Book Printing

It is heartbreaking ... help!

You spend hours upon hours photographing scenery, people, places … and then hours upon hours (120 <ins>+</ins> easily) making a book only to have the skies grainy.  Forget the publishing errors like white spots on pages, added colored pages you did NOT upload … it is the processing.  What am I doing wrong?  I have a quality camera, "L" lenses, CS5, Eye One monitor calibrating … what else can I do?  I ask blurb about sharpening and they don’t have an answer.  What do you do about sharpening?  I have PKSharpener.  It is just really heartbreaking to work so very, very hard and anticipate the final product, only to have it be such a disappointment. 

I have searched forums for info and cannot find "sharpening" forums that meet my needs.  I see blurb publishing so many, many books – HELP!

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Posted by
klhdesign
Nov 2, 2010 5:44pm PDT
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klhdesign
 

I wouldn’t have thought sharpening would help grainy skies it is more likely to make them worse, there is something else happening. Graininess is often caused by artifacts being introduced by scaling the photo or by lightening an underexposed image to try and recover shadow details could introduce noise. Photoshop’s noise reduction filter may help but we really need to understand what is happening to cause this rather than using that as band-aid to fix it.

Can you post a bit more information about the photos that you are having problems with or is it all the photos? Size (pixel dimensions ideally) and what size image container are you putting them into on the page (if you hover your mouse over the container you will get a pop-up showing this). What JPEG settings are you using when you export them from Photoshop?

…..Tony 

Posted by
tfrankland
Nov 3, 2010 12:57am PDT
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tfrankland
 

I have used CS5 to do some exposure, but not a lot and not on all the images.  All the images that have a sky are grainy.  I shoot in RAW>post process in RAW (w/b, exp, black).  These are very small amounts.  Then I save it as a TIFF>post process in CS5 (clone, spot clean, adjustment level)>duplicate>save as 8bit>convert to profile RGB>sharpen with PKSharpener (medium for hi-res and output is injet as per the ppi).

The one photo that really stand out is of a sailboat on the water.  It is  4004 × 2472 pixels and 13.3 × 8.24inches at 300 ppi.  The container is 7.3 × 4 inches and 2192 × 1450 pixels.  Not many of the photos had been reduced to that small of a container.  Most are 8 × 10" or 7 × 5".  I do not size before putting them in the container as blurb told me that was not necessary.  What mattered was the pixels.

In this particular book on Peru, all the skies are grainy.  I am also not happy with the tones.  They are yellowish.

 

Thanks, Tony.

 

Posted by
klhdesign
Nov 3, 2010 7:17am PDT
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klhdesign
 

Tony

I’ve just done my first book and to be fair iI’m very pleased . All the pictures are on a 12mp compact but the repro is good , especially as It is a combination of night shots , daylight, colour and black and white

this is a POD service using the a certain level of technology  that allows the business model to work . My book would never have seen the light of day through a conventional publisher but to my eyes the repro stands up to commercially available books . I’ve sold 5 copies now so hopefully that is five happy people and the life of a now demolished building lives on at least in print which it never would have done  

 

Posted by
Martincreese
Nov 5, 2010 3:21am PDT
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Martincreese
 

Sorry for the delay in responding.

I think size and scaling IS the issue. You are trying to get your image into a space 1/3 of the size or a reduction in pixels of roughly 66%.   4004×2472 = 9.9 Mp, 2192×1450 = 3.2Mp. So the scaling algorythm is having to "throw away" 66% or 6.1 MBs worth of the pixels in your photo – that is bound to decrease the quality.

This one of the problems with modern cameras, more pixels does not necessarily give you a better photo just a bigger photo.

I know tthat Blurb have recently improved their scaling algorthyms but I think to scale by this amoune it needs a proper image editing application like the CS5 you have. If I was placing a photo like you are doing I would use Photoshop’s Bicubic Sharper option in the Image Size dialogue, Adobe recommend that for decreasing the size of images.

