Friday, December 16, 2016

Want to Know More About Printing Your Photos?

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. 

Adoramapix also has some great info for getting your prints to match what you see on your screen. (specifically see the Color Profiles section).


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

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 and 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!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

11 Tips for Fantastic Family Photos this Holiday Season

This is a family photo for one of our Tennessee State Representatives to send out on Christmas Cards. Taken at one of the beautiful overlooks of the Foothills Parkway in Cosby, TN.  

Thanksgiving is past and with Christmas will be here before you know it. That means lots of family get-togethers for most people and a great opportunity to make some photos that will be treasured by future generations. It’s not always easy to get those great photos, so here are some tips to help you get going. 

 1.   Go Outside: Just to be honest, flash sucks. One of the reasons people often look weird when flash is used is that we are used to seeing people with overhead light. When you light them up from in front, it can give an odd appearance (think flashlight under your chins to tell ghost stories). So, if you can get folks together outside for a few moments, weather permitting, of course, your photos will be much better than with flash indoors. Also, at Thanksgiving there might be a bit of fall color left and that almost always makes for beautiful backdrops.  

Window light is nice, especially the soft light from a North facing window. It won’t work for large groups (unless you have a really big window), but individuals or small groups work wonderfully well.  

2.   Find a Sentimental Background: With the backdrop idea in mind, comes this tip. Try to find an area that will be significant years from now, a place that means home. An excellent idea is a front porch or part of the house where the festivities are taking place. Some of my favorite old family photos were taken with houses in the background that aren’t there anymore. The photos are all I have left.

3.   Keep Little Ones Moving: Nothing says family fun like a screaming, red-faced, tantrum, and the toddlers do it, too! Just kidding! Little ones, especially with the excitement of the holidays find it torturous to have to be still for photos. I’ve found that having mom, dad, or someone they want to carry them around or lift them up to see things (think Christmas tree or stockings) makes for much better photos than trying to wrestle them long enough for a photo. They will appreciate it, and so will everyone else within earshot.

4.   Play with the Kids: Be sure to get some shots where you are on their level. Fill the frame with those adorable faces! Have them show you their favorite toy or hold something they have made. Incorporating some great props helps to make the memories more personal. For a cute video idea, interview them about their favorite things. These will be priceless treasures as they grow older and have families of their own.

5.   Get Great Combinations of People: Undoubtedly, after everyone has gone home, someone will say, “Oh, we should have gotten a photo of ...” A great way to make sure you get all the photos you want is to make a shot list. As a professional photographer, it is a lifesaver when working with large groups.

Keep it simple and create emotional combinations such as: the oldest and youngest family members; grandparents with all of their grandchildren; all of the “chefs” in the kitchen; fathers and sons; mothers and daughters; and you get the idea. You can get so much more feeling in these type images. Make the big group photo for prosperity, but don’t neglect the smaller combinations.  

This is a personal favorite photo of the youngest and oldest of five generations, taken outdoors, in natural light, and neither of them even knew I was taking this photo. I took several posed photos for this five-generation family, but none were as touching as this candid shot.  

6.   Be Sneaky: The previous tip can be expanded into this one. Find those special candid moments of people interacting. The photos that look the most like the person you want to capture are most often when they don’t know you are even there. Grab the zoom lens and wander around the gathering. Find sisters talking, kids playing, anyone sharing a warm moment.  

7.   Include the Pets: Our pets are part of our immediate families, after all, we see them more than we do our extended families. Don’t forget to snap some photos of them during the festivities. Remember we are capturing warm memories, and pets provide the “fuzzy” part of the “warm and fuzzy” feelings we are trying to achieve.  

8.   Be Ready: The best moments come and go at lightning speed. One of the moments I try to capture doing wedding photos is the groom’s reaction to his first view of the bride walking down the aisle. It’s real and it’s usually very moving. In that same vein, capturing expressions of family to arrivals of those who have been away can be a warm and wonderful moment to treasure. Reuniting of loved ones is what the holidays are all about.
Kids expressions are always great because they are the real deal. Kids don’t fake it, so it’s worth the effort to be ready for that reaction to that gift they have been begging for all year, or that first taste of a new food. Have your finger on the shutter when these moments come your way.  

9.   Get photos of the Table(s) and Decorations: Years from now, someone will ask, “Do you remember that Nativity Scene that Grandma had?” and it will be really nice to have that photo, even if the Nativity Scene is long since broken and gone. Photos of that homemade pumpkin pie that Great-Aunt Sally used to bring every year will be a treasure some years from now. Take a few moments to capture the details. These photos also come in handy if you want to create a photo book of the occasion. Details make great background pages!  

10.   Don’t Forget to Have Fun: Above all, remember, they are your family, and this is a fun time, a once in a life-time. Be sure you don’t miss all the fun because you are taking photos. Hand the camera off to others and get the kids in on things with a few disposable or cheap cameras. Keep things light and enjoy yourself, don’t make it hard work, make it fun!  

11.   Details: Once you have all these great photos, be sure to tag and date them. Also, add captions if a great story goes with the image. Over the years you may forget or someone might be looking at the photos and want to know. Do these things while they are fresh in your memory.  

I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season, and that these tips help you capture the wonder and warmth, joy and laughter, all through the holidays and in the years to come, so that you may treasure them for many generations!