Amateur Photographers

The idea that amateurs do not need or deserve good cameras and lenses is not true.. The only difference between amateurs and pros is that the latter make a living out of photography, while the former produce artistic work without depending on photography to make a living. So amateurs are free to photograph what they like when they like and how they like .. As they do not do that 24/7, the lenses and bodies do not need to be built like tanks to take a beating .. but they still need decent quality to make good photos

“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.” Ernest Hemingway

How to choose a photo printer

I did a lot of research to decide which photo printer to go for.

A4 or A3+. I decided that an A3+ printer would be ideal, especially as prices of A3 printers have gone down.

Dye or Pigment ? I understand that for Glossy paper dye is better, while for Matte, pigment is better. However in the real world I personally prefer the dye gradations to the contrasty pigment inks. I went for a dye + second pigment black. If you use CISS (continuous ink system) or re-fillable cartridges, you can obviously vary the type of ink, although I understand you have to then use some cleaning cartridges between type changes. I have never personally used an ink type (dye and pigment) that is not recommended by the manufacturer, and I do not know whether that voids the warranty.

How many inks. Most have CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black). Some have two extra lighter cyan and magenta. Some have Red and blue, and others have different blacks or greys.

Droplet size makes a difference to both gradations of colour tones and resolution, and they vary between 1-5 picolitre, with most new printers between 1-3. Type of paper makes a big difference to result though, and one has to use recommended or original papers or paper from long-standing manufacturers using standardised  products.

What resolution. Most photo inkjet printers nowadays have enough resolution to print very high resolution prints on up to A3+, and the resolution is also very much dependant on the droplet size and the print algorithm. I still lean towards the higher resolution machines for a more natural print.

Epson, HP or Canon. The three big players in photo printers. Epson use Peizo-electric heads, with a longer print cycles than the bubble or thermal heads used by HP and Canon. On the other hand, HP has head in cartridge, so every cartridge change includes a new head, and therefore more expensive. Canon has a very accessible and removable print head that can be easily changed, and costs about one third the price of the printer. Here the choice is difficult, although I personally tried all three.

Wi-Fi and network connection or not. This is now getting to the practicalities. I have 10 USB ports on my computer, and therefore went for the cheaper option of USB only, but for some, go for the network connection (Ethernet or Wi-Fi) if you need it.

Glossy or Matte paper. I prefer Matte for artistic effects. I also like textured paper and canvas. But for many users (portraits, weddings and the like) glossy is a better option.

Original or compatible cartridges, or CISS. For serious work I prefer original ink and paper to get the best results, although compatibles and CISS (continuous ink systems) are good for proofing and draft work.

Printing is a very serious business, if it is to be done properly, and requires a lot of calibration of equipment and standardisation of inks and paper, at least to get a consistent result.

 

Calibrating lens to camera

Is this really a useful thing to do .. ??

Both Canon and Nikon have this facility in their higher end bodies under different names; AF Microadjustment in Canon and AF Fine-Tune in Nikon.

If pictures from your camera, lens or combination are lacking proper focus, it may be that camera, lens, or both are causing front or back focusing.

Common sense dictates making sure that any focusing problems are investigated to make sure that it is well and truly a problem that requires at least fine tuning, or if more serious sending the camera or lens back for servicing or exchange.

Rumours about quality control for cameras and lenses indicate they would pass the test as long as any focusing variations fall within the depth of field at a given focal length, aperture and focal distance.

All said .. if you find that your lens is either front or back focusing enough at a given focal length, aperture and distance (usually longest focal length in zoom, wide open, and at the minimal focusing distance as DOF is shallowest) then fine-tuning or micro-adjustment is going to be helpful.

From several resources on the internet I gathered the following, and others may differ;
1- Calibrate a zoom using the longest focal length (the tele end of the zoom range)
2- Use the maximum aperture (wide open)
3- Use 25-50x focal length in mm as testing distance between camera and target
4- Use tripod, mirror-up and remote shutter release
5- If you print your own target sheet, do it on inkjet and not laser
6- Do 3 shots per adjustment
7- Do +/- adjustments and keep doing this until you narrow down your adjustment
8- Use JPEG’s or RAW without any adjustments
9- Use a standard target (DataColor© SpyderLensCal© or Michael Tapes Design© LensAlign©)
10- Use computer software (Michael Tapes Design© FocusTune© or Reikan© FoCal©) to decide the best adjustment value
11- Target chart should be contrasty, well illuminated and dead square and parallel to the camera/sensor
12- Set focus to central point and single autofocus after manually focusing at the centre of the target
13- Between shots, set the lens focus to infinity
14- Set image stabilisation off
15- Set ISO to lowest possible for best results

Remember that only one sample of a certain lens can be registered in the camera at any one time, and that the adjustment is saved in the camera. Also, if all the lenses register the same result, it is probably the camera body that needs to be adjusted for all the lenses.

