Posted by: In: Lightroom, Printing 17 May 2017 0 comments Tags: , ,

So after a bit of a disastrous calendar last year, I decided to make my own. Why would I do that? Well my reasons are…
* Shiny paper is hard to write on with anything other than a felt tip.
* Many off the shelf calendars come with bespoke settings (often 1 photo up top, with calendar below) that you can’t edit.
* Many calendars also don’t come with useful important (UK) dates like Bank Holidays etc.

I’m lucky in that I have a decent quality printer that can print A3. A3 is about the right size for our wall space and has room for an A4 calendar on the bottom and an A4 space above for photos. This could be done just as easily on double sided A4 with the hinge in the middle.

This assumes you have Lightroom, a printer, and a bit of a creative head.

 

Step 1: Make the calendar

To use the print module efficiently, we need an image of the actual calendar month. I used Calendarpedia because it’s a UK site and can auto-add things like Bank Holidays. Their calendars can be downloaded as Word docs, which I did, so that I could go and add birthdays and anniversaries in type, rather than hand write them on in my illegible scrawl. You need to download one Word doc (or pdf) per month. Once you’ve finished editing the calendar, save each month as a pdf file. This will keep it high quality and A4 (landscape) sized.

 

Step 2: Convert pdf to jpeg/tiff/png & import into LR

Lightroom can’t work with pdfs unfortunately so you need to convert the months to an image format. I used Photoshop (open the pdf then save it as a high quality jpeg) but there are various free online sources for doing this. Once it’s converted, import the calendar month images into Lightroom.

 

Step 4: Create a Collection

I created a collection set of “2017 Calendar” with a single collection inside it for each month. Into each month, I then added the appropriate calendar page.

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Step 5: Find Images

I then went through my library, adding images for each month that were appropriate. Your creative vision has no limit here. Better to add loads and remove later. I used people’s birthdays as a guide, anniversaries, pet birthdays, holidays etc. The great thing about the LR print module is that you can add as many photos as you want, in whatever shape you want.

 

Step 6: Create Print

For each month, I then set up an A3 custom package and built the calendar page. Remember to make sure that you leave space at the top of the package for the holes you’ll use to tie it all together. To add images, simply drag them on to your A3 sheet and place them where you want. Images can be resized with drag handles (remember to hold Shift to constrain the proportions) You can send back & forward with the right click menu on any image.
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Step 7: Tie It All Together

I used a wire binding kit to bind mine, but you could easily punch a hole through the tops of all the months and tie off with ribbon or something more creative. I bought a wire kit from Joyce (direct – avoid inflated eBay prices!) and unfortunately then had to order separate wires from Amazon as the supplied ones weren’t man enough for the job. The kit comes with 6mm wires as standard, but this will only hold 2400 gsm worth of paper. I was using 285gsm paper, and 12 of those tops out at 3420gsm so I had to order 10mm wires just to be safe. The Joyce kit is pretty nice for binding one sheet at a time (it’s not tough enough to do multiple sheets of heavy grade photo paper) and comes with a thumb punch. I went for the heavier kit (this one) as I wanted the leverage of the bar type handle and a sturdier overall machine.

Posted by: In: Printing 09 Apr 2017 0 comments Tags: , ,

Choosing a Fine Art paper can be a bit hit or miss.  I used DSCL for many years to print my images and occasionally Loxley and Ilford. I never printed from home because… well… it’s expensive. Ink is expensive, printers are expensive…

One evening, whilst taking my Lightroom course at our local college, someone said to me “well… it’s not about the money is it? I don’t print my own because it makes financial sense…”

Light. Bulb.

So, armed with a new “project” I began the hunt for printers, and a friend (who is a printer by trade) said that he had an “Epson thing” lying around and that I could have it.

It turned out to be an Epson Stylus Pro 4800 in perfect working condition with a full set of 220ml tanks and a full set of spares. I’ve not looked back.

One “quest” though has been to find the right paper… And paper is very subjective. This is really a guide for someone looking to try different papers. It’s not a scientific test – it’s based more on feel and perception rather than facts, so take what you like & leave the rest.

Before we get started, it’s worth me explaining how I define paper. With so many creative naming conventions around, it’s easy to get caught up in marketing. Words like “satin”, “lustre” and “pearl” mean different things to different companies (never mind customers!) so I’m just going to clarify what I mean by it here.

Matt – Has a smooth, non reflective surface and is similar to the page of a typed book.
Gloss – Has a reflective glossy surface and is very much associated with photography.
Satin – aka Luster/Lustre/Pearl – This is halfway between matt & glossy with varying degrees.

