First prints ...

Discussion in 'Printing' started by pdh, Mar 1, 2012.

  1. pdh

    pdh Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Like surprisingly many others, I've had almost no images printed, relying on Flickr to make them visible to others.

    This morning I got 4 monochromes back from a dedicated B&W lab, who print digital images "by hand". This was a pricey choice (relative to Snapfish etc.) but I wanted to see just how good (or bad) my images looked on paper.

    The first three are from SiJ, the last from about a year ago, all shot using my E-P2 with the 35mm Summicron ...

    SiJ - Day 02 by _loupe, on Flickr

    reynard by _loupe, on Flickr

    laundry lane by _loupe, on Flickr

    Penberth by _loupe, on Flickr

    They were printed uncropped at 9x12 for the 4:3 aspect and 8x8 for the square, with no borders and on a matt paper. I cropped "laundry lane" a bit before sending it to them, so it's a slightly different image on paper to the one above.

    The first thing to say is that the printer did a superb job; there will always be a slight difference in tone between a screen image and a print, but these are extraordinarily close. Most importantly, the tonal range was perfectly delivered. They stressed the importance of having a calibrated monitor, and I do - I'm sure this made a difference.

    The second is that I have a lot to learn about presentation; Each would have benefited from a white border, and I didn't understand this from looking at screen images alone. I have a soft-proofing plugin for LR3 and have the LR4 beta, but didn't really use either after (email) discussion with the printer (although they sent me some experimental profiles for their service).

    The third is ... on paper, there's no place to hide:

    "laundry lane" looks wonderful on my laptop, but just doesn't cut it on paper. The bokeh blobs look ugly, and the depth of field/plane of focus works poorly up close (it still stands up as an image viewed from across the room ...); so this was a significant disappointment

    "penberth" suffers from a bit too much denoising in the original image I reckon. It's OK but not wonderful.

    "SiJ Day 02" and "reynard" however I'm really really pleased with. Coincidentally (?) I applied a very mild split-tone to both (I modified "Platinum Palladium" from TLR B&W Split Toning Presets The Light's Right | An Online Community for Digital Photographers - these are free presets for LR) and I also cut the denoise right back.

    "reynard" is the outright winner on paper ...

    Learning so far is that being satisfied after pixel-peeping at 1:1 (or even 2:1) on screen does not guarantee a good print ... and that viewing an image intrinsically illuminated on a screen is very different to how it will look when it is illuminated by light falling on a surface (I expect that people who have been long-time film photographers will understand this automatically, but those of us who have really only been photographically active with digital equipment might not - meaning me of course); plus bokeh (how I hate that word) might just look horrible on paper when it looks soft and delightful on screen!

    As a few people (you know who you are) have mentioned that 2012 is "the year of the print" for them, it might be really helpful to have further reflections and advice from others who are either venturing into print for the first time, or from those who have been printing from digital files a while and can offer suggestions about selection and PP; most especially relating to getting prints done by labs rather than at home.

    I'm particularly interested in printing monochromes, and I'll bet selection and prep are different for colour. Would it be worth having two different threads?

    anyway, thought I'd share ...
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  2. HeatherTheVet

    HeatherTheVet All-Pro

    Apr 23, 2011
    I am going to be adventuring into print this year once I can get enough together to make it worthwhile.

    i think a printing thread or subforum would be handy
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  3. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
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  4. Will

    Will All-Pro

    Aug 30, 2010
    Don't worry about the white border, get a good portfolio box and mount them on card in clear sleeves.
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  5. HeatherTheVet

    HeatherTheVet All-Pro

    Apr 23, 2011
    I've just had a set of 50 or so prints done. You're absolutely right about not quite understanding until you hold them - what looks good on a screen may not look so hot once it's printed! I had a few problems with automatic cropping (one cropped out the subject of the photo altogether!) when they decide it's a true digital something x something not 6x4 or whatever. I also discovered that if I put a border on in Snapseed, it will not come out nice and evenly on the prints. A bit disappointing.

    I also found that the same print in 2 different sizes came back in 2 different shades. It was B/W so easy to spot, one has a green cast to it. Very odd.

