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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.
For color management to work, you need quality profiles for your monitor and your printer. Now your monitor might have come with a stock profile of some kind, for example, an Apple iMac comes with a built-in profile, but honestly, these are never going to work very well. If you're serious about getting a good match between your monitor and your prints then you have to invest in profiling hardware. A monitor profiler is a small gizmo that you can lay on the front of your monitor, it will analyze the colors that come out of your monitor and create, and usually install, an ICC profile for you.
There are a lot of profiling options out there and different ones provide different levels of accuracy and quality. I have here a Datacolor Spyder4 Elite, which I like a lot, other options include the X-Rite ColorMunki, which we'll look at in the next movie. I am not going to walk you through every detailed step of using this Spyder, because you might have a different device, what's more, all of the currently shipping devices that I've seen lately offer very good tutorials and documentation, so you can learn what you need to learn about your specific device from those.
However, most devices will ask you some of the same questions, so we'll go over those questions in this movie, and along the way I've got a few things to say about monitors. Because calibration can take a while I want to get it started right now and then we'll get into some of those other topics. So, I have the Spyder plugged into the USB port on my computer, in this case, it's actually running through my monitor. All of these devices are USB devices, so they just plug-in just like your printer and keyboard would. It comes with software that I've installed, this is the Spyder4 Elite software, and it's basically going to take care of just driving the whole device, and it has this wizard, it reminds me of a few things your monitor really needs to be warmed up for at least half an hour before you start calibrating.
When you first turn it on its colors may not be quite where they will be over the long haul, so it's good to let it warm up. They are asking me some things about lighting conditions, do I have any bright lights shining directly on to my monitor as we discussed before, viewing conditions of prints is critical to getting a good assessment of print quality, same thing for your monitor, I don't want lights shining directly on to the monitor, I don't want bright lights behind me, if you're really serious about color you can go really nuts with this, you can paint the walls your room gray, you can wear a gray smock, all that kind of stuff, so that you don't have any color reflecting on to your monitor, I'm not that far gone yet.
I have set my monitor's contrast controls to kind of a default value it may, or you may or may not have a lot of controls on your monitor, you may not have brightness controls, you may not have both brightness and contrast, you may not have color temperature, that's all going to vary depending on the monitor you have. So I am just going to work my way through here, oh, it wants me to check these off to let it know that I'm not lying about having done these things, so I'm going to go on here. It asks me what type of monitor I'm using, these days, you'll probably be using an LCD monitor, you have options here for CRT, laptops, and the Spyder and most other calibrators today will let you calibrate and profile projectors, which is really great if you are someone who does a lot of presenting of your photos.
So I'm just selecting that I have an LCD monitor, and it's asking me what controls I have contrast, brightness, or color temperature, I can select all of those things, I'm taking brightness. I have a few options here about what the target profile that I'm going for is, and this is going to come up in just about any profiling device you have, Gamma, White Point, and Brightness, and any monitor profiling hardware that you run is going to give you recommendations and in every device I've seen lately these recommendations are the ones that you should take.
I've set to a Gamma of 2.2, that's an indication of the contrast capabilities of the monitor. I have set to a White Point of 6500, that means that ideally I am looking at my monitor under light with a temperature of 6500 and Brightness value of 120, I'm just going to take those, and now it's telling me to place the Spyder. What's cool about the Spyder is it just got this little weight on the cord, so I can just put it right where it says I should, and hang the weight off the back. Now as I do that the device is kind of dangling here, it's not actually touching the monitor.
If you look on the back of it you'll see that there are these sensors here and they've got this kind of ring around them, that's to give it a good seal to block out any ambient light coming in. So, I'm going to tilt my monitor backwards a little bit at least I am going to try to, to get a better conceal between the calibrator and the monitor screen. Now when I do that I want to make sure that I'm not getting some big piece of glare on there, but I think that's going to be okay, that looks pretty stable. I hit the Next button, and you see some lights flashing on it, it's now going to start doing a bunch of different things.
After, in this case, giving me some warnings, Ambient level is very high, this level is not recommended. If you must work in these conditions use a monitor hood. A monitor hood you may have seen, it's simply, you can make one yourself out of cardboard or foam core, it's going to just cover the top and maybe the upper half of the monitor that's going to block a lot of ambient light coming in. We are working in a somewhat unusual lighting situation, because we've had to light the set here, I'm going to accept this as it is, it's giving me a warning that I should try and cut the ambient light that's hitting the monitor.
That's a good advice, but I'm going to ignore it for right now, because I think this is probably going to work okay. It's telling me where to put the calibrator, I hit Next, and it's off. So what it's doing here is it's showing a few different things to the calibrator and the calibrator is taking measurements of them, so I've got white, I've got black, it's going to go through component colors, it's going to go through a lot of different just swatches of color and tone. Analyze them, see how far off they are from the given specification, for example, here is red, if the Spyder is reading it and finding out that it's not as red as it's supposed to be, it's going to sock that information away in the profile that it builds, and that's going to help me be more accurate later. Let's talk for a bit about monitors.
I mentioned before that I had some things to say about monitors, and that's because I've been having monitor difficulty lately. I have, at home, an Apple Cinema Display that I've had for about five years, it's a nice monitor, I like it a lot, and I cannot get a good profile of it, and I think that's simply because of its age. Monitors change dramatically over time, and in addition to that I'm not sure it was ever that great a monitor anyway in terms of color accuracy. There are two things you need to be concerned about with your monitor, it's gamut and how accurate it is within that gamut.
That old Cinema Display that I have has a gamut that's a little bit smaller than Adobe RGB. So if I'm working in the Adobe RGB color space that means that inherently my monitor cannot show all of the colors that I might capture, so I decided I wanted a monitor with a bigger gamut. I have here an ASUS PA246Q, it's a 23-inch monitor that is a wide gamut LCD monitor. This monitor can display the entire Adobe RGB gamut. I've been very impressed with this monitor so far and one of the most impressive things is it's a lot cheaper than the Apple monitor I had before, you can get one of these for under $600.
Another good option right now is the Dell 2410 also a wide gamut monitor capable of displaying the entire Adobe RGB gamut. Both of these motors have USB hubs built into the side, they even have SD card readers built in the side, which is very handy. Most importantly though I've got that wide gamut and they're very accurate within that gamut. The other problem I was having with my Cinema Display was that even the colors that were within the gamut, the monitor wasn't necessarily able to reproduce them properly just because the computer has sent a particular color value to the monitor doesn't mean that the monitor has been able to accurately deliver it, and I couldn't profile it back into usable shape.
Another problem with the monitor you might have, and this is true with iMacs and a lot of laptop screens both Mac and Windows laptops is they'll have a glossy surface. A glossy surface is as you may have already discovered, brutal for looking at photographs, it crunches your dark shadow tones down to complete black, it's got lots of glare over it, and it can really complicate the calibration process. So this is what I meant when I said earlier that before you commit to color management you may need to realize that you've got to get a different monitor, and that's not just about spending the money for a different monitor, it's about deciding, well, I have this iMac, what do I do if I need a second monitor also? Do I, does that mean I need a new desk? does that mean I have to have more space? These are considerations you need to think about before you commit to the color management process.
We're going to go through the process now of building this profile, and then I'm going to show you something else cool that the Spyder does which is it'll then analyze your profile again for accuracy, and then we're going to see if this profile that we've made is actually any good or not.
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