Self Print or Lab Print
I try to do most of my printing myself. I enjoy the process as part of the full creative control, and I can have the print right away. But there are times when I need to use outside printing services when I want either a paper choice that is not available on my Epson 4880 or I need to print a size that goes beyond my printer’s width. For instance, I had my good friends at Printmakers, Inc. do all the printing for my Hagia Sophia exhibit prints as well as for the limited-edition folios. The paper choice, Kodak Endura metallic made those photographs truly shine, and that was not available on the Epson 4880.
To have the full print size as well as to place the text lines below each photograph, I had to bring the photographs to Photoshop and create the final version there. Then I uploaded the files using their eFTP software which I find much simpler than the more elaborate and complex ProDesign.
Here I will outline a process that will create the output file directly from Lightroom with a minor trade-off: On Windows computers, Lightroom 3.x does not allow entering more than one line of text for the Identity Plate text that can appear where you like. This is an issue only if you want to use more than one line of text and other embellishments like a separating line. (A quick check on the public beta of LR4 shows that this is still not fixed.)
The biggest advantage of outputting directly from Lightroom is that you see how your print will appear, preferably against a background color other than paperwhite, and using Lightroom to apply a proper amount of print sharpening to the output file. On top of that, it is quite simple! As straightforward and quick it is, it will take me longer to explain these steps than to do them. So, don’t let the length of the post mislead you.
Decide on the output substrate and size
First thing first, you should download your printing company’s upload software. For Printmakers, my choice is eFTP, and I recommend you use that to submit photographs for printing. Download it from their Web site. It should be a quick download, and it is written in Java so it should run on any platform.
Now, open it, and if this is the first time you are using eFTP, add your personal information. You will find a button at the top of the screen next to E-FTP “My Information.” Click on it and fill in your information.
Look at the printing options on the left. You need to pick the “product” you want which ranges from standard prints to jewelry. Remember, I am only covering prints on paper as you see on your Lightroom screen. So, you will not use any templates or other products, like Fusion Books, School products, etc. So, the current list of relevant products for this post is Standard Print Sizes, Metallic Prints, and Metals.
Choose the substrate you want and now focus on the size you want for your print. Make a note of the size or sizes for different photographs you would like to have printed. For this example, I will choose Metallic Prints and 10″ x 15″ size for one photograph I want to output on that paper.
Decide on the print layout
After deciding on the paper size, now switch back to Lightroom and pick the photograph(s) that will be output. In Lightroom, select the thumbnail of the photograph you would like printed and pay attention to the pixel dimensions of the photograph. If it is severely cropped the photograph may not provide quality output. Printmakers’ workflow indicates the file to be at 240 dpi. So, if your photograph is 2400 x 3600 it will print as 10 x 15 with no upsampling.
If the image is of high quality, you could get satisfactory results even if you increase the size 1.5 times, and I am being conservative here. In this example, the selected photograph is _MG_3804.CR2 and its dimensions will allow printing comfortably 10″ x 15″, but I will leave some margin around, and the actual image size will be smaller.
Adjust Layout Style, Image Settings, and Guides
The image to be printed is highlighted, move to the Print module in Lightroom. Start at the top with some basic adjustments and skip over the middle part for the time being. See the two images below, the first one shows “Single Image/Contact Sheet” and “Rotate to Fit” selected, and make sure the “Show Guides” is checked so that we can see guidelines for print cell, and margins.
Adjust Print Job settings
Now, look at the second image which shows the last panel “Print Job.” Doing this first, although it may be counter-intuitive, will show us the actual paper proportions on the screen for placing the photograph and possibly adding a line of text if we like.
- Print to shows “JPEG File” since that is what we want to produce
- File resolution is set to 240 PPI as Printmakers would like
- Print sharpening is set to “Standard” (choose other options if you like)
- The media type is set to “Glossy”
- JPEG quality is at 100
- Custom file dimensions show the paper size I chose earlier
- The profile is set to sRGB and the rendering intent is Perceptual
Adjust Layout options
Here we can adjust the placement of the photograph on the paper with some margins around it. Since it will be output to a file, print margins can be set to zero as I have. The only margin that is set is the bottom margin and that is to push the image a little above the center. This gives a more stable placement to the image and allows us to place a line of text if we want it. Here, three margins are set to zero and the bottom margin is set to 1″. The result is an image cell size 11.36″ x 8″ which is very suitable for this photograph. I am satisfied with the blank space around the photograph, but you can adjust the image size by simply dragging the guides.
