The Digital Print
File Formats: RAW, Tiff, PSD, JPEG
When possible always save a raw format of your files.
Tiff is the preferred format, a PSD which is a Photoshop file is also acceptable, a JPEG can sometimes be ok if it is of high quality but this is a compressed format which effects the quality, especially in regards to color, you should note, each time you make changes to a jpeg and save it the file is compressed further and the quality suffers.
Bit Depth: 16 or 8 bit is fine, 16 bit contains a lot more data and will deliver a better fine art print.
Color Space: Adobe 1998, Pro Photo, SRGB
Adobe 1998 is an industry standard and a good overall setting, Pro Photo represents allot more color information and is probably best for a fine art print, SRGB (the S stands for sucky) this is best used for web purposes rather than print.
Resolution: A standard average for a quality print is between 240-300 dpi, it is best to maintain the original dpi of your file, you can change the size of your print without re-sampling and try to stay between 240-300.
If you need to enlarge your file you can generally get away with 200% if you have a good original file, if you need to resize use the bicubic smoother option in Photoshop. It is also valid to consider the size of your print and how far away the viewer will be from the image, the farther away you are the less resolution is of concern-to an extent.
Viewing your print at 25% will give you a good idea what your print will look like, 100% will show you the nitty-gritty. (Where the hell does that term come from?)
Profiling: (not the kind that gets you extra attention at the airport)
Profiles are an important part of being able to make a fine print that matches what you see on your screen. Profiles are made using hardware devices and software. Using a monitor that is profiled is first step to successful printing, profiles for your specific printer is equally important, as is a profile for something like a scanner. In Photoshop you can tag your image with a profile for your specific printer and paper combinations. These can be downloaded from Epson or most paper manufacturers; they can also be purchased by third parties or be made by you if you have the correct software and hardware. Check for profile updates or make new ones periodically, these computer files and subject to corruption.
Softproofing: (what the?)
Using the softproofing option in Photoshop (View-Proof Set Up_Custom) allows you to better see what your image is going to look like on your printer-paper combination, extremely useful in fine art printing. Experimenting with the perceptual or relative settings is also useful, different images will respond differently. Perceptual compresses the color data and Relative chops off a larger amount of that color data, but keep in mind one is not always better than the other.
Digital SLR Set Up
You have in your hands one of those new-fangled DSLR’s, what do you do now? Hey I got an idea, try reading the manual! (I know, thank you Captain Obvious) That actually is a good idea to find out how to set up your camera for shooting. I also like to recommend looking at (http://dpreview.com/) which is a UK site that reviews digital cameras in detail, often better than the manual, and also provide files that you can download and look at. I find it to be a very thorough site, great for getting to know a new camera, and excellent if you happen to be camera shopping, and you may find help in trouble shooting a problem in one of the forums. One of the main things you want to look for is where to locate the menu items that will help you set the proper functions so that you get the images you need. One of the first things is to set the file type that you want, this is also mentioned above so I will not go into great detail. RAW is considered the best option because it gives high quality with the most possibilities, TIFF is the next best choice for a high quality printable file, jpeg is also an option, however the usefulness of this file type is limited and you can always create a jpeg from a RAW or Tiff later on. Also, color space is mentioned above, in my opinion it is better to start with a larger color space, this can also be changed later if need be. White balance, the default setting for this is most often set to automatic, which in most cases works fine, however this can also be adjusted. White balance refers to the color balance that will be achieved in different light sources, this is measured in degrees Kelvin, daylight is generally acknowledged to be 5000K, and incandescent light such as a warm light bulb around 3000K, so the higher the number the more blue or colder the light is and the lower the number gives a warmer or yellow light. Then there are fluorescent, LED, and other sources to consider. If auto does look right, experiment. You can usually also create a custom white balance whereby you can create your own by carrying around a white or gray card and putting that in your scene and balancing on that. Now all that having been said, if you shoot RAW files the white balance can be changed later when you convert them. Another great feature of many of these cameras is that they also shoot video, and many HD video- some both. So of course it is also important to make sure you are getting the video files you want, the right format, standard or HD definition, frame rate-24p or 30p, sound. You will also want to know how to manage your media such as a CF card, how to get images off the camera, how to delete files or re-format the media. Re-formatting your media is important to do periodically in still images, and should be done every time with video. I should also note that the performance of your media-cards is important, a card that works fine for still images may not work at all when you try to record HD video, this mainly has to do with the speed of the card. There are usually many other settings available, depending on the manufacturer, and also what menu you are in. What? Yes that’s right they like to keep us on our toes, with Canon cameras you will get a different options when you press the play button and then the menu button, than you get when you just press the menu button. So spend some quality time with the manual or a website that covers your camera and play around a little, and check to see if there is a firmware upgrade for your camera, it may add allot more functionality to your camera. And always-always double-check your settings before starting a project.