If seeing on your monitor what a few moments ago was a negative image on a “piece of plastic” is surprising, seeing the same one printed is astonishing and above all tangible.
So, what better occasion to do a guide about preparing your file for printing (at home or not); since I’ve recently opened the Shop of Il Negativo…
What you’ll need
In the following list I’m going to tell you all the necessary things to print your photos, but is important to differentiate between who wants (and can) print at home and who wants to rely on external online (or local) services; so I’m going to split the requirements in two groups.
- The file you want to print
It’s obvious, but you’ll need the scan of the photo you want to print.
- A monitor calibrator (I use a ColorMunki Display)
This is maybe the most important item, both if you are going to print at home or (especially) if you are going to rely on online services.
- A photo editor (I use Photoshop)
I think that all of you already have one of these but I included it anyway.
“EXTRA” REQUIREMENTS FOR WHO WANTS TO PRINT AT HOME
- A photographic printer (I use a Canon Pixma Pro-10S)
Clearly you’ll need a printer, possibly a photographic one, to get the best results possible.
- Some photographic paper for inkjet (I use Ilford Galerie Satin)
You’ll need a support to print on, the choice is completely personal, still is necessary that the one you chose is dedicated paper for inkjet printers.
The first step to print a photo, being a scan of a negative (as in my case) or a digital picture in the first place, is preparing the file for printing.
To do so you’ll firstly need to check that the tools you are using to view and edit the file are calibrated, otherwise the print result will be off.
Here comes handy a monitor calibrator device, I personally use a ColorMunki Display from X-Rite; you’ll only need to plug into your computer and follow the instructions, these will be similar throughout the various calibrators on the market.
Ended the calibration process, depending on how accurate already was your monitor, you’ll see a difference in the colors and mostly in luminosity.
This is really important, because editing on a not calibrated monitor is going to “trick” you, and you’ll only notice it seeing the too dark print; that’s because paper isn’t retro illuminated (unlike your screen).
Prepare the file
Now that our screen is calibrated, we can start editing our file that we want to print (or get printed).
The first thing to check is that your previously made editing is still “valid”, especially if it was done on a non calibrated monitor; principalmente dal punto di vista dell’esposizione.
My tip is to keep an eye on the histogram of the image, to get a general idea of the exposure.
Once satisfied with the editing, you can apply a sharpening filter, even if the photo was already sharpened, when printing you can “push it” a bit more because on paper the photo will lose a bit of definition.
There are various method to do it, I’ll show you mine:
- Duplicate the image layer (CMD + J on Photoshop)
- Apply, on the duplicate, an High Pass filter
Tweak it to get a sharp contour around the figures, without introducing any “halos”.
- Set the blending mode on “Overlay“
- Reduce opacity to 50%
This is arbitrary, it depends on how much sharpness you want to introduce into the image…
Once done all of this, we are ready to print!
P.S. If you want to use an online service or a local shop to print, could be useful ask their requirement for dpi (usually 300dpi); while if you print at home, this isn’t a problem because the software is going to manage all of this for us.
Here the path splits: If you have a photographic printer keep following this guide; for all the others that doesn’t own a printer, the “useful” part of the guide ended but feel free to follow along, especially if you are considering buying one in the future.
As I said at the begging of this guide, I own a Canon Pixma Pro-10S so I’ll show you the process I follow to print.
(This will be the same for all the Canon printers that use Canon Print Studio Pro.)
To handle the printing process I chose Canon Print Studio Pro, there are other methods, like using Lightroom, but the software that came with the printer is more than enough, plus I never had any problems with it (can’t say the same with Lightroom)…
With the previously edited file open in Photoshop, I start the printing software where I’m going to change some settings:
- Paper size (in this case 5×7″)
- Paper type
If you aren’t using Canon paper (same thing for Epson printers with “proprietary” paper), you’ll need to set an equivalent “generic” kind of paper depending on the finish of it (glossy or matte).
- Print quality
Usually the highest possible.
- The ICC Profile
The profile of the specific paper, for the specific printer that we are going to use, this will determine the amount of ink that will be used and a lot of other factors, influencing the print result, making it as close as the image we see in our screen as possible. You can find it on the paper maker site (if you are using a different brand than your printer one, in my case I’m using Ilford paper with a Canon printer).
- The rendering method
The choice is between “perceptual” and “relative“, where the first one compresses the color spectrum to fit in the potential gamut of the printer, instead the second leave the colors “where they belong”.
To make it simple: Perceptual is perfect for landscapes, where there are no people in the photo, since a slight variation in colors isn’t noticeable, while if we are printing a portrait we use relative, because it will immediate be noticeable a change in the skin colors (that you would have using perceptual).
- The alignment of the print
Paper sizes aren’t always “compatible” with the photographic formats, so you’ll need to leave a white border or when possible (like with the Pixma Pro-10S) making full bleed prints.
There is also the possibility of applying corrections like curves etc. to our photo but I discourage you from doing it, if the previously made editing is correct, you shouldn’t need to make any changes.
Done that, we can press on print and wait…
Evaluate the print
Could seems trivial, but it’s important to know how to evaluate a print, before trying to print again.
Don’t evaluate your print when it still wet, give time to the ink for drying and only once this is completely dry, take your print to a well illuminated place, possibly in daylight and evaluate the result.
The print should be as close as possible to the image we see on our screen, no chromatic alteration and above all the exposure must be correct.
If you encounter some problems, the first thing to check is that our printer is working correctly (do a cleaning cycle and print a test page).
If none of this made the difference, try to recalibrate your screen and start over.
Printing is a sort of a “end point” for a photo, it means that we are happy with the results and we want to bring it in the tangible world.
It helps a lot to evaluate your work and forces you to consider every little detail.
I invite you all to print your photos, it’s a wonderful experience!
Nothing left to do than invite you to visit the Shop, where you’ll find my prints, made exactly as I explained in this guide; follow me on Instagram and if you want some video content, visit my YouTube channel.
Happy printing to everyone!