Print It!

Abstract pseudo-aerial. A trick to edit and print.

Some would argue that an image is not final until it is printed. More and more I am tending to agree. Print it – you will learn a lot and be a better photographer.

What is the thing you are creating?

I am intrigued by the idea of creativity and I have studied creativity research some recently. Real, hard core theoretical psychology. It has been disappointing. One of these days I will write an article on what I have observed.

One of the things I do appreciate about the papers I have read is that they tend to tie creativity to producing something. Sort of the idea that if you just think creative thoughts, are you creative? If you can’t or won’t produce a creative work, is the creativity really there?

There is benefit in producing something and holding it up for yourself and others to see and examine. Small images on a screen do not have the impact

Why a print

A print is real – a tangible, physical product. It takes on a life of its own; it is held, examined, felt, passed around, hung on a wall. It is permanent.

Creating a print changes our thought process and our relationship to the image. We must finalize it, because the print will never change. And we have to re-think it in terms of the limitations of the print medium.

It is kind of like having a child. Initially it is my baby, very closely held and personal and protected. Then it grows up and becomes an independent person.

And by analogy, the print is made to be permanent and independent. It is a work we have produced for others to have and enjoy.

What do we learn

I am amazed by what I learn by printing an image. It was edited for hours until I am sure I am happy with it. Then when the print comes out, it’s “Really? That needs more work”.

Viewing a print is quite different than looking at an image on screen. We have a different relationship with it. Our perception is very different. Even at a simple technical level, an image on a screen is formed by light being generated, an additive process. A print is seen as light reflecting off a substrate as modified by colored pigments. A subtractive process. The perception and the psychological process is different.

But ignoring all technical considerations, there is something about a print that points out all the flaws in your image. Seeing it as a physical representation on paper changes how we look at it and what we see. If you want to find out if your image is any good, print it.

How is it that I can work with an image for hours on screen and not see that sensor dust spot in the sky? Why didn’t I see that the mid tone contrasts are inadequate? And that purple highlight just doesn’t have the punch I wanted. Where did that distracting line leading off the edge come from?

We see a print more critically. Since it is a different process on a different medium we have a fresh look. And a print is far more limited in dynamic range than our camera sensor or computer monitor, so we have to map it differently to get the result we want.

A real thing

Holding our image makes it real. It has weight and texture and it is a permanent work independent of us. To use the baby analogy again, before the child is born it is still kind of an abstract idea. After it is born it is real and living.

In the days of film, making your first print was often a seminal moment. The experience of seeing a black & white image “come to life” in the darkroom bath is often the moment people say they became hooked on photography. It can be somewhat similar with printing, if you do your own. Seeing this baby of yours coming to life on paper right there in your studio is a joy.

Have you held a print? Isn’t it magical? And if you hand a print to someone, watch their reaction. Wonder, joy, maybe fear of ruining it combined with a desire to touch it. They only see images on screens. When it leaps off the screen and becomes a real, physical object they perceive it very differently.


I am doing more printing recently. I knew it would be a change and a learning, since I had not done it for a while. But even I was not prepared for it. But I love it. A great print is a thing of beauty. The image becomes real, alive, permanent. Like our child, it grows up and has a life of its own.

Try it. It could change your viewpoint.

The Catalog

Decrepit sign along old Route 66.

The catalog is the information hub of LIghtroom. There seems to be a lot of confusing folklore about it. Let’s talk about the catalog and demystify it some.

This is specific to Lightroom Classic. Other tools exist. I do not know them and can’t discuss them. I believe Lightroom is the most widely used image management tool.

A database

When I refer to Lightroom, I mean Lightroom Classic. It is the only useful version for me. So be aware I do not discuss the cloud behavior of Lightroom at all.

Lightroom is both a file management tool and a raw file editor. I’ve discussed raw editing before, so this article will just be about file management. We tend to shoot a lot of images these days. Without a way to organize all these and search for the ones we want, they become almost useless. How do you locate the right file when you need it?

We do it with Lightroom and its catalog. The catalog is a database. I know that is a scary term to some, but it just means it is a file on the computer. The catalog in Lightgroom Classic is stored locally on your computer. It has a particular structure and capabilities that let Lightroom enter information about each image and rapidly search for it.

So the Lightroom catalog holds a lot of data about our images. Some that it reads when we import our images and some that we tell it manually, like keywords and ratings and collection groupings. What the catalog does not contain is images.

