|This is a series of 5" x 7" greeting cards from prints. To see more of them, visit|
Once upon a time, there was a photographer who gave out digital files with print releases. She was completely happy with this arrangement. Then one day (insert ominous music), she saw some prints from photos she had taken and she was mortified and hoped that no one would ever find out that those were her photographs! She vowed from that day forward that she would would be in control of the printing of her work.
That story —yes, that was me, and I really was mortified. Having people find out that those terribly rendered photos are mine is way more frightening than learning the ins and outs of printing and becoming responsible for your customer's satisfaction well after the photo shoot is finished.
From comments I hear from other photographers, fear seems to be the biggest deterrent for not being responsible for the printing end of their work. Trouble and bother seems to be the second. It is more work, but it also moves you into a higher bracket of photographers, a more professional one, not just a mom-with-a-camera, shoot-and-burn type photographer. I can't help you with the trouble and bother part, but I can offer advice and share knowledge that will take some of the fear out of printing your own work.
Now, when I say I am in control of printing, that doesn't mean I actually print my own photos at home. You can, but unless you have a higher-end printer just for photographs, chances are the old HP you print invoices on isn't going to get it done. Personally, I use a couple of different labs that I have found to be of a quality I am happy to provide to my customers. Some labs will even do color corrections for you, but you do have to remember that those things are subjective and one technician might not see it the way another one does, so consistency can go out the window in some of those cases. Also, if you are doing any special processing such as intentionally over or under exposed the technician isn't going to know that and will adjust it accordingly.
All Printers & Monitors Are Different
A frustrating aspect for many photographers new to the printing game is that every printer is different. Even the same models, depending on the settings and the person at the controls. You can have prints done at 10 different labs and come up with 10 different results. Then you toss in the fact that all monitors are also quite varied and are adjustable in terms of brightness and contrast and it becomes even more of a shot in the dark for getting things right.
You want to begin with calibrating your monitor. There are several different reputable monitor calibration systems. Spyder is one of the more popular ones, and White House Custom Color recommends i1Display Pro or ColorMunki.
To really nail it down, consistency is key. Find a quality lab who will work with you and dig into their printing information. Most of them will have directions for setup to optimize quality printing. This page by White House Custom Color is a great example of that. https://www.whcc.com/resources/color
Adoramapix also has some great info for getting your prints to match what you see on your screen. http://www.adoramapix.com/app/products/prints/ (specifically see the Color Profiles section).
RGB vs CMYK
Here, I want to mention RGB and CMYK. Generally, RGB (which stands for Red, Green, Blue) is a color space used by computer monitors. CMYK (stands for Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black) is a color space used by printers. RGB can produce lots more colors than can actually be printed. In fact in Photoshop, if you see a warning sign on a color you have chosen it usually is letting you know that it is a non-printable color. With the advance of printing technology it has become easier for printers to get close to matching RGB colors and some printers will not accept files that have a CMYK standard embedded, but I just wanted you to know what they are and why they are there. You will find the necessary color space required in the info from the lab you choose.
Always remember that monitors are backlit and paper is not. There will always be a bit of variance because of that, but getting as close as possible by using the above techniques will result in a much better match.
|Once you understand more about printing, you can use it to self-publish more effectively, because you can |
apply the correct standards to your images. These are calendars I created from my photos.
See all of them at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/AprilBryant
Resolution, DPI, & PPI
First let's talk about what each of these things mean.
DPI - dots per inch. This really refers to print images though it often gets interchanged with PPI. These are round dots.
PPI - pixels per inch. This refers to the digital image. These are squares.
Resolution - refers to how many pixels are in the image, usually expressed in width x height.
Resolution is not so much a size measurement (though higher resolution images can be viewed larger) as it is a density measurement. It is how many pixels are in a given image. The more pixels are in an image, the larger it can be viewed without becoming pixelated. It is why often pages with many high resolution images are slow in loading, and why sites such as Facebook will automatically reduce the quality.
Printing & Sharing Online
If you are going to print your image, it needs to be at least 300dpi. Having a higher dpi than 300 is not really necessary as most printers top out there. To share online, your image only needs to be 72dpi as that is the maximum quality for most monitors. The retina displays on Macs squish double the number of pixels into the same size image, so for good measure I usually size files to use online at 150dpi, though it is really more of a resolution issue; at 100% on a retina display the image will be half the size (because of the double amount of pixels) so viewing it at 200% would be optimum.
Aside from making the files smaller and easier to handle and for pages to load, keeping images at a non-printable dpi for sharing online can discourage unauthorized use. They can still steal them for online use, but they will not be able to get a quality print from them. (Also watermarking and embedding your copyright information in the metadata, but that's a blog for another day!)
So, in summary:
Calibrate your monitor
Find a great Lab
Check the Lab's printing information
RGB - Red, Green, Blue - computer monitor color space
CMYK - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black - printer color space (more limited than RGB)
DPI - Dots Per Inch (round) refers to printing
PPI - Pixels Per Inch (square) refers to digital images
Resolution - density of pixels, usually expressed in width x height
Photos for printing need to be 300dpi
Photos for online only need to be 72dpi
I hope I have helped sort out some of the issues or confusion about printing. There is much more than I have covered here, but I wanted to keep it simple and understandable for those just getting into printing. It can be intimidating if you don't know where to begin.
April Bryant is the author of The Simple Guide to Great Photography (available on Amazon), a member of the US Press Association, a Getty Images photographer, and owns and operates HoiPolloiPhotography.com and AprilBryant.com. Her work has been published by the Sierra Club as well as several publications local to East Tennessee. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!