A beginner’s guide to home photo printing (part two)

By Thomas Ryan | July 1, 2021

This is part two of a two-part series on home photo printing. You can find the first part here.

How to soft proof your prints before printing

Soft proofing provides an indication of how an image will print and how colors will look on a particular paper. Essentially, the process lets you make fine adjustments to the photo so it prints the way you want it to on your chosen paper type. If you soft proof through printer profiles, this can also save on unnecessary ink usage.

Image: Getty

Although soft proofing through the software’s ICC profiles only provides a representation of how it will print, it is usually very close.

Using Lightroom, photographs can be found in Soft Proof under view>soft proofing>show proof, or press S on the keyboard.

From there, select a paper that provides a soft proof of how it will print. I find the paper and ink simulation option to be haphazard, so leave it unchecked.

Image: Thomas Ryan
Image: Thomas Ryan

A world of paper choices

The variety of paper types is huge, and the selection process is one of the most enjoyable parts of printing at home, as is being able to see how different papers look in a photograph.

There are a plethora of papers to experiment with which have different textures, different weights and are made from different fibers such as cotton, bamboo, hemp or even agave – I remember one service I spoke who offered paper made from bananas!

There are also a large number of paper manufacturers to choose from, such as Hanamule, Canson, Red River, Ilford, Museo, Canon and Epson, and there are also paper craftsmen all over the world who make custom papers in small batches in the traditional way and by hand.

Whichever you choose, consider whether glossy or matte paper is best for your needs. Simply put, gloss gives your images “shine” which will help colors pop.

The downside is glare and fingerprints/dust will be accentuated with glossy paper. On the other hand, matte paper tends to be better for less vibrant color combinations or monochromatic shots, or images where you want to emphasize texture.

Art print shops and paper manufacturers often have sample papers you can view in store and/or offer sample packs to try out different papers to see which ones work best for your artistic needs.

View prints in good light

Viewing photos on beautiful screens is great, but when printing photos, you have to consider where you’ll be looking at your prints. Keep in mind that the screens are backlit so the picture looks great even if the ambient light in the room you’re working in isn’t ideal.

It is important to view your prints in good light. I like to use natural window light and also use an LED lamp which has changeable white balance and brightness settings so I can have consistent viewing settings when evaluating prints. Good lighting is essential for viewing and reviewing your prints for accurate representation.

A basic workflow for printing in Adobe Lightroom

The first step

Click the print option in the top right corner of Lightroom.

Layout Style and Image Settings > Unless I am printing a series of photos on a single sheet as a proof, I will select ”single image” and ”rotate to fit” on the paper that I use.

Image Settings > I usually select “rotate to fit” so the photo fits the dimensions of the paper I’m using.

Layout > I use sliders to increase/decrease photo size and border dimensions

Print Job > I uncheck all options here including print resolution. Personally, I like to refine my photos while I edit them so that I don’t need an extra accent. You can experiment with these options if you want to add sharpness to your photos. As for resolution, I aim to print images at no less than 300ppi (pixels per inch). If you look at the top left corner of the photo preview you will notice that it provides the actual dimensions and ppi of the print. If for some reason the ppi was less than 300, I would enlarge my photo in Photoshop to the size I wanted so I could have more control over my image sharpening and resizing process.

Color management > This is where I apply my paper ICC profiles. Under Color Management I make sure I select the correct ICC paper I will be printing on. I leave the intention set to perceptual.

Second step

Click Printer to display the printer dialog menu and press Properties.

Third step

Under Additional Features, select borderless printing and/or black and white photo printing if you require these options. The most important option here is to select Color Intensity/Manual Adjust. Under Matching, you want to make sure color correction is set to none. This ensures that the colors are managed by the ICC profile.

Fourth step

For my printer, I need to make sure the photo paper settings are selected for the matching paper I’m using. Click OK and you are ready to start printing.

Printing photographs at home allows me to experiment and have complete control over my image creation process. Printing is another tool in our photographic arsenal, enhancing our enjoyment and possibilities for experimentation. I hope these tips have inspired you for your own home printing. Good luck! ❂

Elaine F. Brim