None of our images are actually stored in the catalog. They stay in our computer’s file system, wherever we decide to put them, as ordinary image files. They can be on any of our disks, internal or external. The catalog only notes their location and keeps track of it so it can call up images for us in the Lightroom screen.

Where are the images?

I mentioned some of the things the catalog contains. Let’s be more specific. I said the catalog does not contain any images. As you import images into Lightroom you choose where they will be stored. LIghtroom records the location about where each images is in the file structure of your computer. For instance, taking a random file that I happened to be looking at a few minutes ago, the path and file name is:

/Volumes/LaCie-raid/Images/Images/New Mexico/Eastern I-40/Tucumcari/20231110-259.NEF

This is the image above. This is what Lightroom has in the catalog instead of the image. Why? Because the file system of your operating system does an excellent job of managing its disks reliably and speedily. Lightroom does not try to duplicate that. Also, the file above is 52.4 MBytes. Let’s say you had 100,000 images this size stored in your catalog. Over 5TBytes of storage becomes impractical and would overflow a lot of people’s hard drive. And many people’s catalogs are much larger than that. Also, leaving the individual files visible allows us to use other tools to manipulate them.

As I browse in Lightroom, when I come to where I want to look at this image, LIghtroom goes to the noted location on my disk and reads the image file and displays it. Actually, it first looks first in a special place where LIghtroom caches previews to see if there is a faster way to view it, but that is getting too deep for now.


In addition, there is what is called metadata. This is just a computer science term meaning data about data. In our case, it is information read from the camera when the file was imported and information we have added manually.

Examples of automatically gathered data are the camera used, including it’s serial number, the lens used., how the image was metered and exposed, the ISO. Also recorded is the dimensions, the data it was captured and many other details.

Information we enter can include creator name, copyright information, keywords, rating, a title, a label, a caption, location, and other things. In addition, as we edit an image, all of the edit settings are recorded, from simple things like adjusting exposure to complex masks and adjustments. Virtual files are just copies of a files’ data in the catalog with a different set of metadata, not a duplicate of the file itself. And all Collections we create are simply sets of data in the catalog. Again, no copies of the files are made to create a Collection.

The catalog holds a lot of data. It is a very important piece of Lightroom and is key to letting the whole thing work.

How many catalogs?

One of the first decisions to make when setting up Lightroom is how many catalogs to have. We could have a separate catalog for each type of content or activity. For instance, one for family photos, one for fine art, one for weddings, one for travel, etc. This initially seems logical to keep things separate and minimize the size of each catalog.

My advice is don’t do it. Resist the temptation to have multiple catalogs. It will just make it harder to organize your work and harder to locate something. It might seem like a good idea to minimize the number of images in a catalog, but as far as I can tell, it doesn’t matter. I have over 130,000 images in my catalog. That is small compared to many other photographers. I am comfortable with throwing away images I deem worthless or exact duplicates. Other people don’t. But that is another discussion.

I put extensive metadata in, such as location information, keywords, ratings, titles, and captions. And I do most of my image editing in Lightroom. This greatly expands the amount of metadata. The point is that this number of images does not appear to cause any stress or slowdown in my Lightroom catalog. I know of photographers who have catalogs several times larger.

Don’t do this

As a “don’t do this” anecdote, I have a friend who decided he knew better than Adobe and was going to manage his data more closely. He set up a catalog for each hard drive he had. As he outgrew a disk and added another one, it was a new catalog. Consequently, he has a data nightmare. It is very difficult for him to locate something unless he can remember exactly when it was shot and consequently what disk and catalog it is on.

I strongly recommend you use 1 catalog and upgrade to larger disks as you run out of space. Yes, Lightroom can manage files across multiple disks, but you probably don’t want the bother. Disks wear out and need to be replaced anyway.

How to organize it?

How you organize your files is a personal decision. You need to figure out how you think about your data and how you “self organize”. You can see several things about my organization decisions from the example I gave of the file location data LIghtroom records. Most of my files are organized geographically. And my file naming is mostly centered on dates. It is not important to me to name images by their content. That is what Lightroom is for.

All my images are stored on 1 fairly fast RAID disk drive. My feeling is this is easy for me to know where things are and easy to organize my backup strategy. The catalog itself is on an external fast SSD. The catalog is heavily used and this made a large improvement in performance.

