“Large Format Printing- Big Images, Big Opportunities”

I’ll be co-presenting at the “Large Format Printing- Big Images, Big Opportunities” seminar at A&I Hollywood on April 9, 4-7pm. Admission is free! Come find out what kind of images work in large format; tips for printing on canvas and the new substrates available; and how you can break into the market for large format work. This seminar is presented by A&I and MOPLA (Month of Photography LA). Please click here for more information (scroll down to the 4th listed event). I hope to see you there!

Postscript:
I had an enjoyable time at A&I Hollywood on Saturday afternoon presenting “Large Format Printing- Big Images, Big Opportunities” with moderator Rex Weiner and panelists Olivier Pojman and Baret Lepejian (A&I owner). A&I is the first lab on the West Coast to own and operate the new HP Scitex FB500, which is a 64″ wide printer (no print length limitations!) that can print on virtually any surface up to 2.5″ thick (photo: my test print coming off the Scitex). The substrate possibilities for your images are now almost endless: metals (aluminum, copper [the copper print I saw was incredible]); wood; fiber; glass; plastic; you name it! Olivier and I discussed the equipment we use to make our photographs as well as how we make and finish our respective prints. For those who have requested a summary of the seminar, here are a few of the most important pointers I provided:

    Good input is critical to good output: If you intend to make large prints and you’re not working with large format cameras or the highest resolution digital capture available, I recommend reverse-engineering your process. Determine how much frame stitching is necessary to reach your acceptable level of detail and sharpness at any given print size.

    Acceptable level of detail and sharpness: This can vary greatly for each of us. You ultimately need to run tests to find out just how big you can go while still retaining a level of detail and sharpness that you find acceptable. Due to the specifics of image type; lens selection; resolution; and other factors, there is no easy correlation between megapixels and print size: every image is different, and I always recommend testing specific to the image at hand.

    Print size: Just because you can print 64″ wide (by any length!) doesn’t mean that you should! Some of my images look great six feet wide, and some look best six inches wide. The only way to determine what may be the ideal size for your image is to test it!

    How to test for resoution/sharpness: Let’s assume I want to try a 50″ wide print of Image X. I’ll prepare the file for the actual output size and printer resolution (example: 50″ wide at 300 dpi), but will then make multiple 8×10″ sectional crops from detail-rich and important areas. I then order proofs of these 8×10″ prints to evaluate acceptable resolution and sharpness. These proofs must be made on the material you intend to print on! An 8×10″ proof on silver halide photo paper is not an adequate representation of an 8×10″ print on canvas!

    How to choose a substrate: Whether printing on fine art rag or a 1/16″ thick sheet of copper, there is no substitute for running tests (man, more testing?!) to determine what materials best suit your work. I’ve done a lot of testing over the years to determine what I like best for my photographs, and would recommend the same for anyone.

Thanks to those who came out to A&I on Saturday, and sorry to those who were unable to join us. A special thanks to Baret Lepejian and Rex Weiner for asking me to be a part of this panel!

If you’re looking to print on alternative materials and/or make very large prints, I highly recommend that you check out A&I’s new Scitex FB500 printer.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

LCD Calibration Issues and “Prints too dark” – one solution

In my Digital Printing Insights #4 (My Prints Are Too Dark!), I discussed the problems of LCD display luminance and calibration which results in prints that are darker than the calibrated/profiled display. This is an issue that many LCD users have struggled with. David B. Brooks, who writes for Shutterbug magazine, has been following this issue and writing about it for some time. In the February 2010 issue of Shutterbug magazine, David tells us about the NEC MultiSync P221W LCD display with NEC’s SpectraView II colorimeter, which appears to be a viable and lowest-cost solution to the LCD calibration issue (the LCD display provides a large color gamut that is 95.6 percent of the Adobe RGB color space!). This 22″ LCD display and colorimeter/calibration system is currently listed on Amazon.com for under $710 USD. If this is an issue you have dealt with and you’re still looking for a solution (besides an Eizo!), I would definitely recommend reading David’s article and placing your order!

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Digital Printing Insights #7: Media Type Settings

MediaType

the Media Type selection

Exactly what does the Media Type (or Paper Type in non-Epson drivers) setting control? Most importantly and critically, it determines the amount of ink coverage (or ink density) that the paper will receive (in addition to: drying time between printer head passes; paper thickness; platen gap, and many other variables). The Media Type selection is not something to be taken lightly – the quality of your prints depends greatly upon having made the right selection.

