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You have re-printed the same photograph for the 4th time and you still can get the same colors as the image on your screen? The pixels are so big that your picture looks like a Tetris game? And, to top it all off, your ink cartridge is empty again when you just changed it not long ago? Here comes another $60 expense!
The Quality of the Image Required
One main principle exists in photography: if the image is not exposed correctly, the colors are off-balance and the optical quality are inferior, you will always get poor results. Many think that image correction software will resolve their problems. Wrong! They will surely like your picture, but the results will never compare with a good quality image taken directly by the camera lens.
Resolution is also important when printing. When taking a photo, select the highest resolution possible for the images you find interesting or exceptional. When printing these in larger formats, you will appreciate the difference. An image printed in 640x480 resolution will only allow you to enlarge it to 2 1/2" x 1 1/4" whereas a resolution of 2304 x 1728 will offer you the possibility of enlarging your picture to an 8" x 10" high quality print. However, the ideal formula for determining the quality of a photo is the following:
Format X print = quality photo
8” x 300 = 2,400 dpi
10” x 300 = 3,000 dpi
2,400 ppi x 3000 dpi
640 x 480
2304 x 1728
The second major factor is the quality of the printer used. Here, we have to take into account the quality of two basic printers: graphic printers and photographic printers.
Graphic printers provide good results with text and graphic elements but have trouble reproducing the shades of colors required for photography since they often work with black and the three basic colors.
As for photographic printers, they are specially conceived to obtain more subtle colors and densities and sharper definition.
Therefore, the rest of this article will focus only on photographic type printers.
A determining factor that plays on the outcome of the colors and quality of the final image is the number of ink colors used. Some printers work with 4 colors and provide rather drastic results. However, when the printer uses 6 to 11 colors, the result obtained is much more detailed and much closer to reality. The recent addition of new color components such as orange and green inks, as well as added gray density, have greatly improved the shades of skintone, the sublte colors of a landscape and the depth of detail in shaded or brightly lit areas.
Printer 11 colors
One category that is a little different in the ink jet are printers equipped with archive ink. Although a little more expensive, they produce printed images that have a longer lifespan. They use special inks to which pigments have been incorporated. These inks also provide better results on various different surfaces, such as baryta coated papers. Most photo shops use this type of printer for big format prints.
This particular type of printer uses cyan, magenta, yellow and UV colored film that are applied to the paper, one by one, using a heat process. The printing time is greatly reduced (from 5 minutes to 75 seconds) and the results obtained are much more stable. You could get, for example, a film and paper package good for 50 prints. However, most of the time, this type of printer can only print small formats: 3x5, 4x6 or 5x7.
Printing on a digital copier using photographic paper and conventional color chemistry processing. The results obtained are very close to the actual image seen through the lens. This process is also one of the least expensive and does not require all your time to print your pictures, sitting all weekend in front of your computer!
The on-line service from Groupe Zone Image offers you the possibility, through associated photo shops, of printing all your photos using a simple order program via the Internet. All you have to do is go and pick up your prints at the shop and spend the rest of your weekend comtemplating your works of art. You can also complete your orders, make minor touch-ups and frame your pictures on the terminals installed in-store.
Controlling the Results Obtained
You have never printed photos that matched your screen? It takes just a few steps to correct all this.
a) Select the print quality.
b) Select the paper on which you want to print and then select its equivalent for the printer used.
c) Print a first test and compare it to your screen.
d) Set advanced features of the printer by correcting the differences obtained and then saving these preferences.
An incorrect paper selection or incompatible ink-paper option will cause the results obtained
to vary greatly. What you are looking for is the perfect combination of the two.
e) It is IMPORTANT to regularly align and clean the printer heads.
Neglecting the procedure will greatly impact the results obtained.
Each piece of equipment that we use in the digital chain has a handicap with regards to certain colors. This is the reason that there is a convention governing color management known as ICC to establish quality references. Using an instrument probe, it is possible to get a reading of the colors reproduced by a screen, printer, camera or scanner and to correct it using a dedicated color profile to compensate for gaps in the real colors.
However, for the needs of the amateur photographer, we will only deal here with the creation of a screen profile. This is the most important because it is considered the central point of any decisions pertaining to the evaluation and corrective measures to be made to your pictures.
For more advanced amateurs, the ultimate weapon will no doubt be the calibration probe.
There is, however, only one condition: a good quality screen on which you can obtain a minimal contrast ratio of 1000:1, a video card of 500 Mg and a visual screen as big as possible.
This probe will enable you to calibrate your screen on temperature standards for color, neutral gray, white, black and colors. By repeating the procedure once every 15 days, you will maintain an almost infallible viewing consistancy! You will then be able to adjust your print features with more precision, without the screen variable that would be added to your results. A non-neglible added feature that, for about $200, will allow you to same time and materials ($).
Attention: Some portable computer or LED screens are not adjustable, or only slightly.
Transferring Data to the Printer
Transferring print data to your printer can now be done in a number of ways. The most common is still the USB cable and now, transfers are increasingly done by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. For the latter two, you can order the prints directly from your camera, smart phone or tablet.
You can also share your printer by network, either by connecting to a router if you have the outlet required at the back of the printer or by the printer sharing properties on the computer to which it is connected.
Lastly, you can always print directly from the printer without the computer, using the integrated card-reader.
With simple steps, you will finally be able to spend more time taking pictures without spending days sitting in front of your computer screen printing your photos and tiring your eyes!
Now, your friends will see you in a different light and you will save on time and ink.
So, get to it! Snap happy!