Book Design and Imaging

Enlighten me on how to get great image quality in my books..... Please...

I’ve just had my first order back from Blurb and I suffered with the whole image darkness thing – that seems to plague so many Blurb users – on over half of my images.

Please can you give me some basic – blonde proof – pointers on how to achieve good image quality in Blurb. All images were sized and sRGB’d in photoshop, my monitor brightness was at it’s lowest, my mac was set to gamma 2.2 but still my images looked dark and flat…... hmmmm

1.I’ve just ordered the Spyder 3 calibration system. Do users have consistent results with their calibrated images – being of a similar quality – to the final print images in a blurb book?

2. What is the workflow thinger all about?

3. I need to amend the images and re-order the book…. as a rule of thumb how much should I lighten them? It’s really hard to know as i’m brightening and losing detail….. but i can’t afford for them to come back dark again…. aghhhhh…...

4. Any other pointers on image quality, colour matching etc. would be much appreciated.

Replytopic_b_normal
Posted by
mintpie73
Feb 4, 2009 5:37pm PDT
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mintpie73
 

1.  Use the spyder and your pictures should print like you see them on the screen.  I’ve never had a bad book, either before nor after I started calibrating my screen,  although, the colors are much truer now that I am.

2. What workflow thinger are you talking about?  Different people use different workflows.  I’ll use varied workflows depending on how many pages and the type of book I’m making. 

3.  Lighten them until they look good on the calibrated screen.  If they still don’t print correctly it may be a printing problem.

4.  I can only tell you that when my pictures look good on the screen, they look good in the book.

Posted by
Charybdis
Feb 5, 2009 1:12am PDT
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Charybdis
 

Katie,

I agree with Mike, but have a couple of additional points and comments.

1. I use a Spyder and the photos in the books look as close to those on the display as you could get given the quite different technologies. Like Mike I’ve never had a bad book (4 different books so far, with a total of 13 copies printed).

1a. The other aspect you need to take care over is the lighting in your room and the position of your monitor. You do not want any reflections of lights or windows on the display, this can fool the eyes. Ideally the room would have subdued lighting. A darkened room or a very brightly lit room again can fool your eyes as to the brightness of your images on the screen.

2. Workflow is simply the  steps a person takes when processing their photos. By following a (fairly) consistant approach you get into good habits and are less likely to randomly try things until the photo looks OK. There is no "right" workflow and as Mike says a person can use more than one. I have two main workflows: One for books that are family albums and holiday records; then another for the wildlife books I am working on where I am a lot more picky about the quality of the images.

3.  Same as Mike.

4. Same as Mike.

5. If in doubt do a little test book. The 7" x 7" paperback uses the same press and the same paper as the other sized books, A selection of your photos, covering a broad range of tones, contrasts, brightnesses, etc popped into a 40 page 7" x 7" paperback would give you a good indication as to whether you have got your processing right and would only cost $12.95 plus shipping. After I got my Spyder I calibrated and did a test book, it turned out not to be necessary as the photos were just right but it did gave me the confidence I needed to trust my monitor.

.........Tony

Posted by
tfrankland
Feb 5, 2009 2:26am PDT
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tfrankland
 

Regarding your workflow question, Katie, I think you might be referring to the Custom Workflow option which is available to anyone signed up to B3. In theory, using that would give you exactly what you are looking for.

The way it works is that you download a printer profile from blurb and install it into Photoshop  (or inDesign etc.). Then, in photoshop, you can "soft proof" your images. Soft proofing simply entails selecting an option from a menu. Once you’ve selected that option, the image you see on screen is supposed to be a very close approximation of the way it will look when printed.

However, there is a problem. When you enable soft proofing, you are presented with a check box: "Simulate Paper Color", and for many people, me included, checking that box makes a huge difference. When I check it my images suddenly look extremely dull, as though they’d been smeared with an oily rag.

So it’s obviously important to know whether or not that box should be checked. Unfortunately, there is conflicting advice from Blurb. See this thread (http://forums.blurb.com/forums/5/topics/4763). At the moment this seems to be the scenario:

-what is this box for?
-you check it to see how your images will look when printed
-well, they will look terrible
-don’t check it then!

The other advantage to using the Custom Workflow is that it guarantees that every book you print will go to the same printer (or possibly the same printer type). That means that once you do get things adjusted correctly at your end, you can use the same settings for subsequent books and be guaranteed good results. It also means that if several copies of your book are printed over time, they should all look exactly the same.

So if it were working as advertised, Custom Workflow would be a great solution. At the moment, though,  I think we need more guidance from Blurb, and we need to know that we can trust what the profile is telling us.