So you’ve got a new inkjet paper that you really like, but it’s made by a third-party vendor (not the same manufacturer as your printer). Naturally, the Epson printer driver Media Type selector (click the image at left for a larger view) does NOT include a media selection for your new inkjet paper since it is non-Epson. So how do you know what media type to choose? Check first with your paper manufacturer’s website. Most not only provide free printer profiles for their papers (more on this below), but they also share other technical specifics; including what media selection should be used in conjunction with their paper. What if they do not suggest a media selection or provide profiles for your printer? Time to start printing and testing! Select the most appropriate match to your media type (for instance, select Matte Paper if you’re printing to a matte paper), and make test prints with each of the specific media choices available under Matte Paper. Allow sufficient time for drying (I suggest 12-24 hours), and carefully analyze the subsequent prints. You’re looking for the most dense ink coverage you can get without any ink bleeding; that is, the inks are not running or bleeding into white border of the paper. The prints should be smooth and ink dots should not be visible to the naked eye. Once you determine which media type gets you there, record it and stick with this setting each time you print.

Now you’ve got your media type dialed in, but the paper manufacturer does not provide a printer profile for you to use. No worries! I create very high-quality and low-cost custom printer/paper profiles and getting one is very easy and fast. Please visit GreatPrinterProfiles.com for more information and to order. Please be sure to read the testimonials of my many happy print-making clients.

Thanks for tuning in! If you have any suggestions for future editions of Digital Printing Insights, please let me know!

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Digital Printing Insights #6: Color Space Conversions and Gamut Loss

I need to convert an image from AdobeRGB to CMYK, but I’m concerned about color shifts and need to retain 100% of the Adobe RGB gamut (gamut = the entire range of color that can be reproduced within this color space). Is this possible?

AdobeRGB vs. ProPhotoRGB

AdobeRGB / ProPhotoRGB comparison

Unfortunately, it is not possible. Any time we convert from a wide gamut color space such as Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB to a smaller color space (such as any of the CMYK color spaces), we diminish the color gamut. Take a look at the graphic at left, which compares the Adobe RGB color space with the ProPhoto RGB color space. Here we can see that Adobe RGB (the solid color space) is considerably smaller in gamut compared to the massive ProPhoto RGB space (represented by the wire frame). Before I proceed any further, let me clarify something which you might already be thinking: “so, I can convert from Adobe RGB to ProPhoto to gain a wider color gamut?” No! We can only convert downward, from a larger color space to a smaller color space. Converting upward will not expand the gamut any further, as it has already been limited by the origin color space (compare this to pixel resolution, whereby interpolating [or "uprezzing"] does not gain us additional data beyond what was already provided by the sensor).

Adobe RGB vs. sRGB

Adobe RGB vs. sRGB

Let’s take a look at another comparison (at left), this time Adobe RGB to sRGB, the color space we all view on our monitors. Many of us edit our images in Adobe RGB, but then convert to sRGB for web display. As you can see in this comparison, Adobe RGB (represented by the solid color) is a larger color space than sRGB (represented by the wire frame). You’ve probably already intuited this, but what this means is that when we convert to sRGB for web display, we shrink the color and tonal palette of the image. You most certainly have been aware of this, and have probably wondered why your web JPEG’s don’t look a fraction as good as your original wide-gamut file.

Adobe RGB / CMYK Comparison

Adobe RGB vs. CMYK

Now that you’re starting to get the hang of this, let’s look at one last conversion/comparison, this time from Adobe RGB to Photoshop 5′s Default CMYK space. In this conversion, we can see that except for a very small amount of magenta/orange, the Adobe RGB color space is much larger than the CMYK color space. Again, this means that when we make the conversion, the entire color gamut BUT that magenta/orange area (represented by the wire frame) is diminished greatly.

Clear as mud? The take-away idea here is that one should always work with the widest available color space. For digital camera users this means RAW, not sRGB or JPEG, and for those who scan film, this means scanning it into the Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB color spaces. When we’re forced to convert to smaller color spaces for print or web display, we have to accept the losses.

If you have any questions or comments about this topic, or suggestions for future Printing Insights, I would love to hear them! Thanks for reading.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Digital Printing Insights #5: Evaluating and Choosing a Paper

LeanHere is installment #5 of my Digital Printing Insights. This column (so far) has been written from actual questions from my custom printer profile clients as well as questions from fellow photographers.

Does the tone of the paper have that much effect on print color or is the problem due more to bad manufacturers profiles?

You bet! The tone of a paper (warm, cool, or neutral) has great effect on overall print color. This should be easy enough to deduce, but all things being equal, a warm paper will produce a warmer print while a cool paper will produce a cooler print.

Similarly, when blacks aren’t deep, is the problem more likely to be with the paper or with the manufacturers profile?

It can be both. Some papers may not produce the Dmax (a measurement of the deepest black than an inkset/paper combination is capable of producing) that you’d like, and substandard “canned” profiles (free profiles supplied by paper manufacturers) can exacerbate this problem.

If the latter, how do you pick a paper without a good profile? Besides color rendition, what else do you look for when picking a paper? I realize the choice of paper is largely a visceral response, but I’m interested in technical aspects I should check, for example, metamerism or bronzing.

Nearly all name-brand papers available today are of high quality: wide color gamut, good Dmax, and good surface finishes. When used with Epson’s K3 inksets, for example, you’ll get good results with almost any paper. For this reason, I generally disregard color rendition and Dmax and instead choose a paper based almost exclusively on surface qualities. For me this means low reflectance (I’m not a big fan of smooth, glossy papers); some tooth but not too much (tooth= surface texture/roughness), and definitely no visible bronzing (the visible “bronze” appearance of pigments on paper) or gloss differential (the visible gloss difference of pure white paper adjacent to inked paper). Once you’ve selected a paper for its surface characteristics, a custom printer profile will optimize the paper to your printer and get you the best results possible.

What are my favorite papers? I use only two: Museo Silver Rag, and Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308gsm. I use Silver Rag exclusively for my Epson K3 prints, and Photo Rag 308gsm for my Piezography carbon pigment prints. I have consistently used Photo Rag 308gsm for about seven years now.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future Printing Insights, I would love to hear them! Thanks for reading.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Digital Printing Insights #4: “My prints are too dark”

Dancing OaksCall me a dinosaur if you like, but I still prefer working with and editing images on my LaCie CRT, although it seems the rest of the world has switched over to LCD displays. I do not know of one manufacturer producing higher end CRT’s today.

Even in a accurately color-managed environment, photographers who edit their images on an LCD and output inkjet prints are quite possibly familiar with the scenario of prints that appear too dark relative to their display. As a CRT user, this is not a problem that I have experienced, but I’ve heard it from friends and acquaintances and have read about it in online forums quite a bit. Are you experiencing a similar issue? David Brooks of Shutterbug magazine has written an excellent and informative article that addresses this problem and offers a few possible solutions. In short, this problem is caused by luminance differences between CRT’s and LCD’s (LCD’s are often about 25% brighter), with many lower end LCD’s not offering the ability to reduce the luminance to CRT levels. Check out David’s article.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Digital Printing Insights #3: Print “white noise”

Dithering example

Dithering example

“…I am having an issue that I wonder if you could help me with. It is best described as “white noise” in mostly the yellow, yellow/ green, yellow/red colors. It does not appear in the file as such and I have made sure all colors are “in gamut” before printing. It does not appear in test swatches of solid yellow – it is a little baffling to me.”

What Paul describes here is a byproduct of dithering. That is, how the continuous tone of an original digital file is translated into the tiny droplets of ink of which inkjet prints are composed. The dot size (referred to as “picoliter” size) and smoothness of those dots is governed by the printer, firmware/software, and ultimately the coating of your preferred inkjet paper. And here’s the rub: not all inkjet papers are created equally. Not even close. Some are coated considerably better than others, resulting in much smoother prints that show no visible dithering (except under magnification).

Take a close look at the color patches on the attached sample (which has been enlarged to show more obvious detail), Calumet Photo’s Brilliant Double Sided Matte. Note how evident is the dithering; this is what Paul described as “white noise”. Note that anytime you use third-party papers (non-Epson, non-HP, etc.), you must make the media selection that the paper manufacturer recommends. This media selection determines how much ink is laid down on the paper, but in some cases (like this one) it may not necessarily be the best media selection for the paper. In looking at this sample I think you’ll agree that this level of visible dithering is not acceptable. You have two choices in this case: try different media selections for improved ink coverage/dithering (make sure that the blacks do not bleed!), or try a different paper altogether. Unless you are stuck on a particular paper, I wouldn’t recommend fussing with media selections to get better results when out there are many other outstanding papers that print very well according to the paper manufacturer’s specifications.

In short, if something resembling “white noise” is evident in your prints and is not visible in the original digital file, the paper you are using could be the #1 culprit. Look closely!

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future Printing Insights, I would love to hear them! Thanks for reading.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Digital Printing Insights #2: “How important are 16-bit scans over 8-bit scans?”

“How important are 16-bit scans over 8-bit scans?” This is a good question that I receive fairly regularly. First things first: An 8-bit file (8-bits per color channel [R/G/B]) contains only 256 data points per color channel. A 16-bit file contains up to 32,768 data points per color channel. Trick question: which bit mode contains more extensive and workable data? I knew you’d get it! I’m no mathematician myself, so to get right to the nitty gritty: when you’ve got the option and the money, always choose a 16-bit scan over 8-bit. You want MORE data to work with, not less. When one really starts “cranking” on their files (large brightness or contrast adjustments, for example) the additional bit depth becomes obvious.

16-bits

16-bits

Take a look at my 16-bit sample at left. I added one gross contrast adjustment via a curve adjustment layer in ‘Normal’ blending mode (when I say “gross” I mean it! The hyper-color saturation would be greatly controlled by switching to Luminosity blending mode, but my experiment would fail with this example). Notice that even after this adjustment, the histogram appears “uncombed” and good (“combing” = the choppy separations that occur between the histogram data). Now take a look at the 8-bit sample below it, also at left. I dragged the same curve adjustment layer from the 16-bit file to the 8-bit file. Take a look at this 8-bit histogram. See the combing? Combing of the histogram = lost data, and I know you don’t want this. You can try this experiment at home.

8-bits

8-bit

Photoshop now offers extensive support for 16-bit editing, so when cost, availability, and time is not an issue, always go for a 16-bit scan. What if you don’t have lots of disposable income to shed on 16-bit scans and you need to be a bit more selective? My general rule is this: if it’s a difficult negative or chrome (meaning under/overexposed or other such imperfections); if you have a fair bit of sky; or large areas of continuous tone (think water and reflections in water); or if you plan on “cranking on” the image in post-production (large contrast/levels adjustments), then 16-bit is definitely a better bet. With skies, water, and continuous tones, banding is always a possibility – especially at 8-bits and with large adjustments. Better data in = better data out.

I now scan everything 16-bit, but I still have a large number of files I print from that began as 8-bit scans. Some of them are just fine – no rescan necessary – and some would benefit by rescanning and reworking with 16-bits.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions for future Printing Insights, I would love to hear them! Thanks for reading.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Digital Printing Insights #1: “What media and quality settings do I choose?”

Epson printer settingsA custom profile client writes:
I have an Epson 2400 and I’m having trouble figuring out the proper paper & quality options to use. It was much easier in earlier models/software, but now the paper choices and quality are confusing – especially if I am not using Epson paper. In the Print dialog there are 4 different matte papers and 3 different quality (dpi, I assume). I plan to be using Calumet’s Brilliant Matte. Does it matter which Media Type I choose? As far as the profile goes, does the quality or dpi I print the targets with make a difference? I will also be using Epson’s Watercolor RW paper, but again the question about the dpi. Or should I just choose the best or highest dpi available?”

My reply:
You’ll need to check with Calumet to find out what media type they specify for their paper. The media type does matter, because this selection determines the overall ink density (how much ink gets laid down on the paper). ICC Profiles can only map COLOR from one device to another; it is the media selection that defines other characteristics such as ink density. The wrong paper selection may result in reduced dynamic range and/or weak/muddy prints, or may cause too much ink to be laid down. If Calumet does not specify a particular media type for their paper, it will be in your best interest to conduct tests with each of the available matte media settings. Pick the media that offers the richest print without bleeding any ink, especially black.

As for quality selection, most who have done this testing (myself included) have determined that the quality increase with BEST (2880 dpi) is not enough to warrant the slower print times and extra ink consumption. My advice is that you also test this for yourself. Take the same image and print it both with PHOTO (1440 dpi) and BEST PHOTO (2880 dpi), and examine the prints with and without a loupe. You will not likely see any gain by the naked eye, and possibly only minor gain under a loupe. If you find otherwise and determine BEST PHOTO to be better for your prints, then by all means!

Regardless of what settings you choose, be sure to save them as a uniquely named media setting for future use! Whatever settings you use to print the targets are also the same settings you will need to use when making prints with my custom profiles.”

If anyone has additional questions about this or other printing topics, please let me know! I solicit your suggestions for future ‘Printing Insights’ columns.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.