How Colour Management Tools Can Help You Create Accurate Prints - Kirk Norbury, Datacolor Friends with Vision04 December 2019 | Laura Holdcroft
The beauty of printing your own photography takes you on a journey of development in which you fall down the rabbit hole of the craft of taking that still image out in the field to the print that hangs in your home. Printing can get very addictive, there’s something about the tactile nature of touching a physical print that you’ve made from start to finish rather than only looking at it on a small screen. For me printing is the final piece of the puzzle when creating a beautiful image, as that is you seeing the process from the click of the shutter to coming out of the printer. Printing is fun, the challenge of playing around with the images post-shoot and then waiting with bated breath for that moment as the ink begins to fall onto paper is a wonderful experience.
One thing everyone will have experienced when printing, especially when doing it at home is that while you will have the image edited exactly the way you want it, when you see the print it doesn’t look the same as on the screen. Maybe the colours are different or there’s more contrast than expected. This can be due to a few different reasons but the main one being that the monitor has not been correctly calibrated. You may think the colours on your screen are correct but usually they are not which is why for many years I’ve been using Datacolor Spyder products to correctly calibrate any monitor I use so I don’t have any issues down the line. Making sure that what you’re seeing on the screen is accurate is crucial for printing and I currently use the SpyderX as it is very easy to use and its intuitive menu and software makes it easier to get it up and running for your monitor. I love that I can either go through a step by step guide that will help me get the best settings but if I want to I can delve in deeper with their more advanced settings.
What I’ve found is that the more you have your images printed the more you begin to change your habits out in the field, so that what you are shooting will develop well in print as we all know what you see on the screen will not always translate well onto paper. And the more you print you will find elements in scenes that could be suitable for certain prints; like a rough grass foreground could suit a more textured paper. Some subjects I don’t photograph for print as I know I’ll not like it in the print; for example, if I’m photographing a seascape I find the pattern of water too distracting and it doesn’t compliment the print in my eyes, so I will shoot a longer exposure to smoothen out the water and I find this looks a lot better when printed.
How do you backup your images? On hard drives I’m betting? Well, have you ever considered you could back up your images as prints? Stored safely away and archived so you can go back through them and relive the moment that the photograph was captured. This is the dream for me. Now, I can’t print everything I’ve made as I’d need a warehouse to fit it all in but having my favourite images carefully stored away seems more of a poetic way of storing ones photographs than on digital hard drives that have a reputation of crashing. Now I’m not saying we should ditch hard drives and only store our final images as prints tucked away in a drawer but think of it as an extra backup just in case the worst happens.
I do some printing at home but also do a lot of printing through a professional printer especially when working with larger sizes. Their expert knowledge has saved me a lot of time and headaches when trying to get the perfect print especially when sending it to a client. Even when sending to the printers I will always recommend that your equipment at home is correctly calibrated as there’s only so much they can do on their end to fix any issues. I do a lot of printing through a company in Scotland due to their great service. They can send you test papers, so you can see and feel their range of papers on offer and also send them a test print to make sure the colours are coming out correctly. But the best thing that they do is offer printing profiles on their website that you can download and then install these print profiles into Lightroom and this will enable you to use the Proof Mode in Lightroom so you can roughly see how the print will come out depending on the paper type you’d like to print on. These profiles offered by the printers and those created in SpyderX software are very handy as it means there’s a consistency with my printing especially when I’m making multiple prints.
When going through the process of editing an image for print I will spend more time on the image, more than I would if I knew the image would only be going online. I use Lightroom for all of my editing and here I’ll begin my edit: adjusting the sliders to create a more pleasing image and being aware of the shadows and highlights. For printing you don’t want any blown-out highlights as they will be completely white, meaning no ink will be printed, this isn’t the worst thing in the world, but I always prefer a bit of ink on the paper. Also, the same can be said regarding black, as if the shadows are too dark it will print purely black ink on that area with no texture. To avoid these issues, I will make sure that the histogram graph doesn’t touch even the light or right-hand side, as those pixels will be either 100% white or 100% black. After I’ve finished the main editing process I’ll decide on what paper I’d like to print on and from that I’ll know which print profile to use to proof the print in Lightroom. By selecting this option, I will be able to see how the contrast, colours etc would change when printing on that paper type. Having my monitor calibrated by the SpyderX and using the printing profiles means I don’t have too many issues when it comes to the printing stage.
I’ve been doing photography for around 10 years now so I’ve gathered quite a mass of images over the years which is taking more space on hard drives than I’d like to admit to but I’ve noticed over the years that I’ve been taking less and less due to the fact that I’ve been fine-tuning what images I take especially when I know I will be printing. Rather than firing off thousands of frames I control the urge to fill the memory card in 5 minutes and try to see how few images I can take, every time I will check the shot and see if I can improve on it. This same principal directly relates to my printing, taking my time on creating the image from start to finish and this approach just makes the whole process more enjoyable, especially when I can see all that hard work presented on my wall or even better gifted to somebody else.
For more information on Datacolor’s colour management tools to help you create accurate prints, visit their website here!
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