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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.
Now I'm ready to get to the serious sharpening stage of my workflow. I have gone through all the other bits, I processed my image in Camera Raw, I opened it up here in Photoshop where I did some retouching around her eyes, and I have also created this Levels Adjustment layer to get the image ready for print. And I'd like to take a quick look at that, here is before, here is after. You can see that her face is a little bit brighter. I hope that now when you see the before you can recognize that though it seems to have good contrast it actually looks a little bit ashen compared to here where it's got correct brightness.
And I'd like you to look at what I did here, it's nothing that we haven't been doing throughout this course, just want to really reiterate how important this is. I've created a Levels Adjustment layer, and you can see that I dragged the white point over here, I've pulled it in about 10 points so it's not a huge adjustment from 255 to 244, but still it's enough to make a difference. And I've painted a mask that constrains the edit to only here on her face. Again, as I add the mask my Histogram is showing me only tones of those areas in the image that are unmasked, so I know that for her face I've got a good white point.
I did not, though, choose to brighten up her neck and shoulders here, because again--before, after, before, after--I just ended up liking her face being brighter than the rest of her body. It gives the image a little more depth because now her body looks like it's a little bit further behind your face, may be falling back into a little bit of shadow, and it's bringing more attention to her face. So that's the printing edit that I've made. Again, that came in after I'd adjusted the image for screen the way that I liked it, then I am gone back and rethought it in terms of printing and made this adjustment layer.
I have also sized my image, I am at an 8 by 10 at 360, so I am ready to start sharpening. Photoshop's sharpening controls are applied as filters. If I go up here to the Filter menu I'll see a Sharpen submenu. Now this is grayed out right now, in fact all of my filters are grayed out, and that's because I have my Adjustment layer selected. If I come down here to my actual image layer then I get Filters. This is a mistake that I see a lot of students making and getting confused, they don't know why there filters aren't there or why they are not having an effect and very often it's because they're actually choosing to either try to apply a filter to an adjustment layer, or they're in the middle of editing a mask. With this selected I am ready to go.
However, it's important to know that sharpening is a destructive edit, there's no way to undo it after I've saved the image or printed or done some other things. So I perform my sharpening on a duplicate of my background layer. I am going to take my background layer here and drag it down here to create a copy of it and then I am going to apply my sharpening filter to this layer. If you've got a more complex image that has a bunch of layers that are composited together, then you have a problem because you don't have a single image layer that you can duplicate and sharpen.
At that point you may just have to flatten the image and work from there. Before I do something like that I do a Save, so I keep my layered version and then I do a Save As and create a new separate flattened version that I then sharpen and print, so that becomes my printable image at that point, and if I ever need to make changes I go back to my layered version and work from there. I am going to actually call this Sharpened so that I don't get confused later. And then I am going to go up here to Filter > Sharpen > Smart Sharpen.
Now a few things happen here, one I see a very large nose. That's not going to necessarily happen in your image, I am going to move over here to the eyeball. I get a couple of different previews in my Smart Sharpen dialog box. I get this preview here, but the sharpening is also being applied to my main image, here. However, I'm currently viewing at 25.97%, so there's no way that I'm going to be able to see sharpening. I would like to zoom in on this image. What's cool about the sharpening filters in Photoshop is your zoom controls still work. I can use Command+Plus and Command+Minus to zoom in and out, I can use Command+1 to go all the way to 100%, I can still even pan around my image.
So if you forget to zoom in before you bring up the sharpening plug-in, don't worry, you can always do it after it's up. Another cool thing to know is that this preview image, here, is showing me the effects of my sharpening right now. If I click and hold the mouse I get before, so that's no sharpening, if I let go of the mouse I get sharpening. So this is a really easy way that I can see before and after. As I mentioned in a couple of movies ago, because these videos that you are watching have been reduced in size from what I am seeing on my monitor, you may not be able to see some of the subtle sharpening differences that I'm pointing out here in these movies.
You just going to have to open up some images of your own and do some fiddling. Something else to know about this preview here, it's showing me the preview of only the image layer, any adjustment layers that are sitting above the image are not shown in this preview. That's why this image here around the eye looks a little bit darker than this does, because, again, I have this Levels Adjustment layer here that's brightening my image, and that brightening is not being reflected here in this preview. So I am going to want to pay more attention to this preview because, again, as I make tonal adjustments I change contrast, and as I sharpen I change contrast so I really want to see how those two things work together.
I've zoomed in on her eye here because eyes are really the critical thing in a portrait. If I want to see a before and after of this image over here since I've now decided that this image is not so useful then I can simply check and uncheck this Preview button right here. So I am going to some uncheck that, and now over here I can see this is my original image, keep your eyes on her eye right there as I check the Preview button, and there is sharpened. Again I don't know if you are going to be able to see that on your screen, I hope you will. This is Photoshop's Smart Sharpen Filter.
