How To Preserve Shadow Detail In Your Prints

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One of the keys to making a great print is great shadow detail.
Shadow detail is something to be mindful of during exposure, processing, and printing. Curiously, even if you see shadow detail in your file on a calibrated monitor you may not see all of the details in your print. What can you do about this? Many things!
First Check Your Color Management
Before you start editing your files based on your proofs, check your color management system.
Recalibrate Your Monitor
Make sure you’ve calibrated your monitor with hardware. Set a brightness value of 90-100 lux, instead of using the default brightness target of 120 lux. If you monitor is too bright, your prints will look dark overall, especially in your shadows.
Read more on Profiling Your Monitor here.
Give Your Prints Enough Time To Dry
Inkjet prints come out of the printer almost dry, but not quite fully dry. When they’re fully dry, they’ll appear slightly lighter, especially in the shadows where there’s a lot of ink. So before you evaluate prints critically, give them a few minutes to dry. This affects absorbent matte surfaces even more than glossy surfaces.
Find my resource on Outgassing here.
Look At Your Prints In Good Light
Look at your prints in good light. You need the right amount of light (a CRI of 90 or higher), you need the right color temperature light (5000K is the standard but many viewers prefer the warmer 3600K), and it helps to use full-spectrum light (Many manufacturers now make full spectrum bulbs.)
Read more on Controlling Your Environment here.
MediaType_P800

Media Type sets the amount of ink that's used.

Set Your Media Type Correctly
Your printer driver will allow you to set your media type, which controls ink the amount of ink that is sprayed on your paper. Use too much ink and you’ll lose shadow detail. Use too little and your blacks and midtones will appear weak. If you’re using a paper not made by the manufacturer, choose the nearest media type and then adjust its settings with the printer driver’s advanced utilities. (You’ll find this under Advanced Media Control with Epson printers.)
Find my resource on Ink Limit here.
testfile_shadows

Print test patches to determine when maximum black is achieved and when separation is lost.

Print A Target To Determine How Much To Lighten Shadows
Before you adjust your files for printing precisely determine how much you need to lighten your deep shadows by printing a target. While they vary a little, most media settings lose shadow detail around a value of 96% on a grayscale. If you print patches of values between 100% and 90% you’ll see exactly where you lose shadow detail. Printed results will vary slightly with each different media setting, so you’ll need to adjust files slightly differently for different media.
You can download my targets here.
Next Adjust Your File


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Top Photographers Celebrate The Power Of The Print



John Paul Caponigro

Jeremy Cowart

Gregory Crewdson

Lois Greenfield

Steve McCurry

Gerd Ludwig

Mark Seliger

John Sexton

Tim Tadder

Amy Toensing

Steven Wilkes
Top photographers celebrate printing and talk about what drew them to photography, the inspiration that drives their work, the stories behind their most famous images.
Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.
Read more with my online Printing Resources.
View more with my Printing DVD.


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What Printing Can Do For Your Images

 WhyPrint
Most of us carry and share albums of our photographs with our phones every day. When was the last time you carried prints of your images with you? When was the last time you made a print? If you haven’t made prints recently, you’re missing out. So are your images. Making prints does many things for your images.
How many things? Let me count the ways …


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What Printing Can Do For You

Framed_Constellation_VI_425
Almost everyday, we make, collect, sequence, process, and share our photographs on digital devices with screen. When was the last time you made a print? If you haven’t made prints recently, you’re missing out. Making prints does many things for you.
How many things? Let me count the ways …


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A Checklist OF Things To Look For In Prints

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When you’re evaluating print quality, knowing what to look for is almost as important as knowing how to achieve it. Many technical factors contribute to print quality. Here’s a list of things to look for when you’re evaluating print quality – yours and others’.
It’s not that every one of these factors has to be optimal to achieve great print quality. It is that every factor you optimize enhances print quality further.
Well Focused
No Motion Blur
No Sharpening Artifacts
Extended Depth Of Field
Extended Dynamic Range
Appropriate Lightness
Highlight Detail / Separation In Values
Shadow Detail / Separation In Values
Mid-tone Contrast
Gradation
No Posterization
Low Noise
No Noise Reduction Artifacts
 
Believable Color … or … Color Transformed With Intent
Color Without Artificial Color Casts
Variation In Single Colors
Saturated Color
 
Appropriate Materials
Appropriate Scale
Appropriate Presentation Materials
Appropriate Contextualization
Appropriate Price
So what’s ‘appropriate’? That all depends on the statement being made. The real question is, “What is the artist trying to do? And how well did they achieve that?” You can successfully break the rules if you break them for a reason.


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17 Top Printing Tips For Making Great Fine Art Prints

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There’s no mystery to what it takes to make great prints. There are just many things to consider before making them and many steps to take while making them. Set clear objectives, map the process out clearly, master the skills in each step (or collaborate with people who have mastered specific skills) and you too will be able to produce great prints.
Here’ an overview of what it takes.


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