Printing Woz

A magnificent photograph by Rajan P. Parrikar.

Let me start by saying that printing someone else’s photographs is the last thing on earth I thought I would ever do. Heck, it’s all I can do to cope with my own output. But when I offered to make a couple of prints for Rajan Parrikar of his magnificent portrait of a very special man, Steve Wozniak, my interests were not purely altruistic. You see, I very much wanted one of these for my wall! Woz is an engineer’s engineer and Rajan has captured all the warmth and kindness in that magnificent face in his extraordinary portrait.

As Rajan tells it, the lighting was fading fast by the time Woz was available and his 85mm f/1.2 Canon L optic on the no less special Canon 5D Mark II body was opened up to f/2.8 at ISO200. A larger aperture would have put the nose out of focus in this tightly cropped composition. Rajan writes:

“The 85L II is a magnificent piece of optic, but takes a little time getting used to. As you observe, it is insanely sharp, and I often use the softening filter in portraits to tamp it down.”

My usual printing routine, meaning 99% color originals, is as simple as it gets. My Dell 2209WA displays are calibrated regularly with the EyeOne colorimeter, and my HP DesignJet 90 wide carriage dye printer uses standard HP glossy and matte papers with the profiles provided by HP. I tell Lightroom3 to use these profiles in preference to the ones generated internally by the DJ90 as I find that I get a slightly better print-to-screen match, though there’s very little in it. For much more on the DJ90 click on Photography->Technique->Printing in the right hand column when viewing this site on a laptop or desktop.

I take one other precaution. Professional printers will use costly colorimeters to profile their printer and will view the print in a color controlled viewing booth. Costly printer hardware increasingly comes with built-in colorimeters to do this job. I have no need for paper specific printer profiling as HP’s profiles are excellent, but I do try to process and print by noon light in my room on sunny days only, meaning I’m limited to some 340 days a year in Northern California! The reason is that the color of the light by which a print is viewed has a huge impact on its color rendition, and while with many of my abstracted color snaps that’s no big deal, in this case it was very significant.

You see, Rajan had opted for a warm rendition of the monochrome file, with the merest touch of magenta. You can see his rendering by clicking here. It’s the first picture. And while the job was easy as regards sharpness and contrast, the original file being of outstanding quality, the color aspect proved challenging. The most minor changes in color settings in LR3 made big differences in the rendering of the paper image viewed in natural light. Further, it was again brought home forcefully to me how ambient light color temperature affects a print, and for some reason this is far more severe in a monochrome print than in a color one. Just walking around the home with print in hand showed large changes in color. So when someone asks you to ‘make a print’ your first question should be “What color temperature will it be viewed in?”. Not very realistic, but very much the case if fidelity to the original is demanded.

To cut a long story short, I made no fewer than five 13″ x 19″ test prints, preferring the large size for proofing as I have long known that it’s useless to use a small print as a proof when looking to make a large one. In the final print I dialed in Orange Hue of -35 but it took me five passes to get to this point! Strangely, reducing the orange gave the final result the hint of magenta required, as opposed to dialing in magenta which did little. That and a touch of added brightness gave me a close match.

It was worth the effort for such a special photograph, and once Rajan has signed mine it’s going to end up on my wall. I made both glossy (my preferred paper) and matte versions, switching only to the appropriate HP Paper profile when changing papers. The results are nearly identical, with the glossy variant showing predictably deeper blacks from the superb dye inks used by the DJ90. There are newer printers out there, but the 24″ HP DJ130 remains on sale new at B&H and is half the price of its nearest pigment ink competitor. I would buy another one of these in a heartbeat. Sure, the latest pigment inks last longer than the 80 or so years claimed for the DJ90′s dyes, but I’ll be long dead by then and, like Clark Gable, won’t give a damn.

But my days of printing for others are over, almost as soon as they started. The stress is too much ….

One thought on “Printing Woz

  1. I wanted to thank you for all your helpfull posts regarding this excellent, albeit a little outdated, printer-series. I have the 130NR and I still love the output from the PP Satin paper. I actually go through some printhead clogging problems but thats ok because I left it for six months cold and untouched …

    So thanks for your helping website and keep up your good work!

    Oh, and happy new year ;-)

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