Printers, papers and profiles

Continuing the saga of my attempts to fully understand how best to use my Epson ET8550, I’ve been experimenting with different papers and applying the correct ICC profiles to the paper for the printer, using both Epson Print Layout and Adobe Lightroom Classic software. [At least there’s one constant in this experiment.]

I don’t expect anyone to be able to detect too many differences in the above image, but for the record, the lower set of images were printed using the Epson Print Layout software – which it has to be said is extremely easy to use and which I wanted to check against printing from Lightroom Classic direct.

In the row above the prints are done from Lightroom Classic with (in the main, one or two minor slip-ups) the correct profiles for the papers.

From left to right the papers are (1) Fotospeed Gloss (270gsm), (2) Fotospeed Photo Smooth Pearl (290gsm), (3) Epson Premium Semigloss (252gsm) and (4) Epson Heavy Matte (167gsm) [bottom two] and Fotospeed Matt Proofing (170gsm) above. On the extreme right is a print done on old-stock (5) HP Premium Plus Photo Satin-matt paper, without a profile, which I just thought I’d print to see how it looked without a profile for the printer – it printed quite blue!

It has to be said that at the end of the day the differences are so subtle that it just comes down to an individual preference. Both Gloss prints are extremely sharp and punchy. The two lustre papers bring out the colours well, and are warmer, but I have perhaps a slight personal preference for the Epson paper. The matte prints are much darker, actually more striking, but would have to be lightened/brightened if they were to be used.

The main object of the exercise was to see whether I should continue to use Lightroom Classic to print from, or switch to using Epson Print Layout from prints exported as PSD files from Lightroom (I could also use TIFF, but didn’t). I was satisfied that even though there was far more scope for making a mistake when printing from Lightroom, with all the variables to be checked, that the Lightroom route seemed to be much more precise and detailed when the 360ppi (the default for Epson printers) was chosen.

So, I will continue to use Lightroom to print from. I will tend to use either Fotospeed Photo Smooth Pearl, or Epson Premium Semigloss as my “goto” papers, and remember to lighten (in Lightroom) when using the matte papers.

I also have a test pack from Marrutt which I hopefully will get custom ICC profiles prepared and then come to a firm decision on the route to go for papers.

[UPDATE: It appears that there could be a serious problem with MacOS Ventura not saving Print Settings, so for this reason the validity of my testing may need to be brought into question. For that reason I’m going to use Epson Print Layout which communicates directly with the ET8550 and by-passes MacOS Print Settings.]

Lightroom Classic – Cameras, Profiles and White Balance

This article is not meant to be a “do it this way” style post, more an “Oh! I didn’t fully understand that” … and probably still don’t!! Don’t stop reading though, as there might just be something (like me) you hadn’t grasped, or hadn’t stopped to think too much about it before.

The starting point is that you’re shooting in RAW, if you’re not then a lot of what follows will be academic because you will just have to accept and set in camera the colour profile one of the ones your camera manufacturer provides. [Ref. How to Use Your Camera’s Color Profiles in Lightroom]

... manufacturers started adding color profiles to their cameras. I’m using the term color profile deliberately because every manufacturer has a different name for it. They are listed below:

Canon: Picture Style
Nikon: Picture Control
Fujifilm: Film Simulation Mode
Sony: Creative Style
Pentax: Custom Image
Olympus: Picture Mode

Fujifilm’s approach is interesting because they have named their profiles after genuine film types. As a result, Fuji color profiles are more nuanced and subtle than those made by the other manufacturers. This new approach to color profiles is one of the features that sets Fujifilm cameras apart from the competition.
I will be using the Sony A7rIII as the camera that I refer to when discussing colour profile, but it shouldn’t be too difficult to see how this applies to other cameras, so I will be using the term Creative Style to refer to the in-camera profile you can set.
So you have the option of choosing a Creative Style, but perhaps you should pause and consider whether that’s the best approach. You’re almost certainly going to be post-processing in Lightroom, so perhaps it might be a good idea to start from a base that never changes. So from the choices in the Sony camera – Standard (default), Vivid, Neutral, Portrait, Landscape, Black & White. The default is Standard, but I’ve chosen to use Neutral as I don’t want any in-camera adjustment.

The same logic applies to White Balance. In the Sony you have the choice of Auto WB (default), Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Incandescent, Flourescent, Flash, and a few more specialist ones. It would seem “obvious” to leave the camera on the default setting as you could be assured that the “best guess algorithm” it adopts would be the best base to start from. But better perhaps to choose a “known” setting such as Daylight (5050K) and to change that in post-processing. [NB not all Daylight White Balances are the same. In Lightroom, Daylight is 5500K – just to confuse everyone.]

Then we turn to Lightroom. At Import you are able to apply Develop presets, and this is your opportunity to change both of the above in-camera settings, or to adopt the camera settings to work from, as the base of your post-processing. This is what I do and I have set the Develop settings on Import to be the Camera settings, ie Neutral and Daylight.

By now you’ve probably begun to think, “does this really matter?”, so we better get down to some specifics. I’m going to use some images taken in Llandaff Cathedral to demonstrate the variety of results you can get. Just to re-iterate, if you’re shooting in RAW you can change these; if JPEG you can’t – they’re baked into the image.

First of all, shots taken with the White Balance set to Daylight (5050K) – my preferred setting as an everyday base.

The differences are subtle, I grant you, but there are differences in the colour casts and if you’re taking shots in different locations, and in different styles, it might be best to have one that you know, you really really know, to have as your base. As I’ve written above I’ve chosen to use Camera Neutral, but I could quite easily have also chosen Adobe Neutral as I’m using the Adobe RGB colour space in my camera, rather than sRGB – the other alternative.

Now let’s look at the same shots when a Lightroom Tungsten White Balance setting of 2850K is applied after Import.

Again the differences within the Tungsten White Balance with the chosen Colour Profile are subtle. What these shots show is how much White Balance (not unexpectedly) will change the image, but I’m satisfied that either of the two Neutral Colour Profiles provide me with a suitable base image to work from, and I can then successfully chose the most appropriate White Balance using the eye dropper in Lightroom to the image to get the best result to then start post-processing work on.

The featured image at the head of this post was created using a Sony Camera Neutral Creative Style, and using Daylight White Balance on capture, subsequently changed to Custom 3950K, and then Auto Basic Settings applied in the Develop module.