Be fanatical about backup! Your data is important. I use a combination of Time Machine – one of the greatest inventions in the history of computers – and a rigorous backup strategy using Carbon Copy Cloner. I do not receive any compensation from them for saying this. There are 2 external backup disks attached to my computer and another network attached RAID disk physically separate within my studio. I also backup to small hard disks that I rotate to offsite locations.

So do you have to adopt any of the organization I use? Absolutely not. Every instructor probably has their own unique recommendation that is adapted to their needs and preferences. As I said, it is a personal decision. But it is a decision you have to make. Decide on your strategy and stick with it religiously. It will pay you benefits.

Do all file operations from Lightroom

Have you ever seen a “?” in place of an image? That is because Lightroom could not find the file. This is usually because a disk drive is offline or you moved some files using your computer file manager. Lightroom can’t locate the file and the best it can do is show a preview if it has one and mark it with the “?” to indicate it needs to be located. Locating a moved image is easy, but it is easier to avoid the problem entirely.

Always do all of your file management from within Lightroom. Always! Lightroom has to know the location of each file it manages. It has very good capabilities for creating folders and moving files and folders around. It does the work of moving them on your computer file system and remembers the locations. And It is probably even faster and easier to move a large group of files from LIghtroom than it is using your computers file manager.

All the eggs in one basket?

If all your data is in the catalog, aren’t you at risk if it gets corrupted or erased? Yes. But there are many ways to mitigate this.

LIghtroom has settings to automatically backup its catalog. Use that. Second, use other backup solutions like Time Machine and Carbon Copy Cloner to do your own backups.

Third, you can optionally have most of your metadata also saved to files alongside your image files. These are known as sidecar files and have the extension “.xmp”. I turn on this capability. If the catalog is lost or corrupted it is possible to recover most of my data to a new catalog by importing the images and these sidecar files. This is a topic for another article.

And lastly, I have been using Lightroom full time starting with its original beta release. Adobe has done a marvelous job of reliably keeping my data in tact. This is not a guarantee of future behavior, but so far they have earned my trust.


The Lightroom Classic catalog is a database stored locally on your computer. It is well established, good technology. Not magic.

We do not see the catalog as a database, we do not have to know about databases, and we do not need to know much about searching databases. All that is wrapped in the Lightroom program. But knowing a little about how it works makes managing it easier.

All of the data about your files is stored in the catalog, but not the image files themselves. The organization of your file structure, the naming of files, and the metadata you add are all completely up to you.

Create an organization that works for you and stick with it. Lightroom will assist you by managing all the data the way you want.

The image with this article is the one I referenced to show the location information Lightroom records. You can infer from the file path that it was shot in Tucumcari NM on Nov 10, 2023. It has nothing specifically to do with catalogs, I just decided to show what that image was to make it real..


Lines of graves in Arlington Cemetary. A poignant moment.

Moments are frozen instants in the flow of time. Our life is about moments. Most art, but especially photography, is about capturing moments.

Flow of time

Time is like a stream flowing around us. It goes from infinity to infinity as far as we can perceive. But we can’t stop it or dam it up. We can’t even jump in the stream and flow with it forever. Instead, we must watch it flow by and hear the clock ticking.

Time itself may be virtually infinite, but our time is not. We have been alive a certain time, but we have no idea how long we have left. There may be many years left, or our time may be done tomorrow.

Many of us live our lives as if we have infinite time left. That is simpler and less troubling than acknowledging the impermanence of our existence. So we become numb to the passing of time. We bury our self in our job or other responsibilities or diversions. Days flow into weeks into months into years and we barely realize it. Someday we look back and wonder where the time went.

Art is moments

A characteristic of a lot of art, though, is that it records moments. They may be beautiful moments, or touching ones, or poignant ones, or frightening ones. But the moment itself is the art.

Art portrays these moments so we can look at them from outside the time stream. It gives us a new perspective on the moment. Whether the art captures the moment as a 2 dimensional image to hang on our wall, or a 3 dimensional form in the garden, or a poem or story we can visit whenever we want, they re-create for us a moment or a scene we want to save.

One of the powerful aspects of the art is that it is concrete. That is, it is fixed, unchanging, staying as it was created. This plucks moments out of the stream of time and preserves them for us, beautiful and unchanging.

