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Print of a photo of a sunset from my loft

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Photo of a sunset from my loft

How simple it is to make a big print with a good camera and printer

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During recent testing of the Canon PRO-2000 printer for his detailed review, Keith took a photo out of the window and then printed it.

In fact it was so easy to make this particular 20″ x 30″ print that Keith has written up the process showing just how effective current printers and cameras can be.

keith cooper and large print

Taking photos for the print

It was an early evening in late September, and we’d just had a sharp rain shower.

Looking out of the kitchen window, I noticed a distinct strong yellow cast to the fading light.

Heading up to our loft (or Karen’s Office as I should call it) I grabbed my 50MP Canon 5Ds and a TS-E17mm lens.

Looking out of the loft window, I spotted a huge line of cloud partly lit by the setting sun.

Knowing that I specifically wanted not to burn out (over expose) the last bit of the sun, I set exposure at 1/80 second and aperture to F/8.

The TS-E17mm is a very wide angle tilt/shift lens – for this view, with the horizon low down, I shifted the lens upwards by 8mm or so.

The lens is also manual focus, so I checked that it was set to infinity.

So – no metering, manual focus and a tilt shift lens…

No tripod either – I stood up in the open loft window and rested my arms on the frame – I’m effectively standing at roof level

After taking this shot I checked the shot on the back of the camera and looked at the histogram – looks fine, and I appreciate all the time I’ve put into estimating exposures over the years. Auto exposure is great, but if you’ve time it’s really worthwhile getting a true feel for light levels – it will serve you well for those times (and interesting photos) where auto exposure will be fooled.

Here’s the shot from the window.

Sunset over Leicester rooftops

It’s not cropped – just the processed RAW file.

Note how using the shifted lens means the chimneys and buildings are vertical, rather than leaning (see why I use a shift lens, if you’re not familiar)

After I got this shot I turned the camera round to portrait orientation and took 7 shots covering a full 180 degrees of the view out of the window for an experiment in image stitching (that image is for another day though).

RAW processing

Opening up the image file in Adobe Camera Raw (CS6) gives me some basic processing options.

I’m using the ProPhoto colour space, not for its large gamut, but because it’s less likely to show clipping around that last glimpse of the sun.

Here’s the file as-is…

default ACR settings for the RAW file

Here it is with:

  • Shadows lightened (to show detail of the houses and a bit in the darker parts of the cloud)
  • Black point pushed up (to bring out a bit more of the houses)
  • Highlights dropped (to bring out cloud detail nearer the sun)
  • Clarity upped (shows houses and a bit more detail in the cloud – higher than usual since it’s for a print)
  • Vibrance upped (this is for a print)

after adjustment of RAW processing settings

Sharpening and printing

The printer has a 24″ (610mm) width roll of Canon Satin paper loaded. This is a 200gsm paper that looks good, although it’s a bit thin for any prints I’d feel happy selling to clients unmounted (it’s fine if laminating to foamcore).

The camera has a 50MP sensor and the image as-is needs no resampling or adjustment to print out at 20″ x 30″

setting print dimensions

“289.6 pixels per inch??” I hear some people saying…

Surely it’s better to print at 300 ppi for this printer?

Well yes, maybe, but here’s the secret… no-one will ever notice and for a print I’m happy to put up in my home, I don’t care ;-)

There are times when care about pixel sizes will be of genuine benefit for print making, but with the quality of modern printers and drivers like the Canon PRO-2000, no-one is really going to notice for this picture.

This is a photo of a great looking sunset out of my loft window – that’s what people see. I know from experience that the only people who look at prints from absurdly close distances are a sub-set of other photographers, and they never buy anything from anyone.

I will give the print a small amount of sharpening with Nik Sharpener 3.

light print sharpening

Just enough to sharpen detail of the aerial (right side of split 100% view), but not too much, so as to show any obvious halos or sharpening artefacts.

A little bit of the ‘structure’ setting also helps for a print like this (it’s a form of local contrast enhancement).

I’m looking to counteract the lower contrast of a print just a bit and know from experience that the ‘structure’ setting at a low level helps with images like this.

Even though I’ve shot at 100 ISO, I’ve had to lift the shadows a bit in the image. This is where noise lurks, and undue sharpening will make it visible in the print. I could just mask in the sharpening for parts of the image, but that’s more of an issue if I’ve had to push up the ISO setting.

If you’d like to know more about print sharpening, I’ve some links to articles and reviews below.

Move your mouse over the image below to see how little of the ‘stucture’ effect is applied.

Original ImageHover Image

To make the print, I just print directly from Photoshop (CS6).

I’m printing on roll paper with one of my preset paper settings (this varies with printer used, but see my PRO-2000 review for details). The icc paper profile is one I created for the review.

print layout set from photoshop

If I was printing on the Canon PRO-1000 I tested earlier this year, I’d probably have sized the image for an A2 sheet, and the pixels per inch would be something over 300…

Anyway, here’s me holding the print (and needing a shave, as my Mum pointed out).

Keith Cooper with 20x30 print of a sunset over leicester

Conclusions and why your excuses are running out…

That’s it.

With a great camera, lens and printer, it really is that simple to make great prints.

Of course, once it’s so easy, the excuses for not so great photos are less readily placed on the kit you’re using.

More and more it comes down to your vision of what you want to create.

This is no more than a photo out of my house window.

OK, I have have several thousand pounds worth of camera/lens/printer sitting round because I’m a professional photographer, but essentially I could have made a superb 13″x19″ (A3+) print, of that same view, using a camera like my Canon 100D and EF-S 10-18mm lens and a printer like the Canon PRO-100

The equipment is there – what are you waiting for?

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More print related information

For information about other printers, paper reviews and profiling (colour management) see the Printing section of the main Articles and Reviews page, or use the search box at the top of any page. There are also specific index pages for any articles connected with the following topics:

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