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Printing astrophotos - some notes.


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Wanting to print my own photos, astro and regular, I recently bought an Epson 15000ET ink tank printer and have been getting the hang of it. It isn't a truly dedicated photo printer but it can handle A3 and costs nothing much to run. A set of 4 genuine Epson inks costs about 40 euros and I've printed nearly 100 A4 pictures and used just over half per bottle, so about 25 euros. The quality of the prints I'm able to produce strikes me as excellent. I wouldn't ask for more and am delighted.

Daytime clear blue skies need to be massively reduced in saturation and astrophotos need a global reduction in saturation. I made these notes as I went along and share them in case they might be useful, though they are specific to my own experiences.

Colour calibration from Datacolour Spider is reliable but saturation can be a little too high. Reduce for printing. Working space is Prophoto RGB.

Screen brightness is distinctly too high for print. Mouse over the image in Curves and the data point shouldn’t go over half way on extended features. Use brightness tool in Ps Brightness and Contrast. (This may be because my elderly screen cannot be turned up enough in luminosity to meet the recommendations of the Spider.)

Print needs to be processed for higher contrasts.

Background sky needs to be brought down to 15-17 (from 20-23) in Photoshop. Initially use contrast tool to do this because it darkens more than it brightens. This helps the contrasts as well.

Signal just above the background will not be distinguished from background in print. Galaxy tidal tails, galaxy outer glows, dusty background structures etc. all need to be separated using kinks in Ps Curves. This will look way too hard on screen to be adequate in print.

Background sky at colour at parity in Ps can look a little green. Black clip the green channel by 1 point, sometimes edit-faded to 0.5.

Stars tend to come out smaller and better controlled in print. (Nice.)

Print eats fine grained noise to an extent and noise reduction is less intrusive but shouldn’t be over-done.

It's been fun going through all my pictures and reworking them for the printer. I now have fifty A4 prints to put in an album, with the working title of One Thousand Hours of Starlight. Totted up, that's more or less the total exposure time. Over 41 days: it makes you think! And that's by no means all that I have on the PC, it's just what I've printed. The average of 20 hours per image includes a good number of mosaics so there are plenty of 10 hour images in the mix as well.

Seeing the pictures in print is an enjoyable way of looking and them and has refreshed them for me. I now need the right album, one without a film over the prints. Any suggestions?

Olly

Here's a picture of a picture. :D

104073067_PicofPic..thumb.jpg.4af6899f87455d13a4e3426614af5235.jpg

 

 

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Looks great! I generally get my astrophotos printed on aluminium using an online print shop, and am generally quite pleased with the results. I also get decent results with the Canon printer I have (only up to A4). I think the missus might frown upon another (bigger) printer being added to the arsenal of astro gear

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32 minutes ago, michael.h.f.wilkinson said:

Looks great! I generally get my astrophotos printed on aluminium using an online print shop, and am generally quite pleased with the results. I also get decent results with the Canon printer I have (only up to A4). I think the missus might frown upon another (bigger) printer being added to the arsenal of astro gear

The fact that my missus is an artist with a use for printers was a big help in this regard...

Olly

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1 hour ago, ollypenrice said:

Wanting to print my own photos, astro and regular, I recently bought an Epson 15000ET ink tank printer and have been getting the hang of it. It isn't a truly dedicated photo printer but it can handle A3 and costs nothing much to run. A set of 4 genuine Epson inks costs about 40 euros and I've printed nearly 100 A4 pictures and used just over half per bottle, so about 25 euros. The quality of the prints I'm able to produce strikes me as excellent. I wouldn't ask for more and am delighted.

Daytime clear blue skies need to be massively reduced in saturation and astrophotos need a global reduction in saturation. I made these notes as I went along and share them in case they might be useful, though they are specific to my own experiences.

Colour calibration from Datacolour Spider is reliable but saturation can be a little too high. Reduce for printing. Working space is Prophoto RGB.

Screen brightness is distinctly too high for print. Mouse over the image in Curves and the data point shouldn’t go over half way on extended features. Use brightness tool in Ps Brightness and Contrast. (This may be because my elderly screen cannot be turned up enough in luminosity to meet the recommendations of the Spider.)

Print needs to be processed for higher contrasts.

Background sky needs to be brought down to 15-17 (from 20-23) in Photoshop. Initially use contrast tool to do this because it darkens more than it brightens. This helps the contrasts as well.

Signal just above the background will not be distinguished from background in print. Galaxy tidal tails, galaxy outer glows, dusty background structures etc. all need to be separated using kinks in Ps Curves. This will look way too hard on screen to be adequate in print.

Background sky at colour at parity in Ps can look a little green. Black clip the green channel by 1 point, sometimes edit-faded to 0.5.

Stars tend to come out smaller and better controlled in print. (Nice.)

Print eats fine grained noise to an extent and noise reduction is less intrusive but shouldn’t be over-done.

It's been fun going through all my pictures and reworking them for the printer. I now have fifty A4 prints to put in an album, with the working title of One Thousand Hours of Starlight. Totted up, that's more or less the total exposure time. Over 41 days: it makes you think! And that's by no means all that I have on the PC, it's just what I've printed. The average of 20 hours per image includes a good number of mosaics so there are plenty of 10 hour images in the mix as well.

Seeing the pictures in print is an enjoyable way of looking and them and has refreshed them for me. I now need the right album, one without a film over the prints. Any suggestions?