What we remember

Our memories are really a collection of remembered moments. Do you remember what you did at your job last month? Probably not, but you remember that time last month when your boss came to you and praised you on doing a great job on something.

Do you remember college? Or is your memory based on some great times, some miserable times, a time when a professor said something that opened up a whole new world of thought for you?

In our lives and with our families we tend to remember events, certain happenings – in other words, moments. Everything else is just a blur.

Moments we miss

Astounding moments are flowing by us all the time. Mostly, we don’t notice. Those moments are lost and can never be regained.

Mindfulness is a practice of being aware and “in the moment.” It attempts to let us forget the past and not worry about the future, but instead be very aware of what is happening right now.

Being mindful is a good thing, but when you look up “mindfulness” it often gets co-opted by types of eastern mysticism. Ignore that. The concept is simple, even if the practice may be hard.

When I say we should be mindful I simply mean we should practice greater awareness of the world around us and the way we are responding to it. As artists this is especially important. There is beauty and interest almost everywhere. Fascinating moments are happening all the time wherever we are. Mindfulness is teaching our self to see them.

This usually involves unplugging from our technology and stepping away from the fast pace of our lives for a bit. A walk is a great tool for me. Being outdoors and getting exercise helps me see more of what is going on. Of course, this only works if we put the phone in our pocket and take off the headphones, freeing our self from our tether to the machine.

But being there and seeing the moments are two different things. We have to be open to the experience. Pause and marvel at small moments. At common, ordinary things around us that can become magical sometimes.

The way we live our moments is the way we live our lives.

Annie Dillard

Photography is about moments

By its nature, photography is about capturing moments. The shutter opens on a scene in the “real world” for a fixed slice of time. The sensor records what is happening during that time slice. What we get is not imagined or fake. We have captured a moment. If we are good, it is a worthwhile moment.

Of course, I can create fantasy art that is impossible or surreal. I enjoy doing that. But most photography is a straight capture of a real scene.

The photograph is a portrait of a moment. We have plucked it out of the stream of time and set it aside for contemplation, to show other people what was there that they could have seen. Since there is such a rich flow of moments passing before us, one of the challenges is to develop the experience, the “eye”, to recognize a worthwhile moment as it is happening. In a sense, what Henri Cartier-Bresson called a “decisive moment”.

Shoot it when you see it. Painters may be able to hold a moment in their memory well enough to be able to sketch and paint it back at their studio. But photographers have to react immediately. Capture it or lose it. The famous Jay Maisel so rightly said “Always shoot it now. It won’t be the same when you go back.

Prints freeze moments

Even in the realm of photography, there is the special case of the print. A print takes this fleeting moment and casts it in a more permanent form onto a substrate like paper or canvas or metal.

The moment becomes a real object. It has weight and form and texture. This is important because by being an object of substance, we have a different relationship with it. An ephemeral moment has been transported to a physical object we can see and touch and hold.

Even more, it has permanence. Memories are unreliable things. They fade and change. A print holds the moment up for us to see for many years to come. We can come back to it and relive it at will. Maybe only to remind ourselves that great moments are happening all the time and we should be more mindful of them.

A print celebrates a moment that is worth keeping among the continuous flow of time.

Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.

Susan Sontag

How Big Can I Print It?

A VERY low resolution image (3 MPix) that would print surprisingly well

One of the things we have to wrestle with when we want to make a print is how big can I print this image and get good results? And how large should I print it? There is a lot of advice out there. Some of it is good.

Film vs. Digital

Virtually all images have to be scaled up for printing. The print you want to hang on your wall is many times larger than the sensor or piece of film you start from. Hardly any of us are shooting 8×10 negatives these days. Even if we are, we still usually want to make larger prints.

The technology has changed completely from the film days. Enlargement used to be optical. By adjusting the enlarger lens and the distance from the film carrier to the print surface, the image was blown up to the desired size. If the lens is good, it faithfully magnifies everything, including grain and defects. If the lens is cheap, it enlarges and introduces distortion and blurring.

Digital enlarging is a totally different process. A digital image is an array of pixels. My little printer at my studio likes to have 300 pixels/inch for optimum quality. So if I want to make an 8×10 print and I have at least 2400×3000 pixels, it will print at its best quality without changing a thing. Digital enlarging is a matter of changing the number of pixels.

