I Print, therefore I am!

We spend all that money on the latest cameras, lenses, filters, etc. We get up at ridiculous o’clock and brave all conditions to get that perfect shot. We spend hours slaving over a hot keyboard tweaking levels, colours and retouching; and when we’re finally happy we save it to the hard disk and forget about it. Why not print it, frame and hang it on the wall for all to see. Printing at home can be as much fun as printing in the darkroom all those years ago and provides the ultimate control for your finished photos. However, printing seems to be something than many photographers are wary of and perhaps with good reason. I remember my first attempts with an A4 Photo printer and results that looked awful; nothing like the photos on the screen.  After a bit of investigation I soon discovered that there was much more to  printing  than just simply hitting the print button. There are ICC profiles, colour space, rendering intent and calibration to contend with for a start. I’m not going to try to teach you these things as there are many articles out there that will do a better job than I ever could; but a good place to start is the theprintspace who have a set of excellent video tutorials on the subject. The photo below shows a Spitfire at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford. It’s one of my favourites and was published in a well known photography magazine a few years ago.

Spitfire, Duxford

It’s a popular photo and people are always asking for prints of it. However, before you can print properly you need to be sure that you are viewing the photo accurately and that means you need to calibrate your display. Both Windows and OS X have software calibration tools built-in and at the very least you should use these regularly. Even better are the many hardware calibration units on the market. Only by calibrating your display can you hope to achieve accurate colours. The screenshot below shows the original photo in Lightroom 5, ready for retouching.

Screen Shot 2015-03-16 at 22.24.59

When you have retouched and tweaked your photo and are ready to print the next stage is to soft proof your photo. Soft proofing is the process of getting your image correct, based on the  profile for your printer and paper. Again, there are plenty of tutorials out there on soft proofing and it is easily done in Lightroom. The image below shows my finished photo in soft proofing for Permajet Oyster paper with the Canon Pro 100. To soft proof you will need to download the ICC colour profiles that match your printer and paper. Professionals and even semi professionals may calibrate their monitor and printer with bespoke profiles but for the rest of us the standard profiles that can be downloaded from the paper manufacturers are fine. I use Permajet and Hahnemuhle papers as both have ICC profiles for my printer. I use a Canon Pro 100 that prints up to A3+, a good size for impressive big prints, but without breaking the bank. The screen capture below shows the photo being soft proffer in Lightroom. You will note the white background to help you get the colours as accurate as possible.

Spitfire Soft Proof

So by now you should have your monitor calibrated, your printer profiles installed and your picture soft proofed. You are now ready to print. Again this can be done from within the Lightroom print module; and this will give good results. Personally, I prefer the results I get from Canon’s Print Studio Pro, which can be used as a plug-in for Lightroom. The software allows accurate control of the print with fine adjustments to the colours and levels, and even allows you to make multiple mini test prints on one sheet of paper. Once you’re happy with your settings you are ready to print. The photo below shows the Pro 100 in action.

Canon Pro100

With a bit of care and not too much effort you now have a final print. All you need to do  is mount it, frame it and hang it on your wall. I’ve recently started cutting my own custom mounts using a Logan mat cutter and framing them. But that’s for another blog…

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