The prices quoted below are for 25 sheets of A4 – all from the same website and exclusive of VAT. Prices are mainly used for comparison rather than a guide price, so your mileage may vary…

I tested these papers by printing out the same test image on every different paper and writing the name of the paper on the back. I then shuffled them and laid them out on the dining table to analyse and compare blind. I broken them down into matt, satin & gloss so I was evaluating like for like.

Satin Finish (i.e. not gloss and not matt)

I guess this is my preferred paper type for general use. Gloss is too shiny and matt only works with certain images (I’m not sure which yet! – still learning)

Hahnemuhle Glossy Fine Art Baryta FB (350gsm) £25
Words can be deceiving. I wouldn’t call this glossy – I’d call it satin, and it has a pronounced texture to it. It’s a heavy paper that has a tendency to curl a little. I really didn’t like the texture when viewed on an angle with reflections. Nothing to complain about with both colour & B&W, although the B&W has a very slight caste to my eye when compared to other B&W shots on different papers.

Museo Silver Rag (300gsm) £26
I love this paper. It has a satin finish with a gorgeous texture. Colour rendition is absolutely superb and B&W images have beautiful depth. I love the texture pattern and my images have a real “fine art” feel to them that I just don’t quite get with the Canson papers. Overall, very little curling, and a lovely overall feel. It’s now my #1 paper even though I’m going to have to sell a kidney to get a 17″ roll. Cheap – it ‘aint.

Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique (310gsm) £24
This has been my #1 satin paper for some time, and it was a tough decision between this and the platine fibre rag below. It’s slightly sharper and more contrasty than the other Canson paper, and renders B&W very slightly better to my old eyes. It has a more plasticky feel to it compared to the other papers (apart from the Harman paper) but I’ve been really happy with the A3 prints I’ve had off it. Lovely paper.

Canson Infinity Platine Fibre Rag (310gsm) £22
This has a much more rag feel to it but still with a lovely satin finish, and the colour rendition is better than the BP above. The fact that the BP paper rendered B&W better was all that stopped my ordering a load of this. Colour – especially vibrant colour really pops out of the paper. For the lower price point – it’s a really good buy if you’re on a budget and want a high quality Baryta paper.

Fotospeed Platinum Baryta  (300gsm) £22 
After hearing good things about Fotospeed paper, I was really shocked to hate this, unless the supplier made a screw up when they pulled this and they actually put something else in the test pack – which is entirely possible I suppose. It feels like a much lighter paper (280gsm) and very plasticky. It was one of the first to be thrown out in my “blind taste test”. After handling the 310 Canson/Hahnemuhle papers this just felt cheap – and it isn’t.

Ilford Gold Fibre Silk (310gsm) £20
A lot of the internet says this is an excellent paper. It is – but for me, it’s not a Canson or Museo. It has a mildly plasticky feel for a Baryta but colour and B&W rendition is excellent. My only reason to choose this would be price as it’s probably the cheapest decent Baryta paper that I’ve tested.

Canson Photo Satin (270gsm) £10
Fotospeed Pearl (290gsm) £7.50
Permajet Smooth Pearl (280gsm) £8
I’m going to be honest here. I can’t tell the difference between them. In terms of the sub-£15 bracket, I think they all surpass the 2 papers below unless you’re after a Baryta feel at under £15. They all feel quite plasticky, and very light. The Permajet paper has a slight yellow caste to it, which warms up colour photos nicely or yellows B&W photos.

Pinnacle Premium Lustre (300gsm) £10
This paper has a slight yellow caste to it and the colours don’t pop like they do in some of the more expensive Baryta papers. In terms of feel though, it feels like a Baryta and gives the impression of quality. Unfortunately, it falls down in the image presenting. In hindsight I wonder if this is because it’s closer to a matt finish than a glossy one?

Imajet Glacier (300gsm) £12.50
Plasticky, and absolutely does not feel like a 300gsm paper. Imajet call it a “Lustre” paper, but I’d be more inclined to describe it as low-gloss, or even glossy – as the shine is quite pronounced. The colours though are rich and vibrant (helped by the heavier gloss).

 

Gloss Finish (i.e. shiny)

The only expensive gloss paper here is the Harman paper, and it’s terrible in my opinion, but if you love gloss and want the best – that’s as good a choice as any as it’s a Baryta paper. The others are all resin coated. All feel quite plasticky and non-paper like. Not much commentary because I just don’t like the paper and didn’t spend too much time with it.

Harman Gloss Baryta (320gsm) £21
This is a very glossy paper that curls quite noticeably. I’m not a big fan of a gloss finish, and was surprised that a Baryta paper would feel so plasticky. I’m almost certain it’s down to the glossy finish. Colour rendition is OK. I find the blacks to be not quite so deep although the rendition appears better than the Hahnemuhle paper.

Canson Infinity Photo Gloss Premium (270gsm) £10
I really like the way this paper renders blacks. they feel properly “black” and not just ink. The B&W images got top marks here for gloss paper.

