A beginner's guide to at home photo printing (Part two)

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This is part two of a two part series on at home photo printing. You can find part one here.

How to soft proof your prints before printing

Soft proofing provides an indication of how an image will print and how colours render on a particular paper. In essence, the process allows you to make fine adjustments to the photo so it will print how you intend it to be on your chosen paper type. If you soft proof via printer profiles it can also save on unnecessary ink use.

Image: Getty
Image: Getty

Although soft proofing through the software’s ICC profiles only provides a representation of how it will be printed, it is generally very close.

Using Lightroom, photographs can be found at Soft Proof under view>soft proofing>show proof, or hit S on the keyboard.

From here, select a paper providing a Soft Proof of how it will be printed. I find the simulate paper and ink option to be hit and miss so leave it unchecked.

Image: Thomas Ryan
Image: Thomas Ryan

A World of Paper Choice

The variety of paper types is huge and the process of selecting one is one of the most enjoyable aspects of printing at home, as is the ability to see how different papers render a photograph.

There is a plethora of papers to experiment with that have different textures, weight and are made from different fibres such as cotton, bamboo, hemp or even agave – I remember one service I talked to offered paper made from bananas!

There is also a huge number of paper manufacturers to choose from such as Hanamule, Canson, Red River, Ilford, Museo, Canon and Epson, and there are also paper artisans around the world making bespoke papers in small batches traditionally and by hand.

Whatever you choose to settle on, it’s worth considering whether gloss or matte stock is best for your needs. Simply put, gloss puts a “shine” on your images, which will help make the colours pop.

The downside is glare and fingerprints/dust will be emphasised with gloss paper. On the other hand, matte paper tends to be better for less vibrant colour schemes or monochrome shots, or images where you want to make texture a focus.

Fine art printing shops and paper manufacturers often have samples of papers you can view instore, and/or offer sample packs to try out different papers to see which ones work best for your artistic needs.

View prints in good light

Viewing photos on wonderful monitor displays is great, but when printing photos, something to take into consideration is where you will be looking at your prints. Remember that monitors are backlit so the photograph looks good even if the ambient light in the room you’re working in isn’t ideal.

It’s important to view your prints in good lighting. I like to use natural window light and I also use an LED lamp that has changeable white balance and brightness settings so I can have consistent viewing settings when assessing prints. Good lighting is key to viewing and reviewing your prints in order to obtain a faithful representation.

A basic workflow for printing in Adobe Lightroom

Step one

Click print option in the top right corner of Lightroom.

Layout Style & Image settings > Unless I am printing a series of photos on a single sheet as a proof, I will select ‘’single image’’ and ‘’rotate to fit’’ the paper I am using.

Image settings > I usually select “rotate to fit” so the photograph fits to the dimensions of the paperI am using.

Layout > I use the sliders to increase/decrease the size of the photograph and border dimensions

Print Job > I uncheck all options here including print resolution. I personally like to sharpen my photographs during the time I edit my photos so I don’t require additional sharpening. You can experiment with these options should you wish to add sharpness to your photos. With regards to resolution, I aim to have images print at no less than 300ppi (pixels per inch). If you look at the top left corner of the photo preview you’ll notice it provides the actual dimensions and ppi of the print. If for some reason the ppi was below 300 I would enlarge my photograph in Photoshop to the desired size so I can exercise greater control over my sharpening and image upsizing process.

Color management > This is where I apply my paper ICC profiles. Under Colour management I ensure I select the correct ICC paper I will be printing on. I leave the intent set to perceptual.

Step two

Click on Printer to bring up the printer dialogue menu and hit properties.

Step three

Under additional features, select borderless printing and/or black and white photo print if you require these options. The most important option here is to select Colors Intensity/Manual Adjustment. Under Matching, you want to make sure the colour correction is set to none. This ensures the colours are managed by the ICC profile.

Step four

For my printer I need to ensure the photo paper settings are selected to the corresponding paper I am using. Click OK and you’re ready to start printing.

Printing photographs at home provides me with complete experimentation and control of my image making process. Printing is yet another tool in our photography arsenal, thereby enhancing our enjoyment and opportunities for experimentation. I hope these tips have provided you with some inspiration for your own home printing. Good luck! ❂

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