Soft image in print

Started 3 months ago | Discussions
asolov
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Soft image in print
3 months ago

I have recently started using Lightroom and a retina MacBook to process images and encountered a new issue: the images on screen look too good, pretty much all of them. Apparently.

I have printed one picture at Costco as usual, to the size of 16x20 and the print looks "soft". I had printed multiple images to this and larger size and had not encountered an image that looked fine on screen but soft in print.

One difference in my process is that I used to use SilkyPix and do "natural fine" sharpening. Here I did not touch the default settings in LR.

So, here's a question: is the image actually soft, especially the icefall in the background? Is it me not being steady enough with 1/500 shutter speed? Am I missing the depth of field (should have gone with f/8)? Hopefully the oroginal metadata and resolution are preserved by the forum software.

Thanks in advance for your input!

DonSC
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Re: Soft image in print
In reply to asolov, 3 months ago

Prints usually work best when the image on screen looks overly sharpened. If you do a Google search I'm sure you'll find plenty of references.

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asolov
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Re: Soft image in print
In reply to DonSC, 3 months ago

DonSC wrote:

Prints usually work best when the image on screen looks overly sharpened. If you do a Google search I'm sure you'll find plenty of references.

Is it suggested then to develop different versions of the same image, one for print and one for on screen viewing?

As far as the image, does it look sharp? I am still testing the GX7 + 14mm pancake combo. It's perfect for me as far as size, weight and convenience goes, but I am still questioning whether I should consider Olympus m43 or start looking at larger sensors or, perhaps, just bite the bullet and carry a larger Panasonic 7-14 lens (which is a pain on more adventurous trips).

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Guy Parsons
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Re: Soft image in print
In reply to asolov, 3 months ago

asolov wrote:

DonSC wrote:

Prints usually work best when the image on screen looks overly sharpened. If you do a Google search I'm sure you'll find plenty of references.

Is it suggested then to develop different versions of the same image, one for print and one for on screen viewing?

Absolutely. Sensible low amount of sharpen for screen, more sharpening for a small screen like a digital picture frame, and different again for print, but print size dependent. A small print may need to be sharpened differently/more that a larger print.

Anyhow, I leave that all up to Qimage Ultimate where I deliver a screen view subtly sharpened image and the software will auto sharpen to suit the print size requested either to printer or to file to send to lab.

As far as the image, does it look sharp? I am still testing the GX7 + 14mm pancake combo. It's perfect for me as far as size, weight and convenience goes, but I am still questioning whether I should consider Olympus m43 or start looking at larger sensors or, perhaps, just bite the bullet and carry a larger Panasonic 7-14 lens (which is a pain on more adventurous trips).

A little under-exposed made it a bit noisier than it should be and the detail is not as sharp as I would have expected for a 14mm lens. But I'm spoiled by my 12-40/2.8

Here below: - left is the original jpeg as downloaded, middle is auto correction by FastStone Viewer plus my micro contrast fiddle of unsharp mask with largest radius and very low strength, then right side is final effort with more unsharp mask, this time small radius and low to medium strength, done for the screen and not for printing but would print better than the original.

View original to get an idea of what I see.

Displayed on my screen at 60%, seems better than 100% to judge how it may look as a large print.

Regards....... Guy

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DonSC
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Re: Soft image in print
In reply to asolov, 3 months ago

Looks sharp to me. Yes, if you're doing images for print and computer display you should probably do different versions. If the image starts looking garish on screen that's just about right for print. LOL The other issue is that, since a computer display is emitted light and a print is reflected light, the computer image will always look brighter. Shadow areas are also more prone to block up in the printed image.

Having said that, I'm a little surprised the print was all that soft. Are you sure it's the sharpness? You might try using a gradient filter on the sky and lighten the shadows some so your subjects aren't so dark. Just a thought.

The print technology also matters. Most large prints these days are done using Indigos. Might be different with a different and/or continuous tone technology.

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Virtual Photon
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Re: Soft image in print
In reply to asolov, 3 months ago

asolov wrote:

I have recently started using Lightroom and a retina MacBook to process images and encountered a new issue: the images on screen look too good, pretty much all of them. Apparently.

I have printed one picture at Costco as usual, to the size of 16x20 and the print looks "soft". I had printed multiple images to this and larger size and had not encountered an image that looked fine on screen but soft in print.

One difference in my process is that I used to use SilkyPix and do "natural fine" sharpening. Here I did not touch the default settings in LR.

So, here's a question: is the image actually soft, especially the icefall in the background? Is it me not being steady enough with 1/500 shutter speed? Am I missing the depth of field (should have gone with f/8)? Hopefully the oroginal metadata and resolution are preserved by the forum software.

Thanks in advance for your input!

I've also got the Retina Macbook as well and process in LR. I've not used SilkyPix so I can't comment on that. The default settings in LR are pretty conservative so if the image that you published is identical to what was done at Cosco, then yes I do think the image looks soft. I consider the default settings in LR as basically an unprocessed raw image and, as noted above, the Retina display tends to make images look better than you might otherwise think. I also think the image was slightly underexposed.

It could be considerably improved with some post-processing. This was done in LR:

One thing you might try is processing the image, then checking it by printing 1/4 of it at 8x10 to save the cost of the entire print.

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asolov
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Re: Soft image in print
In reply to Virtual Photon, 3 months ago

Virtual Photon wrote:

asolov wrote:

I have recently started using Lightroom and a retina MacBook to process images and encountered a new issue: the images on screen look too good, pretty much all of them. Apparently.

I have printed one picture at Costco as usual, to the size of 16x20 and the print looks "soft". I had printed multiple images to this and larger size and had not encountered an image that looked fine on screen but soft in print.

One difference in my process is that I used to use SilkyPix and do "natural fine" sharpening. Here I did not touch the default settings in LR.

So, here's a question: is the image actually soft, especially the icefall in the background? Is it me not being steady enough with 1/500 shutter speed? Am I missing the depth of field (should have gone with f/8)? Hopefully the oroginal metadata and resolution are preserved by the forum software.

Thanks in advance for your input!

I've also got the Retina Macbook as well and process in LR. I've not used SilkyPix so I can't comment on that. The default settings in LR are pretty conservative so if the image that you published is identical to what was done at Cosco, then yes I do think the image looks soft. I consider the default settings in LR as basically an unprocessed raw image and, as noted above, the Retina display tends to make images look better than you might otherwise think. I also think the image was slightly underexposed.

It could be considerably improved with some post-processing. This was done in LR:

One thing you might try is processing the image, then checking it by printing 1/4 of it at 8x10 to save the cost of the entire print.

Agreed about the underexposure: probably all the white in the image fools the metering system. On the other hand, I left the image somewhat dark on purpose since this was the sunrise and compared to blinding bright light of the daytime, it felt much darker and with a softer light. This is almost an alpenglow, if you know what I mean. Hence the reddish hue.

I wonder how I could have done better with the original image, use a tripod? Judging from f/6 aperture, which is not my default, I must have been trying to balance the exposure and depth of field. Thanks!

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asolov
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Re: Soft image in print
In reply to Guy Parsons, 3 months ago

Guy Parsons wrote:

asolov wrote:

DonSC wrote:

Prints usually work best when the image on screen looks overly sharpened. If you do a Google search I'm sure you'll find plenty of references.

Is it suggested then to develop different versions of the same image, one for print and one for on screen viewing?

Absolutely. Sensible low amount of sharpen for screen, more sharpening for a small screen like a digital picture frame, and different again for print, but print size dependent. A small print may need to be sharpened differently/more that a larger print.

Anyhow, I leave that all up to Qimage Ultimate where I deliver a screen view subtly sharpened image and the software will auto sharpen to suit the print size requested either to printer or to file to send to lab.

As far as the image, does it look sharp? I am still testing the GX7 + 14mm pancake combo. It's perfect for me as far as size, weight and convenience goes, but I am still questioning whether I should consider Olympus m43 or start looking at larger sensors or, perhaps, just bite the bullet and carry a larger Panasonic 7-14 lens (which is a pain on more adventurous trips).

A little under-exposed made it a bit noisier than it should be and the detail is not as sharp as I would have expected for a 14mm lens. But I'm spoiled by my 12-40/2.8

Here below: - left is the original jpeg as downloaded, middle is auto correction by FastStone Viewer plus my micro contrast fiddle of unsharp mask with largest radius and very low strength, then right side is final effort with more unsharp mask, this time small radius and low to medium strength, done for the screen and not for printing but would print better than the original.

View original to get an idea of what I see.

Displayed on my screen at 60%, seems better than 100% to judge how it may look as a large print.

Regards....... Guy

Thank you for taking the time with postprocessing. There's much for me to learn.

Something to remember: I need to compensate up for shooting on snow and glacier, or metering will underexpose, of course.

Aside from the noise, I wonder what else I could have done better. I resist the idea of carrying a larger Panasonic 7-14 lens. The pancake is ideal for my purposes. I have taken images in the mountains with that same lens that absolutely look razor sharp in even larger prints. I wonder if GX7 might be an issue, since I have had abnormal number of out of focus images with it.

This lens from Olympus you mentioned looks very nice. Using a Panasonic body sort of pushes you in direction of using Panasonic lenses (purple ghosts, CA correction, etc). At the time, Panasonic lineup looked better, but now I am wondering.

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bs1946
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Re: Soft image in print
In reply to asolov, 3 months ago

Have you considered that there might be absolutely nothing wrong with your image or any of your hardware or software. Take it back to Costco, tell them why it doesn't look right and ask them to reprint it before you go insane trying to find out what's broken.

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Maklike Tier
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Re: Soft image in print
In reply to asolov, 3 months ago

Photo looks just fine to me.  Captures the mood and atmosphere well.

Two factors here.  Firstly, you're printing at Costco. Secondly, you can't compare a screen RGB to print CMYK. It's an art form converting between the two and getting the printer to actually print the image how the image shouldactually look.  That's a relationship/workflow in and of itself.

Prints don't have much 'luminescence' as screen, so I tend to try and have not too much subtlety in my blacks (they can get muddied quickly) but at the same time make the image punchier.

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Phil Rose
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Re: Soft image in print
In reply to asolov, 3 months ago

Yes, it's a little soft looking in the background ice/snow, but not objectionably so in any of the foreground subjects.

As to the role of Lightroom, allow me to ask a basic question: On export, did you set the output sharpening (i.e., in the Export dialogue) to sharpen for printing? You have choices of "low, normal, high" and also for "glossy or matte" papers. Lightroom assumes that prior to export you have done only a moderate amount of input sharpening to account for anti-aliasing filters, etc. Perhaps those settings are not optimized (for you) yet.

Phil

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asolov
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Re: Soft image in print
In reply to Phil Rose, 3 months ago

Phil Rose wrote:

Yes, it's a little soft looking in the background ice/snow, but not objectionably so in any of the foreground subjects.

As to the role of Lightroom, allow me to ask a basic question: On export, did you set the output sharpening (i.e., in the Export dialogue) to sharpen for printing? You have choices of "low, normal, high" and also for "glossy or matte" papers. Lightroom assumes that prior to export you have done only a moderate amount of input sharpening to account for anti-aliasing filters, etc. Perhaps those settings are not optimized (for you) yet.

Phil

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Aha! I am going to look at export params. Thanks!

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