Well, I’ve been well on my way to getting digital images into print. I’ve learned a few things about preparing images for print and would like to share them. Post-processing has been fully brought into the photographer’s control – and it’s important to establish a semi-consistent digital workflow to prepare images for print. I have a couple new tools that I have added to my repetoire – Photokit Color and Photokit, both by a company called PixelGenius. These tools give a photographer a quick way to make substantial image corrections and have become part of my regular workflow.
To give an overview of my digital workflow, I first have to select the image I desire to have in print. Using the RAW format exclusively, I have an opportunity to correct minor exposure issues and straighten an image before opening it. Working in RAW format has definitely had a significant advantage with the introduction of Adobe’s Photoshop CS2.
The first decision I have to make is whether the image would have more impact as a full color, partial color, or black & white image. Whether black & white or color – generally the first tool that gets applied to the image is Nik’s RAW presharpening. After that, a quick pass is done with Photokit’s Contrast Mask tool – this does a good job at establishing a good balance between highlights and shadows. If the image is to be black and white, it’s converted after pre-sharpening with Robb Carr’s B&W conversion action, a standard desaturate, Photokit’s color contrast B&W conversion, or hue reduction via a PS layer. From there, it’s on to Photoshop’s curves. This establishes a contrast level that I am pleased with – usually it doesn’t take much but it removes any “haze” that is inherent to digital photography and present after the Contrast Mask.
From there, I will use Photokit to dodge shadows or burn highlights to further even out the contrast balance and help any underexposed or overexposed parts of the photo. This is entirely subjective and occasionally further tweaking of curves is necessary. If necessary, I apply the tweaks as layer masks to allow partial image correction. If the image is color, I’ll adjust the hue intensity with another layer. I’ve been experimenting with very green/yellow images to boost the “master” saturation way up (i.e. +20 – +40) and then reducing yellow saturation (to around -15 to -50) to keep things in balance. This increases saturation of blues, reds, and other colors – while keeping the relatively strong yellow/green to a non-overpowering saturation. This creates vibrant color saturation in many images. Further tweaks are made with various tools at this point to bring the image to where I want it.
At this point, I have decided to save the image as a very high quality JPEG to keep the native resolution of the post-processed image. When preparing for print, I will use Genuine Fractals to increase the resolution if printing at a large print size and then will use PS’s crop tool to bring final print resolution to where it’s necessary. I’ve noticed my printer (Costco) expands the image and cuts off the very edges – so I have to be careful with my crop point on images with edge detail. At this point, my image is converted to my printer’s color profile and any last-minute tweaks are performed if the color profile significantly alters the image color – which is very likely in vivid, colorful pictures such as flowers. Following this, Nik’s Lab Photographic sharpener is used and set to 300DPI, proper viewing distance, and around 50-100% sharpening to minimize noise while maximizing edge contrast.
Overall, my images are coming out extremely crisp, vivid, and will certainly rival standard film. I have very pleased with this final output that I am able to get when in control of all the elements of post-processing.