The test book I did (which was admittedly before Blurb improved their scaling algorthyms)showed that BookSmart did a good job of scaling UP photos by 30% after that Photoshop did a better job, I found shrinking photos by 30% started to introduce noise and artifacts.

 Back in April at the Blurb London meet-up I met someone who was having the same problem, he had brought his book along for some advice. I suggested a small test book where he compared Blurb’s scaling results with those of Photoshop CS. He didn’t do the test book but reworked his photos using CS and republished and said he was happy when he e-mailed me.

I can’t guarantee this is the cause though, so if your book has 100s of pages I’d recommend doing a test book before reprocessing all your photos.

I would be interested to hear from other users about this problem though, it isn’t one that has been discussed much in the forums.

 …..Tony

 

Posted by
tfrankland
Nov 5, 2010 10:06am PDT
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tfrankland
 

Thanks, Tony.  I will look into that.  So, let me get this straight, I should take my photo and go to CS5’s bicupic sharpener and scale the photo down to the pixels that the container says?  I will try that.  However, even in larger photos, there was a grainy appearance.  I looked into digital noise that you talked about.  I went into noise reduction and reduced the noise in 12 photos that I was unhappy about.  Of course, when you do that you loose sharpness.  So, I then proceeded to sharpen these photos first, with Unsharp Mask, second with PKSharpener Inkjet glossy output and third with PKSharpener Halftone 175/350 coated output.   There seems to be so much discussion on sharpening, I would find out myself.  I then uploaded these and am producing a 40 page book for myself to see what is best for me.  I finally came to the conclusion that there are so many types of sharpening, so many different cameras, so many ways people shoot, I would just find out what works with my camera, my processing and I hope I will get some results. 

If this does not work, I will try some test with scaling.  I am still a bit confused if that is the whole problem because, again, I have taken the same photo and put it in a much larger container (10.4 × 7.4) and it is still grainy.

Hopefully, my new book will enlighten me.  I do wonder why I get digital noise on some and not other photos, though.  I don’t do a lot of post processing – especially with exposure.  Although, with these books, they are on travel, and when you travel you often don’t get the most perfect lighting – but, on that contrary, some of my worst lighting turned out the best photos and vice versa.

 Again, thanks for your info.

Leslie

 

 

Posted by
klhdesign
Nov 6, 2010 9:25am PDT
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klhdesign
 

I would be VERY interested in a quick precis of the results of your test book Leslie, if that would be possible, as I’m sure would others. Your workflow sounds OK so I’m baffled as well.

Good luck!

 …..Tony

Posted by
tfrankland
Nov 6, 2010 11:08am PDT
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tfrankland
 

Will do.  The graininess is most prevalent in the skies … When I look at my book on Guatemala, there is none.   At that time, I was not using PKSharening.  I was using Unsharp Mask with PhotoShop.  So, could it be "oversharpening"?  I don’t know.  The book will tell (I hope!)  What does baffle me, is how can it look so darn good on my monitor, so very darn good in real print, and so very poor quality with blurb.

These folks who are so very happy, I wonder what they are doing?  As well, Darwin Wiggett, who I took a class from on PPSOP and who was Travel Photographer of the Year, uses blurb.  That’s not shabby and he is happy!  He gave me his workflow and I use that.  The one thing, is that he uses Unsharp Mask in PhotoShop to sharpen.  Hmmmmm … That may be the ticket.

I will post once I get the book.

Leslie

Posted by
klhdesign
Nov 6, 2010 12:19pm PDT
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klhdesign
 

Tony … I hope you can guide me here.  I did what you suggested and resized some of the photos to fit the containers.  There was a remarkable difference in the preview.  In most cases, all the pixelation was gone.  Some of my photos are downsized significantly.  Do you think I can resize AFTER I have sharpened?  I was always taught that sharpening is the last thing you do.  It would certainly save me some time to take my jpegs that are sharpened and just size them.  I will probably make a test book again, but was wondering, for future reference if you know the answer to the above.

Leslie

Posted by
klhdesign
Nov 7, 2010 10:25am PDT
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klhdesign
 

I hope there is a good solution found for this problem. I get pleasing results without any of those high tech devices discussed here, but I am thinking about buying a better camera.

