Taking a digital photograph of friends, family or a special occasion is only the first step in creating a memento that will last a lifetime. After the initial photograph is taken, there are several more steps that can help to make the image appear even more vibrant once it is printed, increase the life of the photograph and prevent unwanted printing disasters.
Copy The Images To The Computer
The digital photographs that have been taken will need to be transferred from the camera to the computer where they can be printed. Most cameras use small flash memory cards, which some computers already have ports for. Other cameras will come with a special cable. Transfer all of the images to the computer and save them in a folder location that is easily remembered.
Use A Photo Editor
Once the images are in the computer, the next step is to use a photo editor to make minor adjustments and corrections to the images. There are both commercially available and free editors available. Fortunately, most cameras do come with some type of photo editing software with useful features.
Understanding Color Mode
Once you have an image loaded into the photo editing software, depending on the complexity of the software, you may need to change the color mode of the image before starting to work on it. Color mode refers to the type of color that is digitally stored. RGB, or red-green-blue is the way that most monitors display images. Most printers, on the other hand, use CMYK or cyan-magenta-yellow-black. By setting the color mode to CMYK, especially with older printers, the color gamut will be more accurate while editing. However, it is important to note that there are many newer printers which will give more favorable results with the RGB color mode. Checking the printer manual is the only way to be certain which mode is best.
Adjust Levels, Hue, Saturation And Contrast
Now, it is time to edit the photograph. The first step is to adjust the levels. There should be an option to auto adjust levels. This will help to balance the contrast and color in the photograph. Next, adjust the hue and saturation. These will affect the colors in the photograph as well. Make minor adjustments until the photo appears on the screen how it should appear when printed. Finally, adjust the contrast of the image in order to bring out subjects in the foreground. Contrast can easily be overused, so use it subtly.
Once the image colors are balanced it may be time to crop the image. Cropping means removing parts of the image that take away from the overall composition. Cropping tools in photo editors usually provide a box that you can maneuver around the image in order to find the best balance of elements in the image. Not all images need to be cropped.
Final Artistic Editing
Most photo editors also come with filters and other tools. It is at this time that they should be applied. Anything is possible from text to more artistic and exotic effects such as outlines or watercolors. This is also when to use filters to remove red eye, if necessary. Other effects such as making the image appear as a sepia print can also be done now.
Selecting Printer Ink And Paper
Printer ink and paper are vital for making a good photograph. The easiest thing to look for, especially if you do not want to have to reprint photos again in the future, is to use acid free paper and inks. Acid free supplies, also called archival quality, will prevent the paper from decaying over time and keep the inks vibrant. Some manufacturers also advertise UV resistant inks and paper that will tolerate more sunlight over the years without fading or turning yellow.
Calibrating Your Printer
All printers come with a calibration function. This is especially important to use before printing photographs. By calibrating the printer first, the different colors will all align properly and prevent edge bleeding, which will reduce the chance that a photograph will have to be reprinted. The printer manual will describe how to calibrate the print heads.
Calibrating Your Monitor
If possible, attempt to calibrate the computer monitor as well. This is a function of some photo editing software. With a properly calibrated monitor, the printed image will match the screen colors exactly. On monitors that are not calibrated there may be some difference in the colors. There are also separate programs available that will perform the color calibrations automatically when the computer starts up, these programs are good for people who are editing and printing many images.
Handling The Printed Photograph
Finally, once the photograph is printed it should be protected from sunlight as much as possible. Sunlight will cause the paper to yellow and the ink to fade over time. It is also important to choose adhesives that are acid free so that they do not corrode the paper and destroy the photograph. Depending on the type of paper chosen, it can also be a good idea to laminate the photograph with a UV resistant self-adhesive laminate.
By following these steps, the printed photographs will come out looking excellent the first time and will save you time and money on ink. They will also last for a very long time. However, just in case anything happens to the printed image, it is always a good idea to save and back up the original image files.