Category Archives: Printing

A Question About Noise and Prints

A reader asks:

I’m curious if you know the answer.  I don’t print very often so I’m not experienced with it.  I keep reading about noise in digital of course.  I also have read many remarks about noise not being visible in print under some conditions.  So I’m curious if there is a threshold.  For example, on the 5D2, what is the print size where noise becomes visible at a given ISO?  The 7D?  I realize that where it becomes objectionable may be subjective, but I thought it may be interesting to know when it is visible or invisible in print.

Let’s assume other technical details are handled well… good exposure, good focus, sharp lens, and no camera shake.

Thanks for writing. This is a great question and a subject that lots of people worry about. I’m not sure I know the answer, but I have an answer based on my own experience. The situation turns out to be a bit fuzzy in the end – in other words, if there is a threshold a number of factors could change your notions of where it might be. (I welcome comments from others who have experience to share.)

From reading photography discussions one could get the idea that image noise in digital photography is a terrible and limiting problem. Discussions often focus on questions like “which camera produces less noise?” and “how do I fix this noise problem.” We see 100% magnification crops of images in which noise is, indeed, quite visible. There are most certainly noise issues that we have to concern ourselves with, but all too often people get worked up over noise issues that are insignificant or even imperceptible – and which are often easy to resolve. Continue reading A Question About Noise and Prints

Tis’ the Season to be… Printing

As a college faculty member I have the good fortune to have some significant time away from the classroom during the holidays. I’ve been spending the past few weeks doing a lot of printing. So far I’ve printed about 50 photographs that previously existed only as images on the screen. Yes, there is a difference!

In fact, I write this as another four prints slowly work their way through the printer. I planned to drive a good distance to do some shooting today, but it looks like I’ll have to pick a closer location – since I’ve still got a half hour or so of printing time to go and it is already nearly 2:30.

Luminous Landscape and Baryta Papers

From Luminous Landscape:

For fine-art photographers paper is where the battle lines are drawn.  Over the past year or so paper manufacturers have tried to bring us inkjet printing papers that combine the tactile and visual beauty of fibre-based substrates with the high dMax and saturated colours of resin coated papers using photo black ink. Close, but not quite there yet in my view.

In the chemical print era Baryta-based papers were considered by many as the pinnacle. Now, three of the major paper makers have introduced Baryta papers for inkjet printing; Hahnemuhle Fine Art Baryta 325 , Harman Gloss FB AI, and Ilford Galerie Gold Fibre Silk. Are these the Holy Grail of printing?

My three-way comparison report, Battle of The Barytas is now online. [The Luminous Landscape – What’s New]

The article makes an interesting read on several counts. It sounds like all three reviewed papers are quite good – though one costs far less than the others. It also explains why a move away from printing on matte papers may be in the cards.

When Sharpness Becomes an Unhealthy Obsession

Here is a small photo*:

100% crop sample

It is a tiny 100% crop from a photograph made with a Canon 5D, 70-200mm f/4 lens at f/11. (I don’t recall the shutter speed, but it was on a tripod). This image includes the head and shoulders of a person standing on an overlook above the Pacific ocean. Doesn’t look too sharp, does it?

If you viewed the entire photograph from which this portion comes at this resolution it would be five feet wide.

Make a direct print of this sample image so that it has the same dimensions you see on the screen. (If your screen displays at 72 dpi, print it at 72 dpi, etc. Or, put a ruler up to the screen, measure the image, then make a print that has the same dimensions.) The print will look awful – just as bad as it looks on the screen – but keep in mind that it is a very small bit of a much (much!) larger image.

The next time you have the opportunity to view some very large photographic prints at a show or in a museum, find one that is five feet wide. Discreetly take out your little print and compare the detail in the gallery print to the detail in this little sample image.

I think you’ll find that some very large (e.g. – five feet wide) gallery prints that look quite sharp don’t show any more detail than this. Some will show considerably less. A few – perhaps shot with LF equipment – may show a bit more.

Sharpness is a good and important thing, but it can also become an unhealthy and unproductive obsession.

* For reference, a jpg of the photograph from which this sample was taken is available here.

(This is from a message I recently posted in a long-winded and hopeless forum discussion of the “sharpness” produced by various types of equipment and in prints.)

Museo Silver Rag Paper

I really like Museo Silver Rag paper.

I was reminded of this tonight as I worked up a print (San Francisco Skyline, July 17, 2006) for a client. I had test-printed the image on Epson Premium Luster paper, but tonight I was making the final print on this heavier (more expensive) paper.

Museo Silver Rag feels like real photographic paper and does not have the slightly plastic feel and texture of some other papers. It has a nicely textured surface with an appropriate amount of reflectivity. It does a wonderful job at the dark end of the spectrum, especially when printing in black and white – there is more detail in the shadows than I generally get with other papers. Silver Rag has a warm tone compared to papers made with optical brighteners. The print I was working on tonight is a black and white image, but I’ve had good results with color prints as well.

Just thought you might want to know. :-)

Note on 8/30/08: I have continued to work with this paper, among others, since I originally posted this message. I still like Museo Silver Rag a lot for certain prints that benefit from the rather warm tone of the paper. I do notice that the ink seems to diffuse a bit more on the surface of this paper compared to some other high quality papers. In some cases the slight softness that this produces could be a good thing in and of itself, but if not it is a good idea to sharpen a bit more aggressively before printing.