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In this course, photographer and author Ben Long explores the art and the craft of creating beautiful, archival-quality inkjet prints. The course looks at the anatomy of a print job: how a printer works, how to adjust and prepare your image to get the best results, and what happens to your photo in its journey from pixels to paper.
After a discussion of how to choose a printer, the course covers the process of preparing both black and white and color images using Adobe Photoshop. Ben describes how to take images from looking good onscreen to being properly adjusted for best results on paper, covering details such as sizing, sharpening, and color management.
With photographer and master framer Konrad Eek, Ben explores the creative decisions that photographers should address before printing. What size print? How does print size relate to the message of the photo and to the space where the photo will be displayed? What kinds of paper choices do you have, and how does your photo's content relate to the paper you choose?
The course also describes how to properly evaluate a print and how to handle common challenges that crop up during the printing process.
Ben: Okay, so Jessie, you've made your initial edits and they're looking good, but in thinking about this as a printed image, right away my first concern is that the foreground is too dark. What we've got here is a bright sky and a silhouetted mid-ground and a dark foreground. Your camera exposed for the sky, which left the foreground too dark. Now this morning you were telling me that you went out early this morning and the water Ben: was really metallic-looking. Jess: Yeah. Ben: Is it--compared to what you saw then, how does this look now. Is that about-- Jess: It looks a little bit more dull.
Ben: Okay, so we need to bring that out. This is tricky because your camera is good enough that we could really brighten this whole thing up, but it's not going to really. Your eye wasn't seeing a tremendous amount of brightness. So I think the goal is to get back to that metallic look that you were having. So here in Camera Raw we can see that we've got an overexposure over here. That's going to be this bit, and we can always turn on Highlight Clipping so everything red is overexposed. Overall, I think the sky looks pretty good. What do you think? Jess: Yeah, it does. Ben: Okay, so let's go on into Photoshop.
Ben: So we'll go ahead and open the image, and I am going to have you drive here. What we're going to do is we're going to make a Levels adjustment that's going to tackle this foreground area, and then we're going to need to mask it to make sure that it doesn't mess up the sky. So right away, now that we look at the histogram here on our level, we can see that our white point is still off. So, actually, why don't you drag that to the left, and that's going to affect the sky some. We're going to lose a little bit more detail in here, but I don't think really matters.
That's the sunshine, and we're used to it being too bright. Let's look at the Layers palette and we can see that we've got one Levels Adjustment layer that's going to be targeting the sky. Let's make was another one. Jess: Another Levels? Ben: Another Levels. Ben: And this time what we need to do is just create a quick rough Levels adjustment that we think might be right for the foreground. We don't have a mask in place so it's going to mess up the sky. So we've got this big blob here, which is a bunch of shadow detail. Where do you think that is in the image? Jess: I have to say the mountains. They look really dark right now.
Ben: Yeah the mountains here, it's going to be all of this stuff, all of this stuff, which means that our water and all of the other darker midtones are going to be somewhere in here. Ben: So let's try getting--and then this stuff is going to be all of the lighter midtones. I think you might be able to take the white point and get it all the way over to here. Okay, now obviously we're overexposing the water here. That's not good. We want to detail on the mountains. Do you want to leave the mountains in silhouette? Jess: Yeah, a little bit, yeah.
Ben: I think that's the right choice, yeah. So back off on that white point adjustment; just take it back to the right, okay. So split the difference there. Ben: Let's come into about there. Jess: Yeah. Ben: So let's just watch-- okay, back off a little bit. We are not getting much detail in here. Is the water is starting to get more metallicky looking to you? Okay, problem is we lost our sky. Jess: Right. Ben: So we need to create a mask. Ben: So you know that we can mask this by painting black into here, but you're going to have a hard time painting around all of this.
We can cheat that by putting in a gradient that is going to define fully unmasked here and wrap off into fully masked up here, and the way we do that is with the Gradient tool, which is this little rectangle that's filled with a gradient. So just pick the Gradient tool there. You can also just hit G. And we want to have white as our foreground color and black as our background color, so you can either hit D on the keyboard or you can click that little swatch thing right there. All right. So now we want the mountains in full silhouette or partial silhouette, whatever.
Start clicking right about there, where the water meets the mountains, and drag up to about where the mountain ends. In fact, if you hold down the Shift key, that will constraint it to 90 degrees. So let's see what that looks like. Ben: Let go and there is our sky back. Jess: Okay. Ben: And if you look over here at the mask, you can see that we've got white underneath, Ben: so this is unmasked. Jess: All right. Ben: And then there is a very slight gradient from here to here that's smoothly blending the Levels adjustment from full strength to no strength at all. Now with the mask in place something happens to out histogram.
It changes to show only a Histogram of the data that's visible in the unmasked area. So in other words, this histogram is showing just what's in this white area down here. Ben: Now looking at it, I still feel like this is a little dark. Jess: All right. Ben: So why don't you crank the white point to the left some more. This is the tricky bit right here. That's getting overexposed, but I like the rest of this. Why don't you get it, put that white point where you like it for this bit, and we'll fix that.
I really like this stuff that's coming out over here; it's looking really silky. That's nice. So now what we need to do is just mask that off so that it's not getting such a strong adjustment, and for that we'll just use a paintbrush. So grab the Brush tool. And we want to protect this area from the adjustment, so that's going to be black paint. So you can hit that double-arrow thing there, yeah and it swaps them so now black is your foreground color. Jess: And then just go under and over the bridge and like in there, or go over it as a whole? Ben: Good question, do you want to-- yeah, you don't necessarily want to mess up the bridge, so I'd stay with a small brush and try and just mask out the water there.
Ben: And that's too strong, so I am going to undo that there, and lower the opacity of your brush. We could also switch to a different shade of gray if you wanted, but lowering the opacity is very easy. Yeah, you are starting to get some detail back in there. And if the highlights are blown a little bit on the surface of the water, that's okay. We're kind of used to seeing those specular highlights on water blow out to complete white. If you wanted, it would be possible to bring out a little more contrast in these textures, but I just don't think that it would look that realistic because you don't have strong light coming in to cast shadows and make contrast, so I think, yeah, that's looking pretty good.
I think that this is probably the right adjustment. One thing: these iMacs all have glossy screens, which really change your view of black. They make it impossible to see some of the darker, more subtle shades of black that might be sitting in shadows, and they also just make the image a little more complicated because we see all these reflections. So there's a degree to which we're just not going to know about this until we see a test print. All right, I think it looks good. So, well done. The next step is to do a test print.
We'll see where we need to go from there. That's a great before and after; it's definitely improved. Ben: Anything else that you think the image needs? Jess: No. Ben: Yeah, I think it's ready to go. Let's take a look.
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