    On the whole I'm pretty pleased though. Great to handle the pictures and see what I like. I used Snapfish so it didn't cost much. And sometimes I even take a half decent photo! I'm definitely happier with the B/W prints though

    The point of the exercise was to print off two photos I took at a wedding in the summer for the bride. She's not called the bride any more, she's called the widow. 16 weeks married and he died unexpectedly of a brain tumour. Thankfully those pics turned out rather well.
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  6. grebeman

    grebeman Old Codgers Group

    It's just after 3 in the morning and I can't sleep, so this post might become a rambling, misdirected one, so sorry if that's how it turns out. I'm looking at your images on a laptop from the warm comfort of my bed so I'm unable to judge tones at all Paul, but I guess with laundry lane the bokeh problem is in the top right hand of the shot. To me, with respect, it does look wrong from the start even on the screen. On the subject of borders I put a thin black one round my submitted images in this forum since I find that improves them when viewed on a white background. Likewise for my own prints made at home on white paper. However when I view them on an image viewer running on my linux computer I view them against a black background which seems to improve them considerably, so a subject for some more investigation there.

    I have always printed on an inkjet at home and been able to crop and position my images to my satisfaction. Could it be that images submitted to a printer are best laid out against a full print sized background layer in the photo editor of your choice and then flattened such that the actual image is positioned where you want it, rather than where the printer deems to place it when the actual image is smaller than the print (I'm not sure if at this time in the morning I've made myself clear there or not).

    I've been wondering whether, when my current inkjet used for printing becomes time expired, I would go the commercial route (running an inkjet can be quite expensive) so I shall be interested to see where this thread goes and what peoples experiences are.

    Now, do I get up and have a cup of tea because I don't think I'm going to get back to sleep :confused:

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  7. Pelao

    Pelao All-Pro

    Jul 11, 2010
    Ontario, Canada
    First, thanks for the post. I would encourage anyone to print photographs they like. Like the other elements of photography, getting to prints you like is a learning game.

    One quick thought for you. While its natural to look closely at a print, make sure you take the time to view them from a realistic viewing distance. This helps train the eye to see the whole picture, and flaws that look unbearable close up sometimes fade away. Of course, they are often replaces by others that are only visible when viewing the entire photograph... :rolleyes:
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  8. pdh

    pdh Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Well this is a bit of a zombie thread, but I'm glad it's been reanimated ... thanks Barrie for your comments, and Pelao too. One of the things that is driving me away from digital work is the tendency to look too close at images. I've really lost interest in "sharpness" ... I don't look at a Brandt (or a Rothko!) and say "wow! how sharp is that?" ... why would I care about my own images that way?

    So, for an update (only 7 months late)... here are the finished prints:

    View attachment 62778

    They are actually "wet digital prints", which is to say that the lab (Ilford Lab Direct) takes the digital file and uses a laser projection system to expose it on "real" photosensitive paper which is then developed in the normal way.

    I agree that the rather aggressive b***h (I hate that word) in the foxglove image is problematic, by the way.

    Most of my images recently are being made with the kind of sensor that comes on a roll, and thanks to the wonder of Freecycle (and a bit of eBaying) I'm set up for learning to wet-print.

    Here's a bit of a documentation shot from my kitchen a few weeks ago, the result of my first time spent in a darkroom for ... oooh ... 45 years probably ...


    And, though hardly suitable for a "compact" forum, here's a scan of a contact print made from a 5x4 pinhole negative. My scanner is also a Freecycle reject and is a bit crude ...

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  9. grebeman

    grebeman Old Codgers Group


    I've just noticed the date on your original post, that obviously escaped me at 03:00 this morning :biggrin: , what goes around comes around. For me the "problem" with digital is matching the tonal and detail quality obtained when I used to do 120 roll film work with what were really very simple 4 element lenses on the most basic of cameras, and as for the "out of focus thingy stuff" it was beautiful. I've been obtaining better tonal range experimenting with my recently acquired Silver Efex Pro 2 software, but at the expense of introducing more artifacts (and yes it does mean I've gone over to the dark side running a computer with Windows 7 :frown:). I'm not sure how I progress from here, I've given up on film having had so many problems that I put down to the quality, or rather lack of it, of my spring water supply.

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  10. bartjeej

    bartjeej Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 12, 2010
    yikes, that's harsh... I hope she can take some comfort from the photos!

    Odd about the different colour casts for different size prints of the same photo, I'd think that shouldn't happen?

    Paul, I always loved the Reynard shot, happy to hear that it worked out in print as well :smile:

    I've been telling myself that I'd like to print some of my images too, but I'll probably wait untill I have a more substantial body of images that I'd actually like to see on a wall :smile:
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  11. HeatherTheVet

    HeatherTheVet All-Pro

    Apr 23, 2011
    Sorry to have confused everyone, I didn't especially want to start a new thread on such a similar topic to the others already in the printing forum, so I hijacked this one. I reckoned that doing it this way was a little less self absorbed. But you know it's all about me, right? ;-)

    Bart, I kept waiting for a whole load of photos then I realised that if I did a massive order it would be a huge undertaking to get them ready, then go through them, then have to adjust them and get some reprinted etc etc. My current modus operandi is wait until they do a good deal on 50 or so prints, run them and see what I like. Then I can fix things that haven't worked and stick them in the next batch.