Olly

Here's a picture of a picture. :D

104073067_PicofPic..thumb.jpg.4af6899f87455d13a4e3426614af5235.jpg

 

 

I have always set my black point to 30 when processing for print, interesting that you would lower it from normal. I find that setting it lower leads to loss of detail in the shadows as the print clips to black for brightness's less than 30.

But the danger here is that every printer / lab is different. Hence I don't think its possible to provide universal advice on this topic. You got a nice result though!

Adam 

Edited by Adam J
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33 minutes ago, ollypenrice said:

The fact that my missus is an artist with a use for printers was a big help in this regard...

Olly

That pretty much qualifies as cheating.....

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Hi Olly

is there a specific reason for whyy you chosed this model? I see that Epson has much cheaper A3 printers for Photos, like this one: Epson Expression Photo XP-970

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18 minutes ago, gorann said:

Hi Olly

is there a specific reason for whyy you chosed this model? I see that Epson has much cheaper A3 printers for Photos, like this one: Epson Expression Photo XP-970

Yes, I paid more to start with so as to avoid the dreaded cartridges. The printer to which you link uses cartridges, whereas the new generation of ink tank printers cost more to buy but about 10x less to run. I aim to do a lot of photo printing and the cost difference is very soon made up, not to mention the gain in convenience by not changing cartridges or running out of them. Basically, photo printing with a tank printer is so cheap as not to be worth worrying about.  I think the business model with cartridge printers is to sell the printer very cheaply but the cartridges at a huge profit.

1 hour ago, doublevodka said:

As a slight off piste option, may be worth you looking into something like these - https://www.photobox.co.uk/shop/photo-books

For example, how nice would this look on a coffee table - https://www.photobox.co.uk/shop/photo-books/silver-halide-book

They're also doing 40% photo books till the end of the day

I think these are fine for daytime photos where the lab has ironed out the calibration wrinkles so that skin tones, skies, etc come out about right.  They probably have software linked to the printer to read an image and adjust it automatixally.  Astrophotos are very different, with no obvious points of reference for an automatic calibration. There is also a lot of black in many astrophotos and a real need to get them to the right brightness and colour neutrality.  I probably spent about half an hour per image adjusting them in Photoshop in order to get a high quality result specific to this printer and paper. The other thing is paper quality: I'm using Epson Premium Glossy and this is beautiful stuff.

1 hour ago, Adam J said:

I have always set my black point to 30 when processing for print, interesting that you would lower it from normal. I find that setting it lower leads to loss of detail in the shadows as the print clips to black for brightness's less than 30.

But the danger here is that every printer / lab is different. Hence I don't think its possible to provide universal advice on this topic. You got a nice result though!

Adam 

Odd, isn't it.  Like you, I lift my black point when preparing print images for magazines, whereas this machine needs it lowering. It's just a CMYK machine and maybe doesn't generate the best of jet blacks. Fortunately I can still get a perfactly good astro background, though. I suspect a 'blacker black' would be nice for things like studio macro backgrounds.

Olly

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Just on the topic of ink tanks vs cartridges, I was recently in the market for a new photo printer, and opted for a cartridge model over ink tanks. The ink in cartridges or tanks will be at its best for approx. a year after it's opened (at least that's what the knowledgeable chap at Wex said). I estimated how much ink I'd use in a year, and it came out as about cartridge level; nowhere near ink tank level. So, if you're going to be producing loads of prints, as Olly is, then ink tanks are great. If not, then cartridges may still be a better option.

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Not up to Olly’s quality standard, but I used the MyPicture.co.uk offer of a small photo album, 26 pages, cost about £15 if I recall correctly.

Not great, but it’s nice to turn a printed page.

971B1B4F-9709-469D-92DE-D00684007995.thumb.jpeg.03e77e26669c57a4462dd92e434c7c5b.jpeg3A739211-CBC2-4DFF-A007-0C736A0050DC.thumb.jpeg.2ea55d784775d14159e68b59e7f00ee3.jpeg5BE8480D-107F-4E3C-AD9D-6D09488B4A2D.thumb.jpeg.8f29e528ed05446b9627857a7c906c20.jpeg

 

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12 minutes ago, tomato said:

Not up to Olly’s quality standard, but I used the MyPicture.co.uk offer of a small photo album, 26 pages, cost about £15 if I recall correctly.

Not great, but it’s nice to turn a printed page.

971B1B4F-9709-469D-92DE-D00684007995.thumb.jpeg.03e77e26669c57a4462dd92e434c7c5b.jpeg3A739211-CBC2-4DFF-A007-0C736A0050DC.thumb.jpeg.2ea55d784775d14159e68b59e7f00ee3.jpeg5BE8480D-107F-4E3C-AD9D-6D09488B4A2D.thumb.jpeg.8f29e528ed05446b9627857a7c906c20.jpeg

 

Lots to be said for it! The book looks great. My stepdaughter makes an annual album like this and they do come out well.

Olly

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Posted (edited)

Finding a blank album online was harder than I expected but I settled on the Hama 'Londres' large format.  At 20 euros it cames nicely bound and well thought-out, with thick pages of convincing paper plus non-stick transparent sheets between them. I used double sided photo tape to fix the prints in place. The book is just big enough for A4 prints in landscape and easily fits them in portrait. In landscape you do have a fair curvature on the left-hand page so I planned the order of the photos to put the full-width A4 pictures on the right hand one.

I was pleased enough with this product to order another for my non-astro stuff. Anyone foolhardy enough to call in next week will find themselves bored to death by fifty-odd astrophotos...

👹lly

Edited by ollypenrice
typo
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