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In this Foundations of Photography, Ben Long shows photographers how to develop a black and white vocabulary and explains the considerations to take into account when shooting for this medium. The course follows Ben as he goes on location and explains what makes good black and white subject matter and how to visualize the scene in terms of tonal values and contrast rather than color. Along the way, he demonstrates some exposure strategies for getting the best images. Back at the computer, Ben demonstrates techniques for converting the resulting photos into black and white using Photoshop and other imaging tools, and offers tips on printing and output.
At some point, after you've toned and retoned and untoned and made your image high key and low key and everything in between, you are going to finally be ready to print it, but there will be two steps left that you'll have to take. You have to resize your image for printing, and you have to sharpen it. Before you do that though, you need to save your image. Now, I'm assuming you've been saving along the way, but just to be sure, I want to mention that you need to be saving your image in Photoshop format to preserve all of the layers. And up here in the Save dialog box, that's the very first entry, Photoshop format, not Photoshop EPS, or Photoshop PDF, or any of these other things.
Save in Photoshop you will preserve all of your layers, and the layering stuff becomes particularly handy for printing. For example, in this image, there was this bright bit on this building here and I toned that down because I found it a little distracting. When I print, I may decide either it's still too light, or maybe I would like it brighter or something. I've got that edit as a discrete thing that I can go back and adjust after printing. So layers are very, very handy during printing. First up with the printing process though, I'm going to do a Save As and save out a special printing copy of this image, because I am going to make this image smaller.
We are going to print this out as an 8x10 and as we resize for that print size, we're going to end up throwing out a lot of image data, and I don't want to lose that data for good because one day I may want to make a bigger print of it. So I have saved out to the desktop as a special printing version. If you print on different kinds of paper, you may find that you like to create separate versions for each type of paper, because matte paper may need very different tonal adjustments than glossy paper. Our first task is to resize. I am going to go up here to Image > Image Size.
Now, this is the negative full-pixel count of my camera. So as the image was shot, it's 3861 pixels x 2574. Currently, it has a resolution of 240, which means my final print size is 16x10. Now a document has no inherent resolution. You are free to change that however you want, because resolution is simply a measure of how many pixels occur over a particular distance, and we can change that. As we change it, the pixels will either be crammed closer together or spread farther apart.
So right now, I have a width of 16x10 when these numbers of pixels are spread out, so that there are 240 of them per inch. This Image Size dialog box is a very cool thing. It's a little calculator, and it makes it very easy to understand the relationship of pixel dimensions to document size. These dimensions at this resolution give me the size. I am going to uncheck Resample Image and when I do that, my Pixel Dimensions are no longer editable. I cannot change the number of pixels in the image, meaning I can't throw any data or make up any new data.
I said I wanted an 8x10, so I am going to plug 10 into the Width field and when I do, I end up with a Height of 6.667. Okay, for this particular aspect ratio, I cannot get exactly an 8x10. The only way to do that would be to crop, and I don't want to crop this image. So this means I am going to be looking at a custom frame if I want to frame it. At 10x6, my resolution ends up being 386.1 pixels per inch. I'm going to print this image on an Epson printer. Epson printers want the image coming in at 360 pixels per inch.
So I am going to type 360 in here, and oh! When I do that, my Width goes too big. I'm now at 10.7x7.15. So there is no way to get the resolution I want at the print size that I want unless I am allowed to discard some pixels. So I am recheck Resample Image, and on that 3861x2574, if I now put 10 in here and 360, I'm now at 3600x2400. My pixel dimensions are around 24 million pixels total, down from 28 million.
So the computer is going to throw out some data. I can choose the way that it calculates this resizing from this pop-up menu right here. I am going to tell it use this Bicubic Sharper interpolation method, which Adobe claims is best for reduction. So now I have a 10x6 at 360. If I sent the image to the printer at a resolution other than 360, it would still work, and I would still get an image the size that I wanted. What would happen is the printer driver would take care of doing the resizing for me.
There are a couple of reasons that I prefer not to do that. One, Photoshop's resizing algorithms are very, very good. I don't know what the ones are like in my printer driver. So I would rather do the resizing myself in Photoshop because I know I'll get good results. But the other reason has to do the sharpening. So we'll look at that next. I've got 10x6 at 360. I am going to just hit OK. My image gets resized, and here it is. Now I need to sharpen it. All RAW images need to be sharpened. If you are working with JPEG images-- that is, images that were shot in JPEG mode in the camera--the camera probably already sharpened them.
Odds are you don't need anymore, unless you've really dialed back the sharpening settings on the camera. RAW images, though, have no sharpening applied to them, and they always come out of the camera a little soft, so we need to sharpen this up. We always sharpen at 100%. Then I've got some nice detail to use here as a reference. I want to sharpen in a nondestructive manner because I don't know what level of sharpening I want. Now you may think, "Great! I am going to dial the sharpness up all the way because I really like sharpness. I want as much sharpness as I can get." Well, it's important to understand that sharpening an image is actually impossible.
We're not going to sharpen the image. We cannot take an image that is out of focus and make it in focus. What we are going to do is a bit of a hack. We are going to create an optical illusion that's going to make the image up here to be sharper. What we are going to do is increase the acutance of the image--that is, the edges in the image are going to become more acute. This is the layer I created to add a vignette to the image. I am going to duplicate that layer. It in turn is a duplicate of the original layer. I am going to apply my sharpening to this layer, and the reason I am duplicating this layer first is I might not get the sharpening right the first time and so I am going to want to be able to delete it and go back.
So I have got this duplicate layer here. I'm going to go into the Filter menu, choose Sharpen, and then Smart Sharpen. There are a number of sharpening things here. Smart Sharpen is really the way to go. What sharpening plug-ins like this are going to do--and you can see I am looking at the closer a bit at my image here. If I click and hold the mouse button, I see the original; if I let go, I see the sharpened version. So my images definitely appear sharper. What's it doing here? It's going through and it's looking for an edge. Every edge has a dark side and a light side. When it finds an edge, it darkens the pixels on the dark side, it lightens the pixels on the light side, to create kind of a halo around the edge.
And that makes the edge appear more acute. I can show you a very exaggerated version of what it's doing by dragging this Radius slider up here, and my image is becoming quite garish and out of control here, but you could see what it's done. Every edge in the image now has this halo around it, and the image has become incredibly contrasty, chunky. And if I was truly sharpening the image, I wouldn't see these effects. I would simply see the image gets sharper. Instead, I am seeing this weird optical aberration thing happening. Here you can also see it, little halos around everything.
It makes the image look very noisy. So it is possible to oversharpen an image. That's why we are going to be very careful with the way that we sharpen. Amount controls how much of a halo is painted around each edge. Radius controls the width of the halo. If your camera has a whole lot of pixels in it on its sensor, you probably need a wider radius. A 12-megapixel camera needs a wider radius than a six-megapixel camera. These actually look pretty good to me. I usually err on the side of less sharpness than run the risk of oversharpening because particularly on an image like this with a big chunky texture in it, it can look pretty garish.
But I think that looks pretty good. Sharpening is the only image edit that we make at 100%. Looking at a 21-megapixel image at 100%, we are looking at individual pixels that are just tiny. We really usually don't need to worry about things at this size. But sharpening is one of those things that we do. So now my image has been sharpened. Let me just hide the sharpening layer, so you can see, that's before, that's after. It's subtle, but it's there. Just a little bit of extra sharpness that will make a big difference. So, we are sized, we are sharpened, and now we are ready to print, and for that we are going to look at what we need to do in the Printer dialog.
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