    I am increasingly tempted by the wet printing. I do have a darkroom of sorts at work - I still develop x-rays. Red light and everything. Also filled to the brim with dog food.

    I was thinking about presents for my increasing number of nephews / nieces / godchildren (none of whom are actually related to me) and I saw the Sunprint Kits. Looks fun! I'm not sure if I can get some within budget in the UK, but I'll give it a go. Proper sunshine might be a problem too.
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  12. HeatherTheVet

    HeatherTheVet All-Pro

    Apr 23, 2011
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  13. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    If you do that you'll probably be overly critical and end up waiting a long time. Besides, as has been pointed out, you really don't know how a print is going to look from the on screen image until you actually taken the plunge and got some prints done. You could go the 6X4 (or 15X10) route and print up 40 or 50. Or you could select fewer - 5-10 and print them bigger, say 12X8 (or 30X20). I did the latter because, for me, now that I'm used to seeing images on screen, even a 15 inch laptop screen, a small print looks...small.

    Of the thirty or so I've had printed, I've framed five. I think that's a pretty good ratio and I don't really have wall space for many more anyway.

    Happy printing.
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  14. pdh

    pdh Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    I've always liked how you present your images Barrie, and have been meaning to ask you (for about two years!) how many pixels wide you make that border ... I know how to do it (at a push I can just about drive Gimp) but I so wish there was an option to finish an image with a border in LR ...
  15. pdh

    pdh Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Ooh, well if you have any expired but unexposed x-ray film in sheets (5x4, 5x7, 8x10, whatever), do let me know & I'll take it off your hands pronto!

    I'm not a great one for dogfood however
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  16. grebeman

    grebeman Old Codgers Group

    Paul, I usually do my borders in AfterShot Pro using a plug in, and it's set with an arbitrary number, and I've no idea how that relates to pixels. However harking back to my Photoshop 6 days, I would suggest around 10-15 pixels would be a good starting point.

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  17. pdh

    pdh Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    ah ... well, after a little thought I realise I have ImageMagick ... so a quick application of
     convert 20121123-1-3.jpg -bordercolor black -border 6 zippy.jpg
    produces this

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  18. EasyEd

    EasyEd Regular

    Dec 22, 2010
    Hey All,

    This whole subject of printing is interesting to me. I intend to do some printing of photos I especially like. I have been there done that developing black and white film and printing it and loved it. Of course colour film is too temperature sensitive for casual work. But now in the digital age there are a couple other point to consider...

    Some images that look so so or blah in a small screen format look wonderful printed or viewed big. How many great photos have you deleted because of not realizing this?

    Why is the ability to print 8x10 or a little bigger considered so standard? When I look around my living room the prints I look at are the big ones 24x18 or so. Now they are not photos they are western art prints but the point being bigger is what people see and notice unless they are really looking close. When I look at a photographer like Liz Carmel I notice she sells prints 50 inches by 80 inches - course she uses medium format or some such. Of course that is way beyond where I ever see myself but 24 by 18 or at probably the very biggest 24 by 36 maybe.

    The point is the ability to print big with detail as in landscape photography. To me I have always thought that this is the reason for more megapixels and why more high quality megapixels matter. Of course you can do pixel interpolation but how much interpolation is actually realistic before the print just doesn't look right?

    Of course then there is the issue of what should you print on - paper, canvas, metal, what?

    Course you can always go this route...


    Anyway I think discussion of all this kind of stuff would be valuable as to me it is one of the considerations in deciding on a camera body - yet one never talked about - just boiled down to 10 or some such megapixels is enough.

  19. grebeman

    grebeman Old Codgers Group

    Who'd have guessed

    "at the weekends, I'm Gloria" I hope you're enjoying the rest of the weekend Gloria, glad to see you've got your borders sorted out :biggrin: Barrie
  20. grebeman

    grebeman Old Codgers Group

    When I attended my first digital photography course way back in 2001 run by Adrian Davies (one of the first people in the UK to be using digital cameras) he was using a Kodak body that took Nikon lenses, a 2.5 Mp camera costing some £7,500. From memory he happily printed at either 210 dpi or 240 ppi and even at arms length those pictures were excellent. 200 ppi was certainly quoted for larger prints with a greater viewing distance and given that, a 24" by 18" print could be made from an 18-20 Mp camera. For people who in the main share their photographs over the web 10 Mp is more than enough if they did but realise it, surely cameras should be sold on their user friendliness (ease of altering f stop, iso and the like) rather than how many of those darned pixels does it have.

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