I have to say that I have not tried this complete setup myself yet .. but tried the cheap way .. using a printed focus target sheet on a wall and also tried it on a floor or table with camera at 45 degrees, and I failed on both occasions to achieve a result that would produce better focused and sharper photos in real life after the calibration. I went out with my camera and shot handheld and on tripod real life shots with and without calibration and I have to say I have not seen an improvement .. so maybe the cheap way is not valid or reliable and maybe the more methodical way stated above would be more useful .. I would certainly be interested in hearing from regular photographers who have done that and noticed an improvement .. So please let me know your experiences before I go out to buy all this kit!!

Here are some internet resources ..

http://www.learn.usa.canon.com/resources/articles/2011/af_microadjustment_article.shtml#page1
https://nikoneurope-en.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/51633/~/how-to-use-the-af-fine-tune-function
http://www.canonrumors.com/tech-articles/this-lens-is-soft-and-other-myths/

Soft Proofing

Soft proofing is the last process before finally printing your photos.

I never did that until I came across those out of gamut warnings in Photoshop, which resulted in odd effects on printing.

My research led me to soft proofing, which is available now in Lightroom 4 Develop module. Soft proofing allows us to see what is out of gamut in the particular printer profile. Treating the out of gamut areas or colours by changing the exposure, saturation or hue, we are left with what we are sure we will get printed, rather than leaving it to the printer software in what would be a hit and miss process.

http://tv.adobe.com/watch/whats-new-in-lightroom-4/soft-proofing-images/ is a link to Adobe site about this topic.

Have you calibrated ?

Calibration and colour management are very critical to all photographic activities, from the second you take your photo, to the time you process it and display or share it either in print or digital form.

Most people are not initially aware of colour management, until the picture in the camera doesn’t match the scene, the picture on the computer screen doesn’t match the camera, or the print doesn’t match what they see in either or both.

The least that can be done by any photographer is to have a monitor calibration device that calibrates the colours, brightness and contrast of their computer display. In this way they are at least sure that what they see on the screen will be matched by professional prints, and by any calibrated display.

To get the right colour from the scene requires either shooting a test shot at the scene using ideally a photographic grey card, or at least a white sheet of paper, and maybe a colour chart. This calibrates the camera at the scene or works in post-processing for RAW files.

The last bit is calibrating the printer, as the colour profiles change with change of paper and ink, and the generic manufacturer profiles don’t usually do a very accurate job. The spectrophotometers for scanning prints are not as cheap as the display ones, but once a colour profile is produced for the printer/ink/paper combination the result should match either the original scene or at least what has been captured in JPEG or RAW, before or after computer processing.

So have you calibrated your workflow yet ?

Lightroom Virtual Copies

Virtual copies are pivotal in saving same photo with different processing, without physically occupying disk space or duplicating files, in Adobe Lightroom.

One problem with the application is that the virtual copy data is only saved in the Lightroom catalogue. So if for any reason the catalogue is lost, there is no way to restore the virtual copies.

On the other hand, xmp sidecar files can be used to save the master file metadata and processing, so if the catalogue is lost the data can be restored, apart from the editing history.

One way to save the virtual copy data is to create a snapshot once the virtual copy editing is finished. This will automatically save the same snapshot in the master file, which in the event of catalogue loss can be used to generate a new virtual copy. This method of course requires a manual restoration of the virtual copies, which may be near impossible in one go in a large catalogue of many thousand photos, but at least saves the data to be used when required.

Photo Processing

Most people, me included, are very excited after a shoot, and they want to use and show off their photos immediately .. what people usually miss is the excitement of going through the photos very slowly and processing them properly;

  • Renaming for organisation
  • Inserting keywords, tags and labels
  • Rating (stars and colours)
  • Discarding bad photos
  • Basic processing (White balance, exposure and contrast)
  • Intermediate processing (lens corrections, perspective corrections, colour corrections, noise and sharpening)
  • Advanced processing (area and spot corrections, vignette, graduated and colour filters)
  • Cropping and levelling
  • Creating several versions with different processing options
  • Artistic processing (Photoshop)
  • Exporting for sharing, printing, publishing, and archiving