Prepare A Print For Competition Using Photoshop

Prepare a Print for Competition Using Photoshop

You’ve taken your best shot: The light was perfect, your technique was flawless, and that fleeting moment is captured in a file on your hard drive. So now what? How do you turn that perfect photo into a prize-winning, gallery-quality print? Fire up Adobe Photoshop, open the image and start editing.


Is Your Photo Print-Worthy?

1. Start with a photo that is well-exposed. Photoshop can help correct a lot of images, but it can’t bring shadows or highlights back.

2. Choose a photo that’s reasonably sharp-what’s reasonable depends on the photo. If you’re an architectural photographer, the lines between those bricks better be sharp as a razor’s edge. If you’re a portrait photographer, it’s OK for the background to be out of focus, but the subject’s eyes should be clear and sharp. If the guests are throwing rice at the bride and groom, it’s acceptable to have small amount of motion blur.

3. Choose a photo with effective composition. There are plenty of great photos that break compositional rules, but typically, a portrait should be vertical, and a landscape should be horizontal. The viewer’s eye should move around the photo easily, and your subject should fill the frame.

Editing Your Photo

4. Open your photo in Photoshop by clicking “File” and “Open.” In the dialog box that appears, find your photo and click “Open.”

5. Save a copy of your photo immediately before you start editing by clicking “File” and “Save.” Name your file something like “Originalname_edited.jpg.” Editing is a tricky process, and mistakes are easily made. In a worst-case-scenario, you will still have the original file intact.

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6. Level your photo by clicking “Image,” then “Adjustments” and “Auto Levels.” This will very likely make your photo much brighter and more dynamic, with more vibrant colors and better contrast. If not, click “Edit” and then “Undo” to revert the photo back to its previous settings.

Establish your Print Size and Color Space

7. Click “Image” and “Image Size” to establish the photo’s print size. In the dialog box, you’ll see the actual pixel dimensions of your photo and the document size. At the bottom of this box, uncheck “Resample Image” to deactivate the pixel dimensions section.

8. Type the dimensions for your print into the “Width” and “Height” boxes. The resolution will change depending on your dimensions. At least 200 pixels per inch are needed for a sharp print, so if your resolution falls below that, then consider smaller print dimensions.

9. Set your color mode by clicking “Image,” then “Mode” and “RBG Color,” unless your print lab or printer manual specifies otherwise.

10. Unless your printer manual or print lab have given you other instructions, set your color space by clicking “Edit” and “Color Settings.” In the dialog box under “Working Spaces,” make sure that the RGB space is set to “sRGB IEC61966-2.1,” which is the color space that most printers use.

Local Contrast and Sharpening

11. Local contrast, or edge contrast, makes your image appear sharper and more detailed. Even the sharpest photos need a local contrast enhancement and some basic sharpening. The intensity of these adjustments is up to the individual photographer, but the process is the same for every image and consists of two consecutive sharpening steps.

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12. Click “Filter,” then “Sharpen” and “Unsharp Mask.” In the dialog box, be sure to click “Preview” so you can see the impact of your adjustments as you make them.

13. Set the “Amount” to 20 percent, the “Radius” to 50 pixels, and the “Threshold” to 0 levels. Your image should look significantly better, but if it doesn’t, adjust the “Amount” to vary the contrast enhancement. When you’ve reached a level you like, click “OK.”

14. Return to the “Unsharp Mask” dialog by clicking “Filter,” then “Sharpen” and “Unsharp Mask.” Give your image a final sharpening enhancement by setting the “Amount” to 50 percent, the “Radius” to 3.0 pixels, and the “Threshold” at 0 levels. Once again, make sure “Preview” is checked, and if you don’t like the results, vary the “Amount” until you achieve the desired level of sharpness.

Saving Your Image

15. Decide the proper file format for your image. If you’ll be printing it yourself or burning a CD to take to a print lab, the TIF format will retain all of your image data. However, a TIF file will likely be too big to send through email, so if you’ll be emailing your file to a print lab, the JPG format is more appropriate.

16. Click “File” and “Save As.” In the dialog box, give your file an appropriate name by typing in the “File Name” field.

17.Choose the appropriate file format from the “Format” drop-down menu.

18. Click “Save.” If you’re using the JPG file format, choose “Maximum” quality. If you’re using saving the image as a TIF, choose “None” under “Image Compression” and click “OK.”

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