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Photograph is not a print anymore


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I'm from the time when you only saw a photograph in print. Today, we rarely print, a photograph is a digital file.

Recently I got to print a few of my favorite images for a local photography contest. I though it would be nice to look at a print before I submitted, since the photos selected will be displayed in a gallery, in print. 

Well, I was surprised to see my photos in print. They looked different and I saw things that I had not seen inspecting the digital file. It was, to say the least, an odd experience. Out of 10 favorite photographs, I am down to two that I think are decent enough to put on a wall.

How come. In the past all we had was the print.

Tell me what's your experience with printing? 

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There might be several reasons for bad printing results.

What sort of print did you order? InkJet print? Digital Offset print? Photo print?

First of all you usually have to convert the RGB images into CMYK. The range of RGB color scheme is much more extensive. This means that, while converting into CMYK, images loose color intensity. A bright blue sky often becomes much darker and dull.

If your images were printed with a digital Offset machine you might have noticed another problem: Those parts of your image that look homogenous on your screen (e.g. a clear blue sky) might have become „stripes“ or look a bit "cloudy" now. This still is a problem nowadays concerning digital Offset print. InkJet printers or photo print wont show those problems.

Your image must have a correct resolution.

This resolution depends on the type of print. A common Offset printery should produce with a resolution of at least 70 lines per cm (178 lines per inch). Your image should have a resolution of at least 350 dpi (dots per inch). If your printery produces with 80 lines per cm, the image should have a resolution of 400 dpi. If it is only 60 lines per cm, a resolution of 300 dpi will be enough. 300 dpi usually is enough for InkJet printers as well. This resolution can be reduced when your prints are much larger than e.g. a page of a book because of the increasing distance of the spectators.

Finally the quality of printing results depends on the quality and surface of paper being used. 

Sorry for my bad English!

 

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I do print out my photo's for enlarging and framing - I am normally quote pleased with them although I do have to brighten them more than I would for screen use and also increase the saturation a bit - to bring out the real colour.

The main problem is choosing the correct paper for your printer - depending on the paper it could be premium gloss, or ultra gloss - of just photo paper - these all have a HUGE difference on the the actual print - trial and error - also make sure the nozzles on your printer are clean.

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AlessandraRC,

If you could be a little more specific about the objectionable differences you are seeing I might be able to help. I have a long history with fine art reproduction and still own a couple of large format printers for my personal use. 

All of the replies so far are absolutely accurate but no one has yet mentioned the big difference in the way you are viewing digital vs. print. In simple terms, monitors are essentially the equivalent of looking at a transparency on a light table where the image is illuminated from behind. Prints on the other hand are are reflective medium where light bounces back from the surface. This makes a huge difference to the human eye in terms of our perception of colour gamut and luminosity. Reproducing this in print can be very tricky sometimes if you are not using calibrated equipment and the right kind of substrates. Often too you need to make custom ICC profile adjustments that look horrible on your monitor but spectacular in print. There can be an art to printing in itself.

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3 hours ago, mandritoiu said:

Sure.

Nevertheless the quality of modern TVs is better than ever.

Today, enjoying a slide show on a massive 65"/75" modern TV is often going beyond the experience offered by a smaller sized print. With shipment, one framed print of this size can cost nearly half the price of 65" a 4k TV.

Very true ?

 

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10 hours ago, Wilm Ihlenfeld said:

There might be several reasons for bad printing results.

What sort of print did you order? InkJet print? Digital Offset print? Photo print?

First of all you usually have to convert the RGB images into CMYK. The range of RGB color scheme is much more extensive. This means that, while converting into CMYK, images loose color intensity. A bright blue sky often becomes much darker and dull.

If your images were printed with a digital Offset machine you might have noticed another problem: Those parts of your image that look homogenous on your screen (e.g. a clear blue sky) might have become „stripes“ or look a bit "cloudy" now. This still is a problem nowadays concerning digital Offset print. InkJet printers or photo print wont show those problems.

Your image must have a correct resolution.

This resolution depends on the type of print. A common Offset printery should produce with a resolution of at least 70 lines per cm (178 lines per inch). Your image should have a resolution of at least 350 dpi (dots per inch). If your printery produces with 80 lines per cm, the image should have a resolution of 400 dpi. If it is only 60 lines per cm, a resolution of 300 dpi will be enough. 300 dpi usually is enough for InkJet printers as well. This resolution can be reduced when your prints are much larger than e.g. a page of a book because of the increasing distance of the spectators.

Finally the quality of printing results depends on the quality and surface of paper being used. 

Sorry for my bad English!

 

 

8 hours ago, Foodio said:

AlessandraRC,

If you could be a little more specific about the objectionable differences you are seeing I might be able to help. I have a long history with fine art reproduction and still own a couple of large format printers for my personal use. 

All of the replies so far are absolutely accurate but no one has yet mentioned the big difference in the way you are viewing digital vs. print. In simple terms, monitors are essentially the equivalent of looking at a transparency on a light table where the image is illuminated from behind. Prints on the other hand are are reflective medium where light bounces back from the surface. This makes a huge difference to the human eye in terms of our perception of colour gamut and luminosity. Reproducing this in print can be very tricky sometimes if you are not using calibrated equipment and the right kind of substrates. Often too you need to make custom ICC profile adjustments that look horrible on your monitor but spectacular in print. There can be an art to printing in itself.

I don't think he is talking about bad print results. He is talking about the experience of seeing your image printed, it is very different than seeing it on a screen. I sell prints so I print all the time. It often happens to me too when I picked an image to print and when I saw it, did not like it in print. The print work was absolutely fine. It had nothing to do with how good the printer was. It just did not print well like I thought it would.

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16 hours ago, Eric Urquhart said:

 

I don't think he is talking about bad print results. He is talking about the experience of seeing your image printed, it is very different than seeing it on a screen. I sell prints so I print all the time. It often happens to me too when I picked an image to print and when I saw it, did not like it in print. The print work was absolutely fine. It had nothing to do with how good the printer was. It just did not print well like I thought it would.

Yes this is what I am talking about for the most part.

I should have elaborated more. My main deceptions were composition and crop - suddenly became more important in print; D.O.F. in some compositions, I felt that I needed more; small highlights and black areas seemed to bother me more also; some images seemed ugly in print whereas their digital version looked fine.

Foodio made some very good points about how prints and screen are illuminated.

Part of my problem, which I have come to realize, is that I do not know how prints should look like. I haven't looked at many in the last 15 years.  Thanks to all who responded, I have learned a little more about printing.

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