Practical: Printing workflow

My tutor has suggested to me a couple of times that I should write this up, and I’ve finally got round to it.

Equipment

IMG_3041Printer and paper

I currently produce my own prints at home, using a relatively inexpensive Canon Pixma iP7250 inkjet printer. I use this for assignment submissions to tutors during courses and used it for Level 1 assessment submissions too, though I may move towards professional printing for Level 2 assessment – mainly due to the size limitations (the Pixma iP7250 can only print up to A4, and I’d like to get at least some prints up to 16″ x 12″ for assessment).

I only use Canon Photo Pro paper, to ensure that there is a matching profile that the printer recognises. After an early trial with Pro Platinum (gloss), I settled on Canon Photo Paper Pro Luster (semi-gloss) and have been using this for a couple of years.

Displays

IMG_3049.JPG

I use two monitors: an Apple iMac 27″and a Benq T221W. The former has an extremely high resolution (‘Retina 5K’) display which is unforgivingly good for spotting flaws in your images, but has the downside of being overly bright, even with the brightness dialled down. The Benq secondary monitor serves the dual purpose of extending my workspace and providing me with a more ‘normal’ viewing experience that gives me a better idea of what my images will look like on other people’s devices. As can be seen from the image above, even though the monitors are calibrated to match each other’s profiles, there remains a difference, particularly noticeable in the greys.

Calibration

IMG_3044Permanently connected to both displays is an X-Rite ColorMunki Display that I use to recalibrate fully every four weeks or so. This device also monitors the ambient light once every 30 minutes and makes minor adjustments accordingly. This ongoing monitoring is particularly useful for me as I work at the thin end of an oddly-shaped attic room with sloping walls and skylights rather than normal windows, so the ambient light does change rather more than I’d like it to.

Workflow

This workflow assumes a starting point of an image that has been satisfactorily processed for on-screen display, on both monitors (while the calibration discussed above aims to match the profiles of both displays as closely as possible, I can always detect a slight difference between the same image on the two displays; so I work towards making the image look equally acceptable, if fractionally different, across the two).

Thus the objective is to get the print to resemble the on-screeen version (specifically on my second monitor) as satisfactorily as possible.

I use Adobe Lightroom for my printing.

Soft Proofing

Soft Proofing.png

  • In Lightroom’s Develop module hit cmd-S to enter Soft Proofing mode
  • Ensure Profile is correct (Canon iP7200 series SG2/LU2)
  • Ensure Simulate Paper & Ink is checked
  • Activate Split View mode (Before/After Left/Right)
  • Intent: toggle between Perceptual and Relative to identify which more closely resembles the ‘Current’ image to the left of the display
    • Note: I have not seen any patterns on Perceptual or Relative being the more accurate option consistently; it seems to vary by image
  • If one of the given options (Perceptual or Relative) is satisfactory, i.e. visually matches the ‘Current’ version, then make a note of this for the subsequent printing and proceed to the next step
  • If neither is satisfactory, hit the Create Proof Copy button to make a separate version of the image specifically for printing
    • Make necessary processing tweaks to bring this Proof Copy in line with expectations, then proceed to the next step

Printing

Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 10.40.38 (2).png

  • With the appropriate image selected, switch to Lightroom’s Print module
  • Hit Page Setup… to check the Page Attributes:
    • Format For: my printer
    • Paper Size: A4 (borderless)
    • Scale: 100%
  • Hit Print Settings… to check various settings
    • Presets: I have saved Pro Luster as a preset based on the below settings
    • Color Matching: ensure ColorSync is selected and paper Profile is correct
    • Quality & Media: select Print Quality: High
  • Remaining settings are controlled in the Layout Style panel to the right
    • Image Settings: ensure Zoom to Fill is not checked and ensure Rotate to Fit is checked
    • Layout: set Margins to 0.75″ all the way round (the top/bottom, or in other cases the left/right, borders may be greater due to the ratio of the image)
    • Print Job: ensure Draft Mode Printing is not checked
    • Print Resolution: 300dpi
    • Print Sharpening: I generally use Standard, for Media Type: Matte
    • Color Management: first ensure the right printer Profile is selected, then ensure you have select the appropriate Intent (Perceptual or Relative) based on your Soft Proofing
  • Hit the Print button

Proofing

IMG_3051.JPG

  • Check the print against the Proof Preview from the Soft Proofing stage
    • In this instance the green on the t-shirt has come out too different (this is a rejected proof)
  • If the difference is just down to Brightness or Contrast variations then these are controllable at the Print Job level with Print Adjustment sliders
    • If these changes are necessary I tend to default to the adjusted settings for subsequent prints in the same batch, assuming that all will need a similar level of tweaking; this approach has worked for me more often than not
  • If the difference is more significant than brightness or contrast issues, then it may be necessary to go back to the Soft Proofing stage
  • If the print is satisfactory then YAY! let it dry and move on to the next one…

Footnote

To be honest I still don’t feel like I’ve nailed this printing lark. I follow the workflow above, produce what I believe is a good print but still get tutors observing issues such as colour toning. It may be that before my next assessment submission I should set aside some time to learn and practice more around this aspect of photography – I’m sure there are lots of useful tutorial videos available online. I also have a friend who is a photographic printing guru (he does my exhibition printing) and so I may pick his brains to improve my workflow.

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