Canson Infinity Photo High Gloss Premium (315gsm) £15
Well I couldn’t detect any higher levels of gloss over the £5 cheaper paper mentioned above. It’s heavy though, but still quite plasticky.

Ilford Gallerie Smooth Gloss (290gsm) £15 (for the heavier 310gsm)
This paper renders colours better than the Canson papers but seems pricey for what it is.
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Matt Finish (i.e. not shiny)

I have a confession. I don’t have any matt black ink, so all these were done with photo black. Printer purists can shoot me now, but I’m limited by what I have. Good news is all these fine art papers were printed with the same conditions, so it’s relative.

Canson Infinity Rag Photographique (310gsm) £26
Canson Infinity Rag Photographique Duo (220gsm) £21
I’m putting these 2 together because after the Permajet paper was removed, I was left with these two and I could not figure out why the heavier paper didn’t look as good as the lighter one. My head was stating that surely the heavier paper would be better? In my mind, it wasn’t, and the Duo won out in both B&W rendition and overall sharpness. Colour was about the same between them. I plumped for a box of the Duo and have been happy with the results.

Permajet FB Delta Matt (285gsm) £15
This paper was discarded first as the colour and B&W rendition wasn’t as good as the Canson papers. That said, it is a middle-weight paper that is significantly cheaper than the Canson offerings. Is it 30% worse than them? No, I would say not. If you’re on a budget, this would be the one to go for, but both Canson papers are better in my eyes.

Museo Max (250gsm) £21
I only just ordered this recently when I picked up a box of the Silver Rag, so it’s difficult to compare objectively with only a couple of prints. Anyway, I love it. It’s the most heavily textured of all the matt papers I’ve tried so far, but handling it feels really nice. I have to say that I utterly love the soft-yet-sharp rendition which sounds stupid and arty, but it’s really hard to describe. For me – it blows the Canson papers out of the water. If you find textured papers distracting though this might not be for you.

(A couple of days ago, I received my Epson signature test pack, so these have been added to this list after the same prints were made. No blind test this time though…)

Epson Hot/Cold Press Natural/Bright (330/340gsm) £31 approximated from A3 prices
These are all really lovely matt papers (they are about 30% more expensive than Canson equivalents, and you can’t get them in A4 though!) but I was very surprised to get a significant magenta caste to all the images on all the papers. This was using the Epson ICC profiles on an Epson printer! To fix this would require quite a bit of post processing just for this paper and would create a fair bit of additional housekeeping to manage, not to mention the cost of prints trying to get it right. Very disappointed. The difference between the papers seems to be in the form of texture (the “hot” papers are quite smooth compared to the textured “cold” papers) and whiteness (the “natural” papers are yellowy-white whilst the “bright” papers are what Dulux would call “brilliant white”) These subtle differences though do little to offset the very heavy magenta caste which makes skin look like fake tan, and black & white look toned with magenta. If you were printing a silver B&W print, you’d need to do some serious PP to get it right.

Epson Velvet Fine Art (260gsm) £24 approximated from A3+
This is a lovely paper, spoiled only by the fact that the smallest size I can find is A3+ (apart from test packs). On this paper, the ICC profile was perfect, and the resulting print was beautiful. It’s a medium textured paper and feels heavier than the 260gsm quoted. It’s a white paper (similar to the “bright” offerings above) but doesn’t quite beat the Museo Max in terms of depth of black and sharpness (I’m using Photo Black for all these though, so that might not be useful)

 

Summary

So that’s it. For me – the Museo papers are awesome and blow the Canson papers out of the water – which is saying something. For a standard satin paper, I’d choose the Museo Silver Rag and damn the expense. The Museo Max is a superb matt paper, but it’s quite heavily textured which might not be to some likings. I don’t like gloss so I fortunately don’t have to make that decision! As to which paper I’d buy on a roll? I’m still undecided. The Silver Rag is £90 ex VAT for a 17″ roll, the Canson Baryta Photographiqhe is £75 and the Ilford Gold Fibre Silk is £60. That’s a lot of money so I’ll mull it over for a bit and see what I think in a week.

 

Posted by: In: Lightroom, Printing 05 Mar 2017 0 comments Tags: , , , ,

I teach now – hence a long break from Shuttercount, and one of the questions I often get on my Lightroom course, is “what resolution do I need to have to be able to print at xxx size?” or “what size can I print with my camera?”

Some people say you need 300dpi for a print, others say “72 dpi for web”. Both myths.

The Lightroom export module allows you to choose many different options when outputting a file for single use. But before we look at resolutions, lets look at what’s going to be looking at your images –

 

The Human Eye.

