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"The Luminous Landscape" Teaches Me to Print

August 4, 2007

I had all the right equipment and software (except for PhotoKit Sharpener; see below), but my prints were always flat, dull, and blurry. Then I watched the new Luminous Landscape printing tutorial, and now I can print! (It's $35 for almost 7 hours with Michael Reichmann and Jeff Schewe, who are terrific together.)

Here's a summary of the critical steps:

  1. Shoot raw.
  2. Calibrate your monitor with a hardware device.
  3. Get an accurate printer profile for your printer and paper.
  4. Adjust the raw image so it looks good on your monitor, but don't sharpen it.
  5. Set up Photoshop so your working color space is ProPhoto RGB (Edit-Color Settings in PS CS2) and make sure "Desaturate Monitor Colors" and "Blend RGB Colors" are unchecked.
  6. Bring the adjusted and cropped raw image into Photoshop as a 16-bit, ProPhoto RGB TIFF or PSD.
  7. Use PhotoKit Sharpener (from PixelGenius.com) to do automated capture sharpening.
  8. Set the image size with "Resample Image" unchecked. Let the resolution change, as long as it's between 180 (240 is better) and 480. (If the resolution drops below 180, you'll need to increase the resolution. I haven't had to do that yet, but it's covered in the tutorial.)
  9. Set up a View-Proof Setup preset for your printer profile. Check "Simulate Paper Color."
  10. Duplicate the image and arrange the windows so you can see the original and the copy.
  11. On the original, choose View-Proof Colors. It should suddenly look lousy.
  12. Make the original look as close to the copy as you can, mostly with a curves adjustment layer, but use whatever it takes. You won't be able to match the colors, because the printer's gamut is too limited, but you should be able to match the tonality.
  13. Get rid of the copy.
  14. Use PhotoKit Sharpener again to do automated output sharpening.
  15. Print the image. Make sure all the dialogs are set up right (printer profile, Photoshop manages colors, no printer color management, correct paper choice, all the right print-quality options). Everything has to be exactly right. (My Epson manual says how to do it, even showing the dialog boxes. I don't know about other printers.)

None of these steps are optional; you have to do each one. It's possible to do without PhotoKit Sharpener, but it has built-in knowledge about output resolution and glossy vs matte papers that you'd have to come up with by experiment. You might as well spend the $100 in paper and ink you'd waste on the plug-in.

If you're thinking that maybe you don't have to shoot raw, and that you don't have to work in ProPhoto RGB and 16 bits, or that you can just sharpen yourself without spending extra for another tool, you might be right. All I know is that I do it exactly this way and each print is excellent. I print each image exactly once, too—no wasted paper or ink. My advice is to shoot raw and get the plug-in. If you do it right the difference is dramatic.

Don't even think of printing without calibrating your monitor with a hardware device and using a proper printer profile. It won't work.

Maybe Aperture can do as well as Photoshop (I don't know it well enough), but Lightroom definitely can't, because its sharpening isn't good enough and it doesn't have soft proofing.

Before I watched the tutorial I had the calibration and profiling steps down OK, so I was getting the right colors, but I wasn't using the duplicate image as a target, so my final adjustments for printing were too erratic. My sharpening was way off, mostly because I didn't understand how important it was, especially output sharpening. So the prints lacked detail.

You know, now that I've done it, I'm starting to think printing is easy. Sure wasn't easy before I watched the tutorial.

Blog Archives

Photography Articles

Raw Conversion: Better Never Than Late April 24, 2008

Scanning in India by Way of California With ScanCafe February 15, 2008

How To Back Up Your Personal Computer January 30, 2008

Every Camera I've Ever Owned January 25, 2008

Sharpening JPEGs for the Web January 4, 2008

Lessons Learned From My Memory Problem December 20, 2007

Hunting Down a Mac Hardware Problem December 20, 2007

Trimming GPS Tracks With GPSTrackViewer November 13, 2007

The World's Shortest Camera Buying Guide September 22, 2007

Transporting and Storing Portable Backup Drives August 26, 2007

"The Luminous Landscape" Teaches Me to Print August 4, 2007

Creating a Google Photo Map (Revised) June 26, 2007

Sony GPS-CS1: Not Good Enough for Geotagging Photos June 24, 2007

Epson P-3000/P-5000 Multimedia Storage Viewer March 10, 2007

Trying Out Infrared January 20, 2007

Stupid Designs Hold Digital Back April 1, 2006

 

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A small collection of my best photos (click the image). You can order prints, too.


Software

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image SpanBurner
image GPSTrackViewer

Books

The 2004 2nd Edition, a so-called "update" of the 1985 book, which turned out, not surprisingly, to be a re-write. Covers Solaris, Linux, FreeBSD, and Darwin (Mac OS X).


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