Half of the battle is knowing how to do something. The other half is knowing what to do. When it comes to making fine photographic prints, the road has been well mapped by our predecessors. One of the best ways to educate yourself about great print quality is to look at a number of great prints (directly rather than through reproduction). And, to keep on looking. Education, or enrichment, is a dynamic, evolving, lifelong process. Every time you look, sensitively with awareness, your vision grows. There’s always something more to learn.

A combination of elements (and their relationships to one another) is often evaluated when assessing print quality. Speaking very broadly, you could say, it’s all about believably reproducing detail. Focus, depth of field, high dynamic range, tonality, color balance, elimination of process artifacts all play a role. So do the selection of appropriate materials, scale, presentation and contextualization. There’s a lot more to it than you might think at first and though there are no hard and fast rules there are conventions everyone should be mindful of. There’s also a lot of room for creativity.

All of this is expanded and detailed in this free PDF – The Aesthetics Of Print.

Subscribe to Insights enews and download it free.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.


Edition structures disclose the number of prints that will be made of an image. Edition structures vary widely – some are open (without limit) and some are limited.

There are no standards for limited edition sizes. Practices change at least once a decade – sometimes more. Fifty years ago, the practice of limiting photographic editions was unheard of. Thirty years ago, the practice of limiting photographic editions became wide-spread. Twenty years ago, the most widespread edition structure contained 50. Ten years ago, a large number of editions were offered at 25. Today, many editions are restricted to 12 or fewer. Tomorrow’s edition structures will likely change again. Throughout that time, while there has been a constant trend favoring limited editions of increasingly small size, open editions have persisted and succeeded.

One should note that average photographic print prices have escalated substantially in that time, far in excess of economic inflation. This escalation isn’t uniform in the market; the low end has remained relatively unchanged, while the high end has exploded.

Should you limit your editions?

Should you buy only limited edition photographs?

Before you decide, find out more in this free PDF.

Subscribe to Insights enews and download it free.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Why Make Prints ?

October 22, 2013 | Leave a Comment |


This is an excerpt from my article on Digital Photo Pro.

Why Make Prints ?

Making prints does so many things for your images. How many things? Let me count the ways …

They’re …


Prints enhance your images with material qualities and the associations they bring with them.


Prints define the scale of your images.


Historically, it’s the images that were printed that survived.


Because they’re physical, prints are easily bought and sold.


Images in print are more rare, as well as less accessible.


Prints encourage images to be viewed in different ways.

What Making Prints Can Do For You

When you make a print, you consider your images more carefully for a longer period of time and often multiple times. This adds up. It’s quite likely that along the way you’ll find many ways to improve your images. Repeat this process many times, and you’ll find that your vision as a whole will improve.

Read more on Digital Photo Pro.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Making prints does many things for you. To make a print you have to answer many questions. You learn a lot when you make a print. Realizing your vision in print means more than just making it real, it also means you’ll make many realizations about your vision along the way.

The new opportunities making prints presents challenge you to clarify and declare your intentions. What do you want to accomplish with your images? If your goal is to make an historic record you may be content with making a few, perhaps only one, possibly quite small, highly durable print that is stored and preserved very carefully for the future appreciation of only a few. On the other hand, if your goal is to expose the largest number of people possible to your imagery, you may want to consider creating an international billboard campaign now. How do you want people to interact with your images? Do you want to present your images as casual, everyday, highly accessible, utilitarian artifacts or scarce, highly refined, collectibles? The way you choose to print (or not to print) your images will get people to look at, interact with, share, and value them in entirely different ways. When you choose one thing you often have to let another go. If you choose many things simultaneously take steps to make the comparisons meaningful or you run the risk of creating confusing mixed messages. The things you make your images into will guide the viewer on a reenactment of your journey of discovery – and part of that journey of discovery lies in making and appreciating prints.

Printing your images also challenges you to clarify and declare your sensibilities. How do you prefer your images to look? What is the appropriate scale for an image – miniature, life-sized, or larger-than-life? Scale changes the physical and psychological reactions people have to images. They draw close to small prints and sometimes hold them or even carry them with them wherever they go; large prints immerse people in images that may fill their entire visual field until they pull back to view them from a distance. You can change a space or even create new space with prints. How will materials enhance your visual statements? Synthetic or organic? Smooth or textured? Uniform or irregular? Sharp or soft? Reflective or non-reflective? White, cream, or another colored base? All of these factors will have not just a technical impact on detail and color in your image but also on the psychological reactions their associations produce within the viewer. Inevitably, when making a print some things are gained and others are sacrificed. The sacrifices you are willing to make offer an opportunity to clarify your priorities. What do you want people to appreciate most about your images? Let this question be your guide as you first explore possibilities and later make decisions about how to present your images.

