Printing photographs has come a long way in just a short time. Years ago no one individual thought much about printing his or her own photographs. The lab technicians were the experts and so we dropped off or delivered film to them and waited for the prints to come back. Sometimes it seemed to take forever!
Enter the computer age and all this changed. Now individuals have the equipment to successfully print quality photos that rival and even exceed what the technicians did a few short years ago. The digital age is here and it offers some absolutely amazing possibilities for our photography!
I will admit, I was not too eager to jump onto the printing-your-own band wagon. Oh I did get a printer to give it a whirl, but the results were pathetic and downright awful. The colors were all off and the ink was blotchy. I could never give one of these prints to anyone nor would I ever want to hang one on a wall for anyone to see. So I let the photo lab do all my prints.
Recently, a good photo friend, Bill Weitzmann, was talking to me about how easy he found printing quality photographs to be for him. I listened carefully and tried to ignore the voice inside my head that was saying “been there done that unsuccessfully before.” Bill’s enthusiasm quickly touched and took hold of me. He made it sound easy and since we both use Macs, monitor calibration software is already built into our OS.
Leaving that exciting conversation, I decided to give printing another try. And boy am I ever glad I did!
I am not quite where I want things to be just yet, but the quality I am getting three days after my first attempt is nothing short of amazing. Bill provided detailed instructions for me to calibrate my laptop monitor and then have the printer read the color management from the laptop. The first print using his method got me so excited I could hardly contain myself!
My prints are still too dark but they are getting closer and closer to the quality I am after with printing on my own. I can see that at least some of my favorite prints will soon be hanging proudly on the walls of my home and our camp up in the mountains. The colors and the quality are mind-blowing to me. I never imagined this could be possible at this level.
I may share more details in-depth on a future blog post but for now I will just share a few things to keep in mind if you want to attempt this for yourself. And I highly recommend that you do! I was going to wait to get a more modern and better quality printer, but my Epson R320 is kicking out some fantastic results!
1 – Calibrate your monitor
You want to be able to print what you see on your monitor and match that as closely as possible. Calibration is critical to get the best quality possible. This is even important to do when sending photos off to be printed at a lab, too. Otherwise you might be disappointed with what you get back.
2 – Use a color tablet
Kodak had an old book that included a color tablet, which is the spectrum of colors in the rainbow and various shades of gray. By matching this and tweaking the appearance in Photoshop you can get your printer to “talk” to your monitor and repeat the colors, so that what you see on your monitor is what you’ll get when you print from your printer.
3 – Update Printer Drivers
I found out the hard way that this is a very important step. I suggest you actually do this first because it can save you precious time down the road later. My trouble was twofold: I upgraded the Operating System on my laptop and I was using an older style Epson printer, the R320. I was not even able to get the landscape printing feature to operate at all until I updated my printer drivers. I wish I had updated them right away before I got started as this would have saved many sheets of photo paper and much frustration!
4 – Consider Using Lightroom
Printing is definitely easy to do out of Photoshop or any other photo editor, but Lightroom allows for a broad variety of printing options. For example, in Lightroom I can print contact sheets, wallets, assorted layouts, backdrops, and much more; and it’s very easy! I love Lightroom to begin with as I use it to manage my photo database and edit all my select photos. I also use Lightroom to upload galleries of photos to my website. But now I know I am going to enjoy the Print Module, too. There are just so many neat options and features in Lightroom!
5 – Be Patient
This process of setting up your printer, calibrating your monitor, and getting it to all work together can be and probably will be frustrating at times. Only start this project when you have a decent amount of spare time. Be willing to make a few mistakes and keep trying to perfect the process. Patience will definitely pay off. I know this because I experienced it firsthand this week!