Assuming 20/20 vision, the average eye can resolve 876dpi at about 4 inches. This is the closest detail resolution you can see if you really scrutinise an image up close. As we move back further away from an image, that number goes down – and it goes down quite dramatically. For example:

At a standard reading distance (for example 12″) the eye can only resolve about 300 dpi.
At a standard monitor distance (for example 30″) the eye can resolve about 115dpi.
At a TV viewing distance (for example 6 feet) the eye can resolve no better than 50dpi.
Looking at a cinema screen distance (about 40 feet) the eye can’t do any better than 7dpi.
(Source)

So viewing distance is a huge factor in determining how big you can go. Let’s look at the print itself.

 

Physical Limits

An image is (very basically) made up of pixels – the number of which you can work out from your camera specs. My Fuji X-T1 has a resolution of 4896×3264.
A printer can only print at a certain resolution. My Epson can print at a max resolution of 720dpi so I can’t go higher than that. In reality, my eyesight renders every image I print acceptably sharp at close scrutiny at 360dpi, so 360dpi is the absolute highest quality I will ever need.

Dividing the longest edge of the sensor (4896) by 360 gives me 13.6″ on the longest edge as the biggest I can print with superb – up close – quality.

Most of my prints go on walls though, so with a viewing distance of 30″ assumed, my 4896 sensor will now print to (4896/115) a whopping 42″ on the longest side (115 dpi).

So without any sizing, it’s quite easy to determine what resolution is “best” for you.

Resolution (dots per inch) = sensor size (pixels on longest edge) / size (inches)

So if you want to print to 8 feet with your X-T1 the resolution will be 4896 / 96 or 51ppi – perfectly acceptable for viewing at 6 feet and beyond.
If you wanted a billboard that could be viewed at 40 feet without loss of detail, you could print to a huge (7 = 4896/x) 58 feet along the longest side!

 

Software Limits

We can go even bigger though using resizing algorithms. The method above will result in your software neither adding or subtracting pixels from your image. Going smaller is quite straightforward as Lightroom is excellent at downsizing. Using the examples above, when I print an A4 image from my X-T1, LR tells me that my dpi is 463 (10.5″ image size with small border divided into 4896 pixels). The printer only “does” 360, so some bits have to be lost & I can’t visibly determine what they are.

Going up though is a bit more hit and miss. Lets say I wanted to make a 20″ print. 4896/20 = 244dpi, but if I wanted better resolution (say 300dpi), I’d need to “add” 56dpi in order to get that. The software would need to artificially create pixels to compensate. This isn’t something I want to do and in this case, I’d feel that 244dpi is an acceptable print resolution for an image that big.

 

Screen Use

Monitors, TVs and tablets (and phones) are slightly different. They already have a “size” in pixels which may be independent of the size of the screen. My 38″ TV has a 1024×768 resolution whereas my 24″ monitor has 2560×1440. So it’s possible to have more pixels in a smaller space (the iPhone 7 has a 760 x 1334 display in a 4″ screen which is better than my TV!) Because of that…

For screen display, “inches” are irrelevant.

No need to set resolution when exporting for screen use. Untick the resolution box

No need to set resolution when exporting for screen use

As an example, a 1000px image would take up my entire TV screen (30-odd inches) but that same image would only take up half of my PC monitor (12″). When exporting an image for use on a screen, consider only the number of pixels in it. In the Lightroom export module, that means ignore the DPI box.
Most browsers will resize an image to fit, so it can be tempting to upload full resolution images. However these can easily be downloaded and printed out by someone else so what resolution should you upload to avoid people being able to print?

Well, if we assume that people want a decent image quality of at least 200ppi we can do some more maths.

If you export your images at 500px they will look tiny on a high resolution monitor (they’ll fill a quarter of my screen) but they will only print out to (500/200) 2.5″ on the longest side. That’s pretty small and useless.

If you export your images at 1000px they will look ok on a high resolution monitor (they’ll fill a half of my screen) but they will only print out to (1000/200) 5″ on the longest side. That’s quite a big difference.

If you export your images at 2000px they will look great on a high resolution monitor (they’ll fill almost all of my screen) but they will print out to (2000/200) 10″ on the longest side. That’s a decent free print for someone. Even at magazine quality 300dpi, that’s a 6.6″ print!

So the upshot of this is that there’s no definitive answer. It depends on what you’re trying to do with your images.

 

Summary

In summary, most modern cameras today are capable of excellent quality images printable to any appropriate size for the viewing distance. Even my monitor (2560×1440) is even capable of getting game screenshots that will print out brilliantly to A4 and excellent (won’t stand close scrutiny) to A3. And that’s effectively only a 3.6MP camera!

Game screenshots from a decent monitor will have enough resolution to physically print.

My Spitfire being chased down in War Thunder