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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.
Printing in the digital age is of course much easier than it was in the film era. You don't need running water and a light-proof room and not just chemicals and stopwatches or any of that stuff. You do need a printer, obviously, and these days if you want good-quality photo printing, that means an inkjet printer. Now, not all inkjet printers are ideal for printing photos, and we'll discuss how to choose one later. You're going to need some good paper as well. Ultimately, paper choice is a critical part of ensuring good image quality. We're going to look into paper choice in great detail later, but for now, you need to get some paper to get started with.
Of course, you can print on plain old 20-pound office copier paper, but you're not going to get very good results because of the way that that type of paper interacts with ink. So go get yourself some decent low-cost matte paper; that's what we will be printing with in this course. I'll be printing on an Epson printer using Epson's ultra-premium presentation matte paper. It's a great inexpensive all-around matte paper for photos. You can get 50 sheets for about $15. It can yield very good image quality, has a nice finish and a nice heft. It's very archival.
What's more, if you're printing on Epson printer, the Epson driver will already have a setting for it. If you're using an HP or Canon photo printer, then find their equivalent of this paper. Yes, there are third-party papers, and we'll talk about them, but for now stick with your printer brand, because it's easier to configure with the printer driver. You're going to need some images to print, but I expect that if you're interested in a printing course, you've already got some of those. We'll be doing our printing out of Photoshop CS6. We will be using very basic Photoshop tools, so you should be able to get by just fine with an earlier version. The only differences you might find with an earlier Photoshop is that the Print dialog might be different from what you see here.
Even if it is though, you shouldn't have any trouble translating what you see here back into your version of Photoshop. If you normally use something besides Photoshop, you'll probably find that most of what we talk about here can be easily translated to your image editor of choice. If you like to follow along with Photoshop, you can download a free trial from www.adobe.com/downloads. It's best if you have some basic Photoshop skill. This is not a Photoshop course, so I'll be expecting that you already have some level of understanding of adjustment layers, levels adjustments, Hue/Saturation adjustments, RAW conversion, and other basic editing tools.
Printing is one of the last steps in your workflow. Normally, you'll edit an image up to the way that you like it onscreen, and then you'll begin to add an additional set of edits to prepare it for print. I'm assuming that you already know how to get to that first stage, an image that's edited to the way that you like it onscreen. As the course proceeds, we'll be talking about paper choice, monitor profiling hardware, motors themselves, and a few other hardware odds and ends, so along the way you might find that there are some additional things that you want to invest in. But for now, if you've got Photoshop, a printer, and some images, you're ready to get started.
We are shooting this course at the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at the beautiful Quartz Mountain lounge in Southwestern Oklahoma. OSAI is an amazing multidisciplinary arts program for teenagers, and I am here for a couple of weeks teaching photography alongside Susan Kae Grant and Konrad Eek, so from time to time, you're going to join us in the classroom as we work with students on printing-related issues. My hope is that they'll become your proxies for certain topics, and that the dialog I have with them will serve to give you another perspective on certain topics.
We've got a lot a ground to cover, so get your camera and printer ready and let's start printing.
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