Digital enlarging

But usually I want to print a larger size than the number of pixels I have. Here the digital technology gets interesting. And wonderful. Going back to my example, if I want to make a 16×20 print and maintain best quality, I would have to double the pixels in each dimension. It would have to go to 4800×6000 pixels.

Photoshop has the ability to scale the number of pixels in your image. There are several algorithms, but the default, just called “Automatic”, usually does a great job. Here is the difference from film: software algorithms are used to intelligently “stretch” the pixels, preserving detail as much as possible and keeping smooth transitions looking good. Lightroom Classic has similar scaling for making a print, but it is automatically applied behind the scenes. Smoke and mirrors.

The result is the ability to scale the image larger with good quality.

Print technology

In a recent article I discussed a little of how an inkjet printer makes great looking prints using discrete dots of ink. There are other technologies, such as dye sublimation or laser writing on photosensitive paper, but they are far less used these days.

It should be obvious, but to make a really big print, you need a really big printer, at least in the short dimension of the print. Really big printers are really expensive and tricky to set up and use. That is why most of us send large prints out to a business that does this professionally.

Why do I say the printer has to be big in the short dimension of the print? Past a certain size, most prints are done on roll feed printers. They have a large roll of paper in them. Say you have a printer that prints 44″ wide. The roll of paper is 44 inches wide and many feet long.

We want to take our same 8×10 aspect ratio image and make a 44×55 inch print. If it was film, we would require an enlarger with at least a 44×55 inch bed and a cut sheet of paper that is 44×55 inch. But an inkjet printer prints a narrow strip at a time across the paper. The heads move across and print a narrow 44 inch long strip of the image, the printer moves the paper a little bit, and it prints another narrow strip. Continuing until it has printed the entire 55 inch length. Then the printer automatically cuts off the print.

But if we naively follow the recommendations for optimum quality, we have to scale our poor little 2400×3000 pixel image up to 13200×16500 pixels. Even the best software algorithms may introduce objectionable artifacts at that magnification.

Viewing distance

Maybe we don’t have to blindly scale everything to 300 (or 360) pixels/inch.

A key question is: at what distance will the image be viewed? Years of studies and observation led to the conclusion that people are most comfortable viewing an image at about 1.5 to 2 times the image diagonal length. This lets the natural angle of the human eye take in the whole image easily. For the example we have been using of the very large print, people would naturally choose to view it from about 105 to 140 inches.

Along with the natural viewing distance there is the acuity of the human eye. I won’t get into detail, but the eye can resolve detail at about 1 arc minute of resolution (0.000290888 radians for the nerds). Simply, the further away something is, the less detail we can see.

Going through the calculations, if our audience is viewing the large print from 1.5 times the diagonal, it only has to be printed at 33 ppi! Finer detail than that cannot be seen from that viewing distance.

I have heard photographers who have images printed for billboards or the sides of a large building talk about inches/pixel. It would look like Lego blocks up close, but it looks sharp from where the viewer is.

Nature of the image

This is true unless the audience is photographers. They are going to get right up to the print, as close as their nose will allow, to see every blemish and defect. 🙂 But normal humans will view it from a distance.

There are modifications to the pixels vs. viewing distance calculations depending on the nature of the image. If the image contains highly detailed structure it will encourage viewers to come closer to examine it. If the image is very low contrast, smooth gradations, it could be even lower resolution.

Printing at the highest possible resolution that you can for the data you have is always a good idea.

Your mileage may vary

How big of a print can you make? It depends – don’t you get tired of hearing that? It is true, though. The real world is messy and simplistic “hacks” often don’t work well. It is better to understand things and know how to make a decision.

When it comes down to it, these are great times for making prints, even large ones. My normal print service lists prints as large as 54×108 inches on their price list. I know even larger ones are possible.

How big should you print? How big can you print?

Conventional wisdom is that scaling the pixels 2x each dimension should usually be safe. My camera’s native size is 8256×5504 pixels. Scaling an image 2x would be 16512×11008 pixels. This would be a “perfect” quality print of 55×36 inches on a Canon printer. I have yet to need to print larger than that.

Given the perceptive effects of visual acuity, I am confident I could create much larger prints. Larger than is even possible by current printers. And they would look good at a reasonable distance.

A key question is who are you printing for? A photographer or engineer will be right up to the print with a magnifying glass looking at each pixel. Most reasonable people will want to stand back at a comfortable distance and appreciate the image as a whole. Who is your audience?

