Will I Ever Take a Good Picture?

My journey trying to take good photos.

Humility = Buying a wide format photo printer

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A couple of months ago I bought a Canon Pro-100 printer because  you could get the printer for less than $100 after rebate. Of course I didn’t just get the printer. I also purchased 50 sheets of 13″x19″ paper, 50 sheets of 8.5″x11″ paper, and an extra set of ink. After rebate it came to $273. I figured I would have enough 13″x19″ paper to last many years and enough 8.5″x11.5″ paper to last at least a few years.

When I bought the printer I had visions of happily spending weeks going thru my photo library, finding a good print, doing editing on the print to make it perfect, and then printing. I figured I would be covering the walls with my photos. So what actually happened? Here is the story.

I picked this picture for a test shot but when I printed it the color of the sky was off.

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I spent days trying to figure out why. I downloaded test prints, I profiled my monitor a million times, and printed what seemed like hundreds of prints. I spent time cutting my 8.5″x11″ paper to a couple of 4x7s and one 5×7 to save on ink and paper. I printed on my old HP C6280 printer to compare. I brought the print in and showed friends who were into photography to see if they thought it was off. This was an interesting exercise because depending on who I asked they thought the picture looked fine and others thought the sky had some purple in it that didn’t look right (which is what I thought). The picture on the screen look correct (I have since figure out it really didn’t – it was just a bit brighter). I finally got to the point where I was convinced the problem was the printer and called Canon. Man they must hate hobbyists who don’t know what they are doing. They had me run tests on the printer and found nothing wrong. Finally they said to send them the picture and they would print it out. The Canon guy very nicely tried to convince me the problem was in my workflow and wasn’t the printer but I had spent hours and hours proving that it was the printer. When I was getting the photo ready to send to Canon I wanted to make sure everything was in order and I could reliably print the photo where the sky looked wrong. Note we are not talking a huge color shift but the sky had more purple than it should. So I created a Virtual copy of the photo in Lightroom, did a reset and started from scratch. Then I printed it out and lo and behold it looked correct! What the heck changed??? Obviously something so I checked everything and finally found that I had applied a DNG profile to this picture. I took the photo back when I was experimenting with my Passport ColorChecker and I was applying profiles to everything without a clue to what I was doing. I have since learned that the profiles are not for landscape shots but for shots where the lighting is well controlled (or at least the same thruout the whole frame). So the Canon Guy was correct. It was my workflow. Here is the picture with the profile set to Landscape. Can you tell the difference?

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So lesson 1 in humility on my quest to print my photos. I don’t understand color management. Also I was a bit embarrassed that I called Canon and blamed the printer.

Well at least now I could go and print all my great photos! I was VERY disappointed to find exactly one print I thought was worth a shot at a 13″x19″ print.

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This print wasn’t perfect though. I really didn’t like some of the stuff in the water so I did a bit of editing in Photoshop (and I believe made the print I came up with ineligible for competition in a Nature/Landscape category). I really like it and in my mind I didn’t add anything to the picture but just took out some noise.

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This shot looks great as a print. The colors look really good printed. I have it hanging as a poster in my office. I haven’t got to the point of mounting yet.

So humility lesson #2. My pictures are not that good. Shows my blog name willievertakeagoodpicture is appropriate. My printer has actually been all closed up for the last month.

This experience brings to mind something I read by Mike Moats (a photographer who specializes in macro) where he said he had no pictures in his collection from the first three years of taking pictures. It took him that long to get the hang of things. I have been taking pictures for longer than this if you count the time I spent with my Canon AE-1 when I was a bit younger!

I now think I will have enough of the bigger paper for two lifetimes. Add in the print my daughter did and I have used a total of 2 sheets of 13″x19″ paper.

I tend to take pictures to document what I am seeing as I hike or visit various places. I have to start thinking a bit differently if I want to take photos that look well on paper. Taking pictures to post on a blog is different then taking pictures that you plan to print.

Will I ever take a good picture?

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