Inkjet Printing Through Photoshop – Macintosh

Using printer profiles correctly when printing is essential to getting accurate color from your printer. The challenge is that you have a bunch of settings that have to be set up exactly right, every time, for it to work. That is further complicated because every editing software, OS, and printer driver has it’s own settings and names for those settings.

You’d think that there should be some good information out there on how do do all this, but even the paper manufacturers don’t have good guides. One of my favorite companies has German language screenshots in their English language document, and they note that their instructions don’t work for every setup. Uggg!!!! It makes you want to pull your hair out.

I’m going to make my attempt to solve this problem by sharing the settings I use with Photoshop on the Mac. These settings have been tested and verified to print my Color Test Sheets correctly.

The settings for Lightroom on the Mac are quite similar to these, so you should be able to translate them over. Understanding what each setting does may also help you translate this for other editing programs and setups. As time allows, I plan to make more of these, but the easiest place to start was with the software I print through.

download the PDF here:
Inkjet Printing Through Photoshop – Macintosh.pdf

Glossary of Photo Terms

What does specular highlight mean? Or how about local contrast, d-max, pixel value, or paper white? Do you just nod along when people use these terms? Be honest now!

Photography is full of terms that are completely foreign outside of the medium, but are a necessary part of talking about it. I’ve compiled a brief glossary of terms that I use frequently and I thought could use a little definition.

Some of these are technical, and others are terms in common use among professional photographers and photo printmakers, but all of them bring necessary insight and understanding to the medium. 

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, and is mostly meant to define things that will help understand my articles and workshops. Most of these words and concepts are worthy of in-depth study; a more complete understanding of the what, when, why, and how will grow your skill and abilities. So treat this as a study guide as there will be a test every time you click the shutter, move a slider, or make a print!

Want to add a word? Or have something explained? Ask in the comments and let’s discuss! 

Color Correction

Still Photos – The process of correcting color and density with the objective of correcting errors in camera exposure and color balance

Contrast

Used to describe the difference in tonal values in a photograph, both global and locally. Large differences are described as high contrast, small differences are described as low contrast.  High contrast may also be used to describe a photograph where less than the full range of tones is used.

Contrast – Global

What we normally think of when we hear the word contrast. This is the  overall contrast of the photograph based on the the difference and amount of the brightest areas of a photograph. It can also be defined by the speed at which tones transition from black to white. 

Contrast – Local

Contrast within a specific area of the photograph as opposed to the overall contrast of a photograph.

Cropping

Still Photos – Making a photo fit a specific aspect ratio. May be done for practical purposes to fit a frame or print size. Also done to improve the aesthetics of a photograph by removing unwanted content and or changing the center point of the photograph.

D-Max

The highest density black a material can achieve, i.e. density maximum. Every paper and ink combinations or analog paper produces a different d-max. Higher D-max can be desirable because it creates more dynamic range, and a greater illusion of three dimensionality. Papers with some degree of gloss typically create the highest d-maxes. Matte papers, or artist papers generally have a lower d-max, or softer appearing blacks that produced reduced contrast. 

D-Min

The lightest value a paper can produce. See also paper white.

Interpretation

A set of adjustment to a photograph that produce a specific appearance. The goal of interpretation is to bring forth on paper the image or expression pre-visualised in the photographer’s mind at the moment of exposure.

Pixel Value

The numeric value of a pixel that defines it’s color and or density. Pixel values can be measured with the info tool in Photoshop to previsualize their final appearance on a print. 

Pre-visualization

Seeing what you want the print (or final outcome) to look like before you click the shutter. Pre-visualization guides choices in camera to produce the desired print including exposure, depth of field, motion, etc. Requires learning to see the way the camera and print see. 

Editing

Still photos: A sorting process to find the best photos from a group. 

Paper white

The color and brightness of a paper determine paper white. This in turn affects the color tone of the image. Papers typically fall into warm or cool paper whites. I generally prefer warmer paper bases for black and white photographs as they more closely replicate prints made in the darkroom. 

Specular Highlight

Small areas of extreme brightness caused by reflection of smooth, shiny, or reflective surfaces. Examples include metal, water, polished or glossy surfaces. Specular highlights contain no detail and are typically printed as paper white or the whitest white of the output medium. 

Sharpening and USM

A quick post on sharpening drawn from advice I gave a print client today. Sharpening is one of the the places I see photographers have the least confidence in.  

The challenge is every image is different and requires different settings. Getting the “correct” settings requires developing an understanding of what you see on screen and what that produces on print. It’s possible to make something that looks too sharp on screen, but looks perfect on the print  because a typical screen displays the image at about 93 pixels per inch, but the print can be of much higher resolution, so what you see on screen is in essence “magnified”. 

A couple quick tips:

  1. Always view the image at 100% magnification, or actual pixels. This will make sure that one pixel in your image equals one pixel in your screen. When you view your file at some other magnification, what you see on screen is some average of the pixels and can disguise the effects. 


