Landscape photographer Mark Denney from North Carolina recently published an interesting video looking at some of the mistakes he wishes he knew about when he started printing his images.
Printing your images is fantastic and looking into this topic is high on our list of topics that we would like to cover more here on LensVid as it presents such a different way of looking at your work and sharing your work.
However, when you get into printing and especially printing your own images yourself on a dedicated quality photo printer there are some challenges and things that you should be aware of and this video covers some of them,
Before your first print
So you rent online (or to the store) and got a new shiny high-quality printer. Before you go about sending a bunch of your photos and using all that expensive consumables stop yourself and (yeah we know it is hard) and do your due diligence.
If you never printed in a quality photo printer before you need to understand that for you to get the results that you are looking for there is more than just hitting the print on your computer. Printing a quality photo is not like printing a text document and you need to have some background.
Maybe the best tip here is that when you do start and you want to experiment – never print big. Start with smaller papers like 4×5 or 5×7 (maybe also use somewhat less expensive but still decent enough paper to get an understanding of what you will get in the end). This way you will not lose a lot of ink when running these tests (and you will likely want to run a few test prints just to get everything right and only then move to bigger sizes and better paper qualities).
Calibrate your Monitor
This tip is super important in general but is simply essential if you are printing – you must calibrate your monitor. The reason is that you must be able to see the colors as accurately as possible to the ones in the print. If you are using a monitor which isn’t calibrated you run the risk of getting colors that are completely off.
Calibrating your monitor is something that you need to do every few weeks or so if you are printing a lot but surely every couple of months. It typically takes about 15 min or so (we are using the i1Display Pro from Xrite but Datacolor also has a few models).
Try different papers
After you get the basics and start printing, one other mistake that you can make is stick to only one type of paper thinking that if it looks good for one photo it will look good for others as well.
Each photo is different and might look very different with different types of paper. trying different papers can be very enlighting, however buying a paper can be expensive so try and see if you can find sample kits for different quality photo papers that you can get for relatively less money just to try,
There are a LOT of papers that you can choose from (matte, gloss, semi-gloss in different qualities from different manufacturers) and this can be very confusing. There are some online resources that you can check that might give you some help like this page for example (just be mindful that they are a store).
Use the correct paper profiles
One of the most important things that you need to be aware of is using ICC profiles. These are specific for a combination of printer and paper and you can download them for free (usually from the paper manufacturer’s website).
These profiles tell the printer how the ink will behave on the specific paper and is essential for optimal results.
Denney also shows his workflow in Lightroon using soft proofing where he selects the ICC profile and clicks on the “simulate paper and ink which lets you see more or less how the image will look on the specific paper that you selected (via the ICC paper profile), just make sure your screen is properly calibrated for this to work.
This technique can help you save paper by proofing your image on the computer even before you print the first test photo.
Edit for print
There is a difference between editing a photo for viewing on a screen and on a print. A screen is backlit and hence is usually a lot brighter while a print only reflects light. This is why proofing and editing for print are so important.
In the comments for this video, some users suggested using the printer’s own software/plug-in for printing (like Canon’s Print Studio Pro) and this is something that you will need to try and see if it makes more sense for your workflow and produces better results.
A few other tips about printing
We have a few other tips that we would like to share based on our own experience. First, you should really consider not just the cost of the printer itself but also the cost of ink and paper which can be very high (if you are printing large prints these can quickly exceed the price of the printer itself.
If you were thinking of buying one of the advanced/large format models but only print on occasion think again. These printers are designed to work a LOT and if they don’t they can get their nozzles blocked and hence do automatic maintenance which uses quite a bit of ink – so you better print something that you want than waste that expensive quality ink on a test page.
There are a lot of ways to enlarge your image if you want to print, only recently we published our own look at the new Adobe Super Resolution feature (which does just that) compared to some other ways of enlarging images with some surprising results – see here.
Finally, a great resource for photo printers that we really like is Jose Rodriguez YouTube channel which has a ton of useful information on the subject.
Bonus video: photographer Chris Hau test 3 pro photographers on 12MP vs. 102MP photos (including printed ones) to see if they can tell the difference
Back in 2019, we published another article and video covering 6 tips for printing your photos created by Aaron Nace from Phlearn which is also worth watching if you are looking into start printing your images yourself.
You can check out many more helpful photography tips in our Photography tips section here on LensVid.