Join Ben Long for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding how to use this course, part of From Screen to Paper: Improving Your Inkjet Printing Skills.
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- In the days of film photography the print was everything. It was the only legitimate way to view an image. Sure, there were slide projectors, but you don't walk into an art museum and see a bunch of slide projectors. You walk into an art museum and you see a bunch of really nice pieces of paper. Personally, I lament the decline of the print, because to my eye an image on a screen never looks as good as a well crafted print. If you're watching this course, I assume that's because you also have an eye for the printed image. Perhaps, like me, you have come to appreciate that the reflected light that we see off a print is much more authentic and true to the experience of the light that we see in the real world.
Light off a computer screen simply doesn't look like the light we experience everyday, so to display an authentic representation of the light that drew your attention to your subject in the first place you gotta print. But making a good print is not easy. It takes practice. Not just practice in the technical process, but practice in learning to recognize how to see when a color or tone is off by just a few percentage points. Takes practice to spot the overall tonal trend of an image, and it takes practice to be able to identify what does and does not work in a particular print. We read an image on paper differently than we do on the screen, and to get good at printing, you have to learn what works and what doesn't.
I call this process eye training, and it's the same type of re-tuning of your visual sense that musicians do for their ears when they engage in ear training exercises. In this course, you're going to practice printing a lot of images. I'm gonna provide the images for you as well as guidance on how you might approach the correction and printing of each image. After you've made your print, you'll watch a second movie, wherein I show you what I did to the same image to get a good print. Printing challenges are gonna get harder as the course goes on, so I strongly recommend going in order.
This course assumes that you've already seen my Inkjet Printing for Photographers course. There'll be a lot of terms and processes that I don't cover in this course that are covered there. This course is meant to be your chance to practice what you learned in that course. To get the most out of this practice, I've got a few tips. First of all, I encourage you to print the original image before you do any work on it. Most of the images that I'm giving you have already had some edits applied. In some cases, I have edited the image to the point where I feel that most people stop. After years of teaching, I've seen over and over how students edit until they get the image looking good on their monitor, and no matter how many times I tell them that their monitor is irrelevant, they still get swayed by it.
More often than not, this means that their edits are conservative when it comes time to print. In most cases, I'm giving you images that are, I believe, typical of where most people stop with their adjustments, so I encourage you to make a print of these images before you start working on them, so that you can better see the types of adjustments I'm encouraging you to make. At the time of this recording, I'm printing on an Epson R3000, a very nice inkjet printer that utilizes Espon's K3 ink system. This is a pigment-based system that does an excellent job in both black and white and color.
You don't have to have that same printer to get the benefits of this course. I do, though, recommend that you have a photo printer, rather than a plain office printer. My inkjet printing course has a number of recommendations for choosing a printer. Most of the images that you'll be printing are black and white, simply because you can't print good color until you know how to print good black and white. You need to know how to print tone before you can print good color, and black and white images are all tone. So for this course, you'll need to know how to specify black and white printing on your specific printer. For example, on my R3000, I have to specifically change the driver from color to advanced black and white mode.
If I don't, the prints don't come out truly neutral, they have a slight color cast. You don't have to have a profiled or calibrated monitor. I don't. It's fine if you do. I won't be going through the process of how to print in a calibrated system or how to use any particular print drivers. I also will not be covering sizing or sharpening, so when it comes time to make a print, I'm assuming that you already know how to get it sized to the print size that you want. There are a lot of ways to make any edit in Photoshop. I use a very small tool set, and many other things that I'm gonna show you can be done in different ways.
If you prefer another tool or process for doing something, than by all means use that instead. There's gonna be a lot of repetition in this course. That's what practice is. So you've got the chance to try lots of different techniques. Also, I don't specifically say the name of each tutorial image file in each movie, but it will be plainly listed in an overlay at the bottom of the screen along with download instructions. As discussed in my inkjet printing course, the type of paper you print on has a huge impact on print quality. In addition to different weights and textures, some papers are capable of holding a much blacker black than other papers.
That darker black will get you more contrast and punch off the page. Similarly, white in a print is simply paper with no ink on it, so the white of a print varies greatly from paper to paper. Here's an image printed on Epson Ultra Premium Presentation Matte paper. It's a good, very affordable paper. Here's the same image, printed on Epson Hot Press Bright, a more expensive paper but one that yields a much better image. This is the less expensive paper, and if you look at this area in here compared to this area in here on the better page, you'll see more contrast.
I got a darker black in here. I have a whiter white that's making for a broader, more subtle range of tonality in here as compared to here. If you look at the horses ear, the black is blacker in here, the white is whiter on the rim light around the ear, that's making for a more contrasty, punchier ear and a better image overall. If you've done a good job adjusting your image but find that you're still not satisfied with your print the problem might be the paper that you're using. For this course, I would recommend a matte paper. Even if you prefer glossies, you'll get more out of this course working on matte, as that's what I'm preparing all of my prints for.
And remember every image goes darker when it goes to paper, no matter what kind of paper you're using. Finally, I would like to ask a favor. I'm giving you some select images from my archive, and I'm giving you full pixel count images that can yield very good prints, and I like some of these images a lot, so please use them only for practicing with this course. Please don't post any of them online, don't sell prints of them, or line your cats litter box with them. Actually, you know, you'll probably be going through a lot of test prints, so if your cat's litter box is actually a responsible way to recycle those throw aways, that's fine with me.
Cats deserve eye training too. I love printing! It's my favorite part of the entire photographic process. I'm also not frustrated by it, which makes it easier for me to enjoy. With practice and eye training, you can also shed your printing frustrations, and I think this course will get you well on the way to that level of skill.
This course, from photographer and educator Ben Long, is designed to help you improve your printing "eye." Ben walks you through a variety of black-and-white and color images, explaining what he likes about them, and sharing insights on how to get the best print from it. Then it's your turn: using Ben's advice and Photoshop, you get to correct the images and print them on your own ink-jet printer. Then tune back in for Ben's solution to each challenge. This is a guided master class in the art of ink-jet printing.
- Making basic adjustments to images
- Practicing printing "by the numbers"
- Managing the black, white, and gray in an image
- Creating a vignette
- Addressing tone in color images
- Using exposure layers to correct highlights and shadows
- Making better masks
- Improving on a boring image