Many of us started out with film cameras, and we would get out photographs printed using one of the many available mail order printing services. We’d fill in our details on the back of the colourful dedicated envelope, enclose our films and drop in the nearest postbox. We would then wait for about a week (unless you paid for a faster service, or popped down the high street to somewhere like Boots), for an envelope to drop through the door, containing ‘our’ prints. Remember our excitement in opening this to review the images that we had taken.
Nowadays this excitement has been lost, we can instantly see the image we have just taken on the rear screen of the camera, and many of images are just consigned to digital darkness, resting on our hard drives, or archived away on a faraway cloud. A few images we select for some form of social media, and upload a few lower resolution examples for friends, family and others to see.
So why have we stopped printing, there is something lovely about having an image to hold and view, the tactile feel of the paper stock, the way the image changes as the light changes, its an experience!
About 3 years ago, I decided that I should print more, bewildered by online printing services and the range of products and papers that they offered, I bought an A3 Photo Printer, a Canon Pro-100 to be precise, this was bundled with an X-rite colormunki calibration tool and some sample paper to get me going.
I printed a few images, bought some more paper and some more ink cartridges and printed a few more. While I could get some ‘acceptable’ black and white images, I had numerous failures on colour printing, despite the image looking fine on screen, I struggled to get good results. In this process I started to use more and more ink and paper. Now as everyone knows running a printer can be a costly business, a set of cartridges was £80 and these didn’t seem to last two minutes.
I started to give up, the printer just sat in the corner of my office gathering dust and other paraphernalia on top of it. I just worked on images on screen.
2018, and one of my new years resolutions was to ‘Print More’, so with some encouragement from my friend Amar (Amar Sood Photography), and the excellent YouTube videos of Nigel Danson, I set about printing ‘properly’.
To print ‘properly’ you need to calibrate your monitor and then set up the colour management in your printer driver/printer to match the paper that you are going to use. The printer profile is very important as it will balance your on-screen colours with your printer inks, and deposit the right amount on the paper to get the correct saturation and vibrancy. This way what you see is what you get!
I also made some other decisions, I have large monitors on my computer (dual 27” 4K monitors), and so printing small just wasn’t going to hack it, an A4 print just wasn’t going to be big enough, especially when held anywhere near my monitors, so I had to print big (A3), and I would need some decent paper, and from a manufacturer that offered some downloadable printer profiles for my printer to start with. From a lot of recommendations, I selected Fotospeed and purchased from their signature range A3 NST Bright White 315 and A3 Platinum Baryta 300.
Now big prints means lots of ink, more research found that continuous ink systems didn’t work well with the Canon Pro-100 and that 3rd party inks could be very variable in colour matches. A very useful Youtube channel from Jose Rodriguez provided information that the refillable inks from OctoInkjet (in the UK) were indistinguishable from the original Canon colours, and at a small fraction of the cost. A couple of days later their starter kit was on my desk, this comprises of everything you need to refill your Canon Ink cartridges, including the necessary chip-resetting tool.
So I now had everything, so back to square one:-
- Calibrate Monitor using colormunki
- Download ICC profiles from Fotospeed for my printer/paper combinations and install these profiles.
- In the Canon printer driver disable the colour matching, so it will print directly from Adobe Lightroom.
Now Adobe Lightroom has an excellent print module, but even better than that, it has a ‘soft proof’ facility that enables you to make a proof copy (for printing) of your image. This proof can be based using the ICC printer/paper profile, so it shows on screen exactly what you are going to print (monitor must be calibrated), you then have the option of further adjusting in the develop module this proof copy to get exactly the printed result that you require.
Straight away I got great prints, they looked like the image on the screen, colours were vibrant, blacks were black, and I just wanted to print more and more….RESULT!! I was hooked, I now had control of my images from the viewfinder to a paper output.
I’m sure that there will be hiccups to come, but I’m now very enthusiastic about printing, and have that excitement back. I have plans for the future, I want to try different papers, I want to frame more images and get them on the wall. I need to get a proper printer profile for the OctoInkjet inks (Fotospeed provide a free profiling service for anyone who buys their papers, so at some point in the near future I will get profiles sorted, but at present I still have Canon Ink in my printer).
The photography journey continues…….