There are a number of sharpen filters available in Photoshop. I am going to cancel out of here for a moment, so that we can see that I have also got Unsharp Mask, Sharpen More, Sharpen Edges, and Sharpen. Right off the bat I can tell you just ignore those three, you're never going to use them, they are not really useful for photographic work. Unsharp Mask and Smart Sharpen are actually basically the same technologies. Smart Sharpen does a few extra things that I like more than Unsharp Mask. In the Basic controls I have two simple sliders, Amount and Radius.
Amount controls how much lightning and darkening is being applied to the edges in my image. Radius controls how wide those areas of brightening and darkening are The easiest way to understand what these do is to look at some extreme examples. So I am going to crank the Amount slider up, and that's looking awfully chunky and starting to get ugly. And watch what happens as I increase the Radius slider, it might actually be a little too much. I think you are going to get a better view of what Radius does if I turn this back down.
And now let's pick out an edge somewhere and look at what has happened to it. I want to zoom in a little bit further and actually the difficulty I am having in finding a good example here is an indication of actually how sophisticated Smart Sharpen is. It's doing it's best to hide what it's up to, but obviously things are still going a little wrong. I don't see any obvious halos, here is one it's very faint. There is just a very wide halo around this eyelash right here.
So Radius is going to be the thing that really starts getting your image looking visibly over-sharpened. Having an Amount slider that's too high is just going to make your image look kind of noisy. I am going to go back out to 100% here. Let's get these back where they were. Typically, if an image has been well focused in camera I go down a little bit from Photoshop's default settings, and I find 100% and one pixel to be a little aggressive, I usually back off to somewhere between 90 and 95 and take this down to about 0.9.
So here a before, here is an after. If I look at her eye I see just a very, very subtle change in sharpness, and it's not going to come out looking too over-sharpened. If you are facing an image that's softer, then you're going to want to increase the Radius, and you may even want to increase the Radius above one pixel. If you have enlarged an image a lot and done a lot of interpolation, you're probably going to need some sharpening with a wider radius. Obviously there is no straight recipe that I can give you for what sharpening settings you should use, so instead I'd like to talk to your about how to recognize over-sharpening.
Rather than trying to tell you here the sharpening settings that will be right for every image, because there are not settings like that. Let's look at sharpening settings that are just wrong. What I am looking at here is I crank up is there is just more texture on her skin. Her eyelashes actually start to, appear to be lines that are breaking apart because they've gone so sharp. Here's some good examples over here, these just look unnaturally sharp, both unnatural in terms of what things look like in the real world and unnatural in terms of what we were used to seeing in a photo.
They are harsh, they are crunchy, and, of course, the skin around here is picking up lots of texture that I don't like. It's a very subtle shift, but what I don't want to see is an image that looks more visually busy because the edges are so hard and so defined that my eye latches onto every one of them. Your eye hunts edges, it's a contrast detector, it really likes to find edges because that's a big part of how we recognize shapes and faces and everything else. So if your edges go too strong, your eye gets overloaded and has too much to do.
Couple of other important settings here to consider, remove Gaussian Blur, Lens Blur, or Motion Blur, these are the three types of blurs that your image may have. Gaussian Blur is simply an over all softness. Lens Blur can be a particular type of blurring created by the typical optics found in lenses. Motion Blur is obviously blur caused by either moving camera or moving subject. Smart Sharpen can attempt to lessen each of these types of blurring effects. For most images you will want to leave it set on Gaussian Blur.
If you have got a lens that's soft in the corners, if you have actually just gone way out of focus then you may want to use Lens Blur. If you've got a camera shake problem or a moving subject then you may want to try changing this to Motion Blur. Last thing is this More Accurate check box. If I check that, there is a chance that my sharpening just gets a little bit better. The reason that you might have it unchecked is if you have a very slow computers, these days there's really no speed penalty for leaving that checked. Again, no hard and fast recipes for sharpening learn to recognize the difference between a level of sharpening that introduces a certain type of business and noise into your image and a sharpening that gives you better detail without over driving your eyes.
As I mentioned before, by default, I tend to turn Photoshop's default sharpening settings down a little bit. But I've enlarged an image, or if I have an outright focusing problem, then I'm probably going to want to increase the Amount a little bit, and I might very well need to increase Radius as well. That said after I sharpen this image I still have some issues I don't like. The eyes look great but I picked up some extra detail in here that I'm not crazy about. So we are going to need to look next at some ways of selectively sharpening an image.
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