Learn how to scale your image without artifacts and how to use print shapening to correct for problems. Know the perceptual effects of human visual acuity. This is part of the craftsmanship we have to learn in our trade. Given those tools, the rest is artistic judgment. With today’s equipment and careful technique and craftsmanship we can create wonderful results.

Your mileage may vary.

The image with this article is very small – 3 MPix. I would not have a problem making a 13×19 print of it. I doubt you could see the pixels.

Have you tried to make large prints? How did it go? Let me know!

Out of Gamut

Abstract image with serious gamut problems.

That seems like a strange thing to say. It’s not a phrase you hear in normal conversation. What can it mean? I have written some about how sensors capture color, but I realize I have not mentioned the gnarly problem of color gamut. Unfortunately, I have been bumping into the problem lately, so I had to re-familiarize myself with it. Some of my new work is seriously out of gamut.

What does gamut mean

Most writers avoid this or give overly simplified descriptions. I’m going to treat you as adults, though. If you really are someone who is completely afraid of technology you might want to skip to the end – or ignore the whole subject.

The concept of gamut is really pretty simple, but you need some specialized knowledge and you have to learn some new things about the world.

I have mentioned the CIE-1931 Chromaticity Diagram before. That sounds scary, but you have probably seen the familiar “horseshoe” diagram of colors. I recommend you watch this video to understand how it was derived and what it means. This is the diagram:

CIE-1931 Chromaticity Diagram

After a lot of research and a lot of measurement, scientists determined that this represents all possible colors a typical human can see. Just the hue – color – not the brightness.

Very simply, a gamut is just a representation of what part of this spectrum a particular device can reproduce or capture.

Show me

The next figure shows the horseshoe with some regions overlayed on it.

Add ProPhoto colour space as a "working color space" - Which feature do you need? - DxO Forums

There are 3 triangular regions labeled: sRGB, Adobe RGB, and ProPhoto RGB. They are called color spaces. The diagram is indicating all possible colors that each color space can represent. The smallest one, sRGB, is typical of a computer monitor. It is what will be used when you share a jpg image with someone. It is small but “safe”. We lose a lot of possible colors, but everyone sees roughly the same thing on all their monitors.

Let’s jump to ProPhoto RGB. You can see that it covers the largest part of the horseshoe. In other words, ProPhoto RGB has the largest gamut. It is the best we have for representing image color and most professional photographers use this now. Unless they are doing weddings. That is a different world.

They’re not ideal?

Unfortunately, these color spaces are an ideal. The ProPhoto color space is a model for editing images. No actual devices or printers can give us the entire ProPhoto RBG gamut. Not even close. Most can barely do sRGB.

Here is a diagram of the color space a Canon pro printer can do.

The small horseshoe, labeled 4, is the printer gamut. It is larger then sRGB (3) and, overall, a lot like AdobeRGB (2). Smaller than ProPhoto RGB, which is not listed here.

It looks pretty good, and in general it is. I use one of these printers. But look at what it does not do. Most greens and extremes of cyan and blue and purple and red and orange and yellow cannot be printed. Actually, almost no extremely saturated colors can be printed.

And it is not just printers. Most monitors, even very good ones, are somewhere between sRGB and AdobeRGB spaces. This cannot really be considered a fault of the monitors or printers. The physics and engineering and cost considerations prohibit them from covering the full ideal range.

Any of these colors that I use in an image, that can’t be created by the device I am using, are referred to as “out of gamut”. Outside of the color space the device can produce. This is what I have been running in to lately.

What happens

So what happens when I try to print an image with out of gamut colors? Well, it is not like it blows up or leaves a hole in the page instead of printing anything. Printers and monitors do the best they can. They “remap” the out of gamut colors to the closest they can do. As artists, we have some control over that process, as we will see in the next section.

But the reality is that these out of gamut colors will lose detail, be washed out and without tonal contrast. When we get to looking at the print, we will say “yech, that is terrible”. Then we need to do something about it.

What can we do about it

There are things to do to mitigate the problem. Here is where we need to understand enough about the technology to know what to do.

First, we have tools to help visualize the problem. Both Lightroom Classic and Photoshop have a Soft Proof view. It will simulate the actual output for a particular printer and paper. You can also view gamut clipping for the monitor. Yes, because of gamut problems you may not be seeing the image’s real color information on your monitor.

Both Lightroom and Photoshