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Technical

From pixel to print: expert tips on crafting your image

From pixel to print: expert tips on crafting your image

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

August 2015

Photographers are happiest when they’re behind the lens. However, their artistic endeavours do not start and finish when the shutter clicks. That’s only the beginning of the journey, explains Adobe’s Richard Curtis...

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Adobe’s new Lightroom Mobile app allows image adjustments from a tablet device, making workflow even easier to manage.

“The true value of a photograph is determined during the processing phase of the image,” Richard Curtis states. “The key objective for the majority of photographers is to replicate the original shot as accurately as possible – be it on screen or in print. But if a photographer really wants to present their shot in its best light, then they should consider printing it. Ink on the page is less forgiving than the image you see on screen. That’s when you spot any issues, such as a shadow that appears more like a dirty stain, and more importantly that’s when you can adjust the image. So it’s important that photographers consider these multi-dimensional characteristics of imaging.”

Curtis recognises that photographers may feel they lack the time or resources required to concentrate on photographic post-production. Or perhaps they delegate their editing work to a retouching specialist so it’s out of their hands. Either way, he feels they may be missing a trick: “It’s about a photographer taking more control of their image from start to finish, to enhance the end-product. Two elements that ensure this are a colour managed workflow as well as precision and controls within the image editing tools.” To help photographers get started, Curtis has some key tips on colour management and image editing.

Tips on colour management

Understanding a few fundamental principles behind image processing, as well as using image editors such as Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop can help photographers to transform an image from a digital asset into a high value piece of print. The core driver behind accurate image reproduction is colour management, which predominately relies on the following two components:

  • ICC (International Colour Consortium) Profiling: Many consider ICC profiles to be the linchpin of a colour-managed workflow. They contain information on light, contrast, saturation, colour gamut and other important photographic attributes, all of which describe how different devices and colour engines should interpret a file’s data. For printing, the ICC profile on the printer controls the amount of ink being dispersed from the ink head onto the page, taking the pixel information and translating it to the print head for consistent, accurate output.
  • Colour calibration: Correct profiling is not as effective if another key element within colour management – calibration – is neglected. Each device across the image’s journey should be properly calibrated using an appropriate measuring device, such as a colorimeter or a spectrophotometer. By calibrating a monitor, a photographer has an accurate reference point when preparing an image for printing externally. By advising their clients and suppliers on calibration (if required), or demonstrating awareness of its importance to them, photographers are both increasing the accuracy of their ICC profiling and presenting themselves as imaging experts. This enhances their reputation.

Tips using editing tools

Supporting the imaging workflow, tools such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop make it very simple for photographers to edit, manage and preview the final outcome of the image before output. Crucially, this software takes into account the subtle nuances in print production and has features to facilitate a range of key treatments that photographers should look to consider:

  • Sharpening: Ink and pixels are very different elements. As a result, photographers should look to sharpen/soften the image where necessary.
  • Light balance: As paper isn’t illuminated like a screen, photographers should look to address this imbalance by adjusting the lighting to compensate. This may unearth shadows that damage the image once printed, highlighting the need for further retouching.
  • Soft-proofing: Tools such as Lightroom support a soft-proofing mechanism that allows users to view the picture on a monitor before it’s printed, to make sure it looks right and help ensure they don’t waste expensive materials. Depending on the printing technology and the type of paper and ink to be used in the printing process, soft-proofing enables the user to see if their image is within the correct colour gamut.
  • Hard-proofing: Once a user is content with their editing and the soft proof, it’s time for the all-important test print. Here, they can either see that their print is a true (or better!) realisation of their image, or revert back to the screen for further fine-tuning to get it just right. They can also experiment with different media types – such as white glossy paper or natural fine art paper – to see how the paper interacts with the image.

© Richard Curtis/Adobe

Taking more control of the image from start to finish, helps to enhance the end-product: truly stunning prints!

With this knowledge and by implementing a colour-managed workflow, a photographer can enhance the quality of their photography, as well as save themselves and their clients both time and money. Reducing the costs and hours spent soft and hard-proofing, a photographer is simultaneously driving quality control and production efficiencies, both of which contribute to their bottom line.

Once a photographer has got the image crafting right, they can begin to explore profitable new revenue streams such as fine art and giclée – to grow their business. For further information, please explore Canon’s range of wide format printing technologies and visit Richard Curtis’ blog.

Biography: Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis

Richard Curtis is a Principal Solutions Consultant at Adobe UK with a focus on Digital Imaging. Richard is the UK contact for Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements and Imaging workflows around the Creative Cloud. He is a keen technologist and has been a keen photographer for over 20 years, with a focus on street, travel and portrait photography. His favourite photographers include Irving Penn, Mary Ellen Mark and Henri Cartier-Bresson.