Do I get this conversation right: If I have a camera that produces bigger images (ca. 4000X 2500pixel) the results in blurb books might not be good if I try to place the images in original size in small image containers?

Posted by
editionh
Nov 8, 2010 3:02am PDT
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editionh
 

Leslie,

personally, despite the effort involved, I wouldn’t even consider resizing the sharpened photos but go back to the originals and start again. The advice you were given was good! I can understand that that’s a pain but there is a real danger that resizing, hence resampling, the images will introduce more noise/artifacts/grain which is what you are trying to get rid off.

But there are stages of sharpening (some say two, some three) with quite different objectives. These include creative sharpening, the sort that you would do to specific areas of your photos (such as to accentuate eyes). Then there is output sharpening where you are sharpening with a specific device/paper combination in mind. I would save a copy of my photos before the latter, then sharpen that copy once I decide where it is to be output and on what media, whether that be a Blurb book, my inkjet printer, or a version to view on the display for web or for a digital projector. 

The latter, the output sharpening, has to be the last step once you have decided on the device/media. I think, perhaps, you may have done too much sharpening. If you have used unsharp mask on the whole photo, then PK Sharperner for glossy inkjet on the whole photo followed by PK Sharpener for halftone on the whole photo that is certainly the case.

After any spot sharpening you may have done (as I outlined above) all you need to do, just before output of a copy for BookSmart is to use the PK Sharpener settings for Halftone 175/350 coated output. I can’t remember whether PK Sharpener has specific settings suggested for the newer paper types that Blurb offers such as the pearl, but it is late here in the UK so I’ll leave you to check on that.

By far the best advice I have found on sharpening is in this article by Bruce Fraser, one of the architects of PK Sharpener.

 …..Tony

Posted by
tfrankland
Nov 8, 2010 2:24pm PDT
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tfrankland
 

editionh,

you have got it right!

The image size that is possible with the newer cameras is a mixed blessing. I see two advantages of such cameras. The first is you can produce high quality poster size prints – but how often are you likely to do that?

The second, which is why I would quite like one, is that you can crop a tiny part of the photo and enlarge that to produce a "normal" size print. I love photographing (I nearly said shooting!) wildlife. Despite having a long lens I often just get the bird/animal/etc as just a small part of the image. So I have a few choices, buy a longer lens or buy a camera with more Megapixels. The latter , these days, is the cheaper option.

When I get that camera, which won’t be for this Christmas :-( , I would set the default image size to less than the maximum when photographing family, holiday snaps, etc only increasing it to the maximum when I shoot wildlife or anything that I think may be a potential two-page spread in a 13" x 11" Blurb book. . That way all my normal "snaps" and will quite happily print OK at 6" x 4" or in the pages of a 10" x 8" Blurb book.

If you have a look at my Galapagos book, those photos were taken with a 10Mp Pentax DSLR or 6Mp Olympus mju compact. I’d guess that less than 5% of those photos would have benefited from being taken with one of the new 14Mp cameras – that is one reason why I am not rushing out to get one (the second being the money!).

A MUCH more interesting feature of those newer cameras is the high ISO they offer without the introduction of excessive noise that I have in some of the photos in that book.

…..Tony

Posted by
tfrankland
Nov 8, 2010 2:49pm PDT
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tfrankland
 

Sorry, that should have read fewer than 15% would have benefited.

…..Tony

Posted by
tfrankland
Nov 9, 2010 2:22am PDT
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tfrankland
 

Hi Tony, thank you very much for your detailed reply.  Your Galapagos book is fantastic.

Posted by
editionh
Nov 11, 2010 3:46am PDT
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editionh
 

I took my Blurb book to show a group of friends all of whom are very serious photographers . All were impressed by Blurb’s repro and considered opinion was that it was better than many commercially available published books . In addition comparison was made with CeWe (I think I’ve got it right) and concensus was that Blurb was Stronger

Posted by
Martincreese
Nov 12, 2010 4:26am PDT
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Martincreese