To answer the many questions making prints raises you have to pay attention to many details. When you make prints you are called to carefully consider your images and what you want to say and do with them. Prints also offer invitations for others to carefully consider not only your images but also your vision. Once you’ve made prints, you’ll not only understand your vision better, by extension you’ll understand other people’s vision better too.

Sure you can let others make prints for you. But you’ll be missing out on the opportunities they present to further clarify and resolve your vision. Even if you do it, really do it, just once, you’ll learn a lot.

Find out about my prints here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Making prints does many things for your images.

Prints make your images tangible. They can be displayed and stored. Prints take up physical space and why would you let something do that if it wasn’t important? Because they occupy space, prints are rarer as well as less accessible. Of all the images you look at in a day, how many of them are prints? No one makes millions of prints. No one carries thousands of prints in their pockets or cell phones. Because they’re physical, prints can be bought and sold. It’s harder to command a higher price for intangible things and harder still for them to hold their value.

Prints enhance your images with material qualities and associations. Synthetic or organic? Smooth or textured? Uniform or irregular? Reflective or non-reflective? White, cream, or another colored base? Your choices have an impact on the technical quality in your images (detail, gradation, color) and on the associative reactions they produce within the viewer (it feels like or reminds me of …).

Prints define the scale of your images. What is the appropriate scale for an image – miniature, life-sized, or larger-than-life? Scale changes the physical and psychological reactions people have to images. They draw close to small prints and sometimes hold them or even carry them with them wherever they go; large prints immerse people in images that may fill their entire visual field until they pull back to view them from a distance. You can change a space or even create new space with prints.

Printing your images may make them durable. Historically, it’s the images that were printed that survived. New technology disaster stories aside, there’s never been a precedent to help us determine how long digital files will last if properly cared for. In theory, they should never degrade and can be copied indefinitely without reducing their quality. Whether people will perform the required maintenance to ensure this is the real question. One day in the future, media and format migration may become automated, but it’s not now. Though they can deteriorate on their own, if properly produced and stored, prints need little or no additional care and no know how to retrieve and use them.

Prints enable images to be viewed in different ways. Traditionally, photographs needed to be printed to be viewed. (Slides were a brief but possible exception. Or were they really tiny prints?) Today, that’s no longer true. But we do look at things that are printed differently than images that are not.

Do you look more frequently at images that have been printed or images that haven’t? Prints persist. They remain in our environment consistently and require little or no conscious effort for us to consider and reconsider them.  If you’re like most people, only the most important images to you have been printed and only a few of those are displayed at one time or for long periods of time. Making and using prints can become a part of the decision making process to focus more attention on a select few images. When images are printed they are no longer lost amid too many other less important images. When printed your images become more significant.

In short, printing your images can work wonders for them.

Find out about my prints here.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

I’m having a great time printing this series of images!

At first glance, they look like classic black and white images. In reality, they’re full color captures of a near neutral subject, processed and printed as color images. The trace amounts of color from the original subject make a very subtle but meaningful addition to the final image and print.

The trace amounts of color in the image are so subtle, I wasn’t sure which color management options would yield the best printed results; shadow detail, gradation, neutrality and graybalance all play major roles.

To get the final prints today, I tested multiple printer color management routes (Photoshop, Printer, Printer Adv B&W)(my ImagePrint tests are pending). Using Printer color management  for color offered the results I was looking for – not Photoshop, which clipped deep shadow detail and not Printer Adv B&W which rendered warm grays by default and cool toning solutions added more cool toning to the highlights than the shadows making the prints look like they carried a faint color cross).

They’re really touchy images. I found out how touchy when I went from 4×6 proofs to 11×14 prints, which when enlarged looked slightly lighter and lower contrast. A contrast curve for enlargement solved this.

At larger scale the noise became an issue, which I’m sleeping on. On the one hand, the subject is made of particles of water, which you can see when you are there. On the other hand it looks distracting to people who don’t know this. Water blurs with motion but the motion is frozen in these very fast exposures. I polled other people around me (including my father). Then I settled on an unexpected solution. I let some of the noise come through only in the areas of greatest focus, drawing slightly more attention to them. (Some noise can makes images appear sharper.)

There was a another surprise. I tested the images on glossy paper (Epson Exhibition Fine Art Paper). The extra depth in the blacks made another improvement in the image, so much so that it was worth the trade off for the soft surface of the matte paper. I made a similar test with a related series, Fumo, and didn’t make this choice. But here it was clear. This is the first time I’ve made my final prints on glossy paper.

I made these images while scouting my 2011 Focus On Nature workshop with Ragnar Th Sigurdsson and Arthur Meyerson. Arthur and I, two colorists who love the colors black gray and white and talk about them as colors.

I’m looking forward to returning to Iceland (and this waterfall) this August to lead a workshops again for Focus On Nature with +Einar Erlendsson , +Ragnar Th. Sigurdsson and +seth resnick .  +Arthur Meyerson Arthur Meyerson will join us at the end of our Iceland workshop for our Arctic Voyage workshop/cruise from Longyearben to Greenland and finally back to Iceland.

We have a few more spaces left our Iceland workshop.

There’s one space left in our Greenland workshop.

There are a two more spaces in my Fine Digital Print Advanced workshop.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.

Colorbyte’s ImagePrint RIP’s isn’t for everyone. It costs roughly half the cost of a printer. But for many it’s a trusted ally that helps them achieve great print quality with a minimum of effort. ImagePrint simplifies printer color management without sacrificing quality for those who aren’t experts and increases productivity for high volume printers, like service bureaus.

Here are 10 reasons to use ImagePrint.

1 – Easier color management (auto sets media type with selection of profile, auto resamples)

2 - Custom profiles and ink recipes for third party substrates

3 – Consistent color (no System, Adobe, Epson variances) – particularly important for service bureaus

4 – True postscript for sharper vector graphics and text

5 – No upper length limit

6 – Light temperature specific profiles

7 – Useful Saturation rendering intent

8 – Cross toning for black and white images with improved separation routines for better dmax, greater longevity, lower metamerism

9 – Auto device dependent resampling to get to perfect resolution (360) without additional sharpening

10 – Better shadow detail control

11 – Drive multiple printers simultaneously

12 – Print from multiple networked computers

13 – Page layouts (but you could use Lightroom)

Is ImagePrint right for you?

If these 10 reasons justify the cost for you.

If you’re tempted to use it try it in its free demo mode or purchase it with their 30 day money back guarantee.

Learn more about ImagePrint here.

Bambi Cantrell, Douglas Dubler, Greg Gorman, Jay Maisel, Steve McCurry, and Jeff Schewe share their thoughts and feelings on their work and how they relate to it when it’s printed.

View my Epson video interview here.

Find out more about Epson Focal Points here.

In this video, I share my thoughts and feelings on photography and printing.

Find out more about printing here.

Read other interviews here.

Read my artists statements here.

Profile Your Printer

December 21, 2011 | 2 Comments |

Prints made with default (left) and custom (right) profiles compared.

Good printer profiles help make good prints. Better printer profiles help make better prints. So, logically, you’ll want to use the best printer profiles to help you make the best prints.

How do high quality printer profiles contribute to print quality? A good printer profile helps render optimum shadow and highlight detail, gradation, neutrality and graybalance, as well as color rendition and saturation. (Remember, printer profiles characterize the combination of a printer’s hardware, ink, media setting, and the substrate you choose. You’ll need different profiles for different substrates on the same printer.)

How can you get good printer profiles? Look to three primary sources. One, use profiles provided by printer manufacturers; they’re free. Two, hire a printer profiling service; profiles cost approximately $100 each. Three, make printer profiles yourself; printer profiling systems run between $400 and $1000. (Profiles supplied by substrate manufacturers are of uneven quality; a few are good, many are bad.)

Which solution is right for you? It depends on both your printing conditions and needs.

If you’re using substrates supported by the manufacturer of your printer, try using the profiles they provide first; they’re often quite good. Years ago, Epson raised the bar on the quality of printer profiles provided by manufacturers. The highly sophisticated routines they use to produce their printer profiles processed by supercomputers are truly state-of-the-art. It’s arguable that you can produce better profiles, even with the most sophisticated profiling solutions available. Their profiling routines factor in subtleties like dot structure or screening frequency. One of the reasons a solution like this works is because the technologies and manufacturing standards they use are so consistent that the unit to unit variation between individual printers of the same model is extremely low. (It’s less than a Delta E of 1 or the minimum variation the human eye can detect.) Some, printer manufacturers, like Canon, provide a large number of profiles for substrates made by other companies; their quality is generally quite high with only a few exceptions. Other printer manufacturers, like HP, produce self-profiling printers. They need to be self-profiling, as the state of the printer is constantly changing; when nozzles clog, new nozzles come on line; when ink cartridges are swapped nozzles are replaced. One advantage to a system like this is you can quickly profile a new substrate on a printer with no additional equipment. The quality of the profiles is often good, but there will be times where you’ll want to improve upon it.

No manufacturer provides a comprehensive set of profiles that will cover the entire spectrum of fast-evolving substrate industry. A little experimentation with new media is advised, sometimes a lot. If you experiment with many medias or use more exotic substrates, you’d be well advised to have someone make custom profiles for you or do it yourself.

Read more

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