Adjust Page options
The last bit that may need attention is the options under the Page tab. Here we can set a background color (just don’t go crazy!), as well as a line of text. I would not use other options here for a single-page complete photographic print like crop marks. They may be useful only if the photograph would be cut out; or the Photo Info, which will be of little use to the viewer. But, hey, it’s your photograph.
To change the background color from the default white, first, click on the box next to “Page Background Color” and then select the color by clicking on the color patch next to it. I will set this to black for this photograph. If you like to add a line of text for the title, you first need to put a checkmark in the box next to “Identity Plate.” This will make it possible to either choose from one of the earlier identity plate options you might have created or to create a new one. Click on the small triangle in the identity plate and select edit. The editing of this text can be quite awkward, but here are some tips:
- Select all the text
- Change the size to a small point, like 10 or 12
- Choose a typeface and color that will go with the photograph
- Don’t worry how big or small it looks at this point
- If you are going to use the same text or at least the style on more than one photograph, click on the drop-down menu and save it as an identity plate option
When you are satisfied with the text, and optionally after you saved it, click on OK. Your text will appear in the middle of the page. Lightroom does not give the user an easy option to precisely position this text. I prefer this to be centered and here is how I do it:
- Drag the text somewhere below the image
- Using the middle handles on either side of its containing box pull them to the right and left edges of the paper. Your text will increase in size, that’s OK. It should now be centered under the photograph
- Now, move the middle handle on the top (or the bottom) edge of the containing box down (or up) to change its size and bring it roughly where you would like it
- Then, use the up and down arrows to position the text more precisely
Turn off the guides by removing the checkmark from “Show Guides” under the “Guides” panel if you want to see the layout with no distractions. If you are satisfied with the result, click on the “Print to File” button in the lower right corner of the application. If you will be creating several files to upload, you may want to create a folder where you can see only these files for ease of uploading in the next step.
Upload your order
Back to eFTP! When the program opens, pay attention to the sequentially numbered steps, 1, 2, 3, 4.
- First choose the product you want, for this example choose “Metallic Prints” and 10″ x 15″ paper.
- When the paper is selected you will see a blank page in the middle showing the proportions of the selected paper size.
- Then, on the right-hand side with a big “2 Choose Your Images” at the top, click on the “Folder” button to navigate to the folder where you have the photograph(s).
- You should now see all the photographs in that folder. Unless they are all the same size and going on the same substrate, like metallic paper, I prefer to order them one at a time.
- Simply drag the image from the well containing the thumbnails onto the paper in the middle. Since we created the image to fit exactly to the paper size it should, well, fit exactly! No trimming, no cropping, no fitting, no fuss, no surprises.
- If you want to have your photograph mounted, choose the mounting option in the block on the lower left of the interface, labeled “4 Select Options”
- If you are ordering more than one print of this photograph, enter the quantity in the box for it and click on “Add to order.” The button will momentarily flash to indicate that it has been added to the order.
- Repeat 1-7 for the other images until done
- When you are done, click on “Review Order” to see a list of photographs that will be uploaded for printing. Review them carefully and note that the paper choices you have made do not show up on this screen. You may add a brief note by clicking on the “Instructions” button. When everything looks as you want, click on “Complete Order.” The actual upload speed will depend on your connection and how many photographs you have in the queue.
Remember I told you that this takes much shorter to do than to explain. Now it’s your turn to try and prove me right. This process should work for any photo lab that uses either eFTP or similar software for submitting photographs to print or places where you can take your files and print yourself. You just need to be organized if you have multiple print sizes and order them in batches of the same size.
Now look at the screen captures that illustrate many of the steps.