Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Make Your Best Prints Ever

One of the great joys resulting from the change to digital compared to shooting film is the ability to get great photo prints optimized for the subject and photographer. Everyone who used to try to get a good, custom print from a slide or negative knows what a challenge that used to be. There were multiple visits to the lab when an image didn't print right and had to be reprinted. Or often, you'd just accept the print as is because it was "good enough," and any changes weren't worth the back-and-forth with the lab. You probably know what I'm talking about.

DPMag Published in Printing
Make Your Best Prints Ever

Set Whites 7. Set up the printer driver for the right photo paper.
8. Print the photo.
9. Evaluate the image as a print (not just how it compares to the monitor).
10. Make adjustments to tonalities and color based on that evaluation, then print again.

Spyder2PROMonitor Calibration
Be sure your monitor is calibrated. Calibration systems like Datacolor Spyder2PRO or GretagMacbeth Eye-One Display 2 use hardware and software to examine the color characteristics of your monitor, then create a profile that controls the monitor's color response. These systems are easy to use with software that steps you through the process quite simply.

Eye-One Display 2 Monitor calibration won't guarantee you'll have a great print. There's a lot more to a good print than an accurate monitor. On the other hand, calibration does make colors more predictable throughout the process, which will give you better prints in the end.

Choosing Print Resolution
Print resolution is the resolution of your image as it's sent to the printer. It's important to understand that this isn't the printer resolution and has nothing to do with printer resolution. Choose a setting between 200 and 300 ppi, and you'll be fine.

Print Resolution Photographers will often use ppi and dpi interchangeably, which can make the printer's dpi seem like something you need to pay attention to when working on a photo. Your photo deals with pixels, while a printer's dpi tells you how ink is laid down on the printing paper. They're not related in a practical way.

You may have heard that you should use an image resolution that's a fraction of the printer resolution, for example, that you should use 360 ppi with an Epson printer because Epson prints at 720, 1440, 2880 ppi and so on.

Logically, that might seem to make sense. After all, shouldn't the pixels in a photo somehow line up with the dots of an inkjet printer?

However, there are several problems with that theory. Modern printers print at variable resolutions up to the maximum set. In other words, they might print a light area at a different resolution than a dark area, plus they may lay down different colors at different resolutions. So, if you want to work with an image resolution that's a fraction of the printing resolution, what fraction will you get with something that changes?

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