroll down a list to find the one that matches your paper. You often can use these profiles for other brands of papers (for example, glossy is often quite similar), but most paper manufacturers include paper profiles on their website, along with instructions on how to install them.

Next, you must set the printer driver properly. This uses the operating system’s print dialog boxes for the Mac and a separate dialog box (Properties) for PCs. However, both have the color management option somewhere; I wish I could be more specific, but there are no standards here. Additionally, you must tell the printer the size of the paper you’re using, the type of paper surface (or “media type”—glossy, matte, etc.) and the quality of printing to employ (or resolution). It’s important that you tell the printer what kind of paper surface because it will lay down ink differently for different surfaces.

Mac OS X Properties
Test or Work Print
A good print is a good print, not necessarily something that matches the monitor (which it never can do completely). Printing should be about the print. No one will ever ask to see the monitor to see how well you matched it. Ansel Adams used to stress the importance of the “work print,” i.e., the first print, a test print that you look at to determine what it needs to become a better print.

Often, photographers want to get everything “perfect” on the monitor, then press a button and get one print that’s perfect. There are many reasons why a print must be seen differently than a monitor, from the way both display color to how we psychologically perceive a print compared to a monitor. Lightroom and Aperture make it easy to adjust a print and still keep your original file by doing a new virtual copy (Lightroom) or version (Aperture) and adjusting them for the print.

Rob Sheppard’s new blog can be found at natureandphotography.com.

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