Posted by
photonpics
Feb 5, 2009 5:37am PDT
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photonpics
 

Thanks for such a prompt response guys – it has been a huge help to me….. it was the Custom workflow thinger I was referring to, but that sounds a little bit hit and miss. Has anyone checked the box of their smudgy style images with the B3 CW and seen the final image in print?

I do think Blurb offer a good product and service for the money so I really want to nail these colour and brightness issues i’m having. I have only been digital for 8 months, everything prior was on medium format and hand printed in a colour or B/W darkroom….. I thought digital printing would be so much easier but how wrong was I…... That is another reason I need to get my colour right as I have a million neg scans I want to make into a portfolio using cross-processed, colour, and silver prints.

Once again thanks for all your feedback…. I will crack on with putting it into practice.

Posted by
mintpie73
Feb 5, 2009 6:13am PDT
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mintpie73
 

I ordered a test book yesterday, Katie. I’m in the UK and delivery times appear to have been out to 3 or 4 weeks of late. But I’ll update this thread if it’s still relevant when the book arrives.

Posted by
photonpics
Feb 5, 2009 9:47am PDT
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photonpics
 

Tony, Katie and Mike,

Hopefully you will See this post!
As I am working on my first Blurb book, I am learning more and more about photo retouching, color, etc. And I certainly have learned a lot from you experts here on this site. so thank you.
Now I just got a bit of a jolt, however, and maybe you can give me the straight scoop.

I use a Mac OS X version probook. I learned from someone in the Blurb forums that Macs are set for 1.8 rather than 2.2. Gamma whatever… Once I changed the setting to 2.2 the photos looked significantly darker to me. Not drastically, but enough that I felt I needed to brighten some of them up a bit….This might explain why some people report that their photos come out too dark. Maybe they are all Mac users.

So is this in fact, the correct information? I should change the setting on my display for 2.2 to be able to get in sync with the industry standard and to be in sync with the printing method that Blurb uses?

Also, does the spyder software make such a big difference? Do you use Spyder in addition to Photoshop? Do you use the new Spyder 3 elite or an older version? If any of you use Macs, what do you recommend? I read that Elite 3 has fewer software glitches for Macs. What does Spyder do exactly that can’t be done on photoshop? (In a nutshell).

Once again thanks for all your helpful tips. I couldn’t have gotten this far without them!
kathy

Posted by
kathymn
Feb 16, 2009 3:47pm PDT
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kathymn
 

Kathy,

I’m a Windows user so can’t offer any personal experience of Macs and Gamma, so I’ll leave that to others.

I can’t explicitly set the gamma of my display from the operating system or the display controls but the Spyder adjusts that for me and I have specified 2200 (2.2).

I use Spyder2PRO. Spyder (and other calibration devices) and Photoshop are complimentary rather than alternatives.

Calibrating involves plugging a light sensor (the spyder)  into a USB port and then hanging it on your display. The Spyder software then displays a series of known colours (100s!) and greyscales the spyder sensor  then "reads" how those colours are displayed and compares with what they should be. The software builds up a profile of how the display needs to be adjusted to get those colours and greys true. That profile is then installed in your graphics card software such that every time a colour or grey is sent to the display it is adjusted (if necessary) to get it to display correctly.

So if, for instance your display has a slight blue cast the calibration process would spot that and instruct the graphics card to remove a little blue before displaying.

Now when you come to use Photoshop you are seeing a "correct" version of your photo and what you see is what should be printed. So if it looks a little dark or a little red in photoshop it will print that way, so adjusting the brightness and clour in photoshop until it looks right it will then print right.

So if your monitor isn’t calibrated then adjusting colours, brightness, etc in Photoshop is a bit hit-and-miss. 

I just read that back and the description is a little inelegant, but hopefully you get the drift.

Your monitor settings will "drift" over time, so it is necessary to re-calibrate your monitor regularly. I do it fortnightly, some professionals do it every day.

 If you remember my comments on room lighting affecting the way you see images in my first response above, the latest versions of the Spyder (and others) have an ambient light sensor that measures the light in the room and makes allowance for that as well. My older version doesn’t.

It’s hard to say what a difference it makes to my books. I bought my Spyder as I was having problems getting a good match between screen, my local Epson Printer and the photolab I use.

Calibrating my monitor and my printer/paper/ink combination (Spyder2PRO came with PrintFIX software to help you calibrate your printer) got rid of those discrepencies.

So by the time I came to do my first book I was already calibrating my display regularly.