2. Don’t use a 4x or 5k monitor like those found on newer iMacs. You need a monitor with a pixel resolution of ~72-110 pixels per inch, or a pixel pitch of around .23-.27mm.  In contrast a 4K 24” display has a pixel pitch of ~0.13725mm and resolution of ~180 pixels per inch, which makes the pixels too small to evaluate sharpening easily. 

3. Smart Sharpen is not a magic fix. There are many flavors of sharpening. Sharpening is an ingredient, and how, and where you apply it is all preference.

Looking forward to turing this into a expanded tutorial at some point. Until then, experiment!

Simple Tools – Complicated Results

Simple tools can be used to create very complicated results in Photoshop. This video shows how I use three of my primary tools in Photoshop. I’ve had some comments recently that viewers had not considered that multiple layers could be used like this, so it may be an interesting view into my problem solving approach with Photoshop.

My techniques are based upon what I learned in the darkroom in my early years in photography, and applying those techniques to Photoshop. My study of Ansel Adams’ Zone System and printing workshops I’ve taken with John Sexton, have been among the biggest influences of what I think a “fine print” should look like. My style is based very much in the West Coast / ƒ64 school of photography, and while I use digital tools, the look I strive for is in that tradition.

Edge Sharpening Thoughts

Fresno Bonsai Exhibition, Nikon D810 with Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art Lens at f/4.8 1/180 sec ISO 64 handheld

by Rich Seiling

Edge sharpening has become a popular technique, but I think it’s better for film scans than for digital camera images. Let me tell you why, and how it can be adapted for digital camera files. 

Edge sharpening goes way back. I first learned to do it around 1999 from Bill Atkinson, one of the first Apple employees and the reason windows in the mac interface work the way the way they do , and the mouse, and a whole host of other patents. 

Atkinson created an edge sharpening action script for Photoshop because of the grain in film scans. When you sharpen a film scan, you also sharpen the grain. Edges are more tolerant of heavy sharpening than flat even toned areas like sky. So Atkinson introduced people like Galen Rowell and a host of other well known landscape photographer to this technique, and it made it’s way into our toolbox. Atkinson’s tool has been an incredibly important contribution to the art of printmaking.

But fast forward to today. Is sharpen edges still the right technique? Low ISO digital images do not suffer from the grain problem of film. And edges are already sharp because of the nature of digital capture.

I still use a variation of Atkinson’s script today, but I use it inside out. I find that sharp edges in a good digital capture need little, if any, additional sharpening. It’s easy to make them halo and crunchy, and I don’t like that look. But smooth tonal areas often suffer from a lack of apparent sharpness. Part of this is because of the Bayer filter in our digital cameras. The pixels in our photos are only seen through one color filter, and the actual color is reconstructed by interpolating neighboring pixels viewed through different color filters. This does some stuff to non edge/smoother tone areas that degrades the apparent sharpness.  

Here’s an edge mask I created from the red channel of the bonsai photo.

Edge Mask

My approach with digital camera images is to use the sharpen only edges scrip to select the edges, and then I invert that selection so that I can sharpen only non-edge areas, which I find can take much more sharpening than the edges. 

These gifs show a 100% actual pixels section of these images with no sharpening, edge sharpening, and non-edge sharpening using the settings below:

In the top photo, look at how the edges of the leaves and the texture of the tapestry on the right respond to different sharpening approaches. And in the bottom photo, again look at the leaves, as well as the woven grass mat and the edges and detail in the wood stand.

Sharpening settings used for edges and non-edges.

As you can see, the non-edge areas handle this amount of sharpening better than the edges. In fact, with edge sharpening, I find the edges of the leaves over-sharpened at this setting, and part of the wood stand is over-sharpened as well.

Do I sharpen every image this way? No. But I do use this technique a lot, and the understanding of how and why is what guides my choice of tools. How, and how much to sharpen is very much a preference. Everyone has a different flavor. Lately I find myself applying less sharpening than in the past, and trying to closely replicate the kind of image quality and appearance you see in large format prints by photographers like Ansel Adams. How you use the tool is up to you!

Using Multiple Curve Adjustment Layers with Masks in Photoshop

A lot of people ask me why I use Photoshop instead of Lightroom, so I made this video to try and answer that. This image is a great example because of it’s extensive use of masking and individual adjustments for each layer. Photoshop’s masks let me take control of any area with great precision and make it very easy to modify my masks should I change my mind. Being able to use a different curve with each mask lets me carefully control contrast. And it’s very easy to make layers and masks work together and not against each other. Once you learn how to do this, it’s a quick, easy, and fluid process. I find that important because the ease helps me express my creativity with less effort which makes it easier to be more creative. Do you know how to make changes like this in your photo software of choice? Tell me what you think!