What I can say is for my four books, of which I’ve had a total of 13 books printed now, I have not had any dark photos, all are spot on and the colours are consistent with the orignals bar some issues with very vibrant greens. I have tried to overcome that problem with the help of softproofing but it appears to be a limitation of the gamut of the HP Indigo rather than any issue with my setup.

In all of the above you have to remember that the technologies used to dispay your photos are quite different. On the display it is generating the light that you see and in your book you are viewing the photo by light reflected off the page. Those two technologies can never give an exact match in how you see the photos. Plus your screen is equivalent in some ways to glossy photo paper, your book will be printed on semi-matte paper, that also makes a difference. The aim is to get as close as possible and by calibrating your monitor and getting your room lighting set appropriately you will get really close.

........Tony

Posted by
tfrankland
Feb 17, 2009 4:52am PDT
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tfrankland
 

I use Spyder2 as well.  I can explicitly set gamma, but I don’t.  I let the Spyder software do it and leave it alone.  The color on the one book I’ve done since I used it (it was a Christmas present) was outstanding.  I got more compliments on the pictures in that one little Christmas book then all others combined.  (I think Lightroom had something to do with that as well).

Mike

Posted by
Charybdis
Feb 17, 2009 11:24am PDT
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Charybdis
 

Tony, thank you so much for all your help. Your explanation was very clear and I am learning so much! I just posted two more questions!

Mike, thank you as well. I will have to check out the Lightroom as well. One thing is for sure…..I really must take some classes to educate myself on this stuff – beginning with photography!

Thanks, guys
Kathy

Posted by
kathymn
Feb 18, 2009 2:28am PDT
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kathymn
 

In Photoshop, do Image > Adjustments > Shadow/Highlights, then play with the Shadow slider in the 0 to 50% range until you get an effect that is pleasing.

That will bring out some of the details in the shadows and prevent the dark areas from becoming too muddled.

Posted by
GTBlack
Feb 22, 2009 8:34pm PDT
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GTBlack
 

I just got back my first book and here are my comments…

 1. 160 pages 11×13 on premium paper

2. 339 photos, all of them set in photoshop to 11×13 (or close to that using a programmed ACTION command) and set at 300dpi

3. I use the LEVELS adjustment in the IMAGE menu and lighten to my eye.

4. I don’t have a Spyder nor have I ever done any calibration

5. I have been taking photos, first B&W and developing them in my own darkroom when I was a kid and now 37 years later I am using the computer as a digital darkroom.  Perhaps after all those years taking photos you just know what is good when you see it and what isn’t both from the darkroom and the printer.

6. I usually lighten the photos slightly more than you might otherwise to avoid "dark" photos

7. I didn’t crop any photos prior to putting them in the containers, I just grabbed the photo slider bar and adjusted, maybe I am missing something, but a 11×13 fits in the smallest container just like a 1×3.  Both are going to get cropped to the same amount no matter what, since the basic image is the same size.  So maybe I am missing something, but the first book except for some dumb design stuff I did turned out great in terms of clarity of the photos.

 

 

how it looked on Blurb site with an image capture program

Posted by
firstgear
Mar 6, 2009 7:38pm PDT
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firstgear
 

firstgear, your book looks great! congrats.  thanks for posting the photos of the actual book.  that really helps.  I’ll remember to do the same when mine comes in tomorrow…

Posted by
djKianoosh
Mar 12, 2009 2:44pm PDT
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djKianoosh
 

One thing you might do if you are in serious doubt about your photo quality to is have it printed by your local printer first -   I worried about this also with some of my photographs that I had restored and colorized – so prior to having the book printed I ordered prints from my local photo shop company – and the ones that appeared to dark or light I adjusted - saved a lot of heart ache in the end…......

Posted by
Bebensee
Mar 12, 2009 4:43pm PDT
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Bebensee
 

I’ve just received my first effort and although I was very pleased with overall sharpness and other quality of the book, I felt that the photographs were all a bit too heavy (dark) and contrasty compared to the originals.

My images were black and white scanned from original gelatin silver (wet darkroom) prints.  Using Photoshop, I applied an adjustment curve to each image and slightly reduced the density of the shadows and lowered the contrast slightly.  I have just uploaded a second version of the book and will see if I estimated my correction properly when I receive it.

I’m still learning about digital colour management, but from what I know so far, you really have to compare the print output to the screen output to guage how to apply the corrections.  My images look good on the computer, but that’s no guarantee on the final look in ink. 

 

Posted by
moonrise
Mar 13, 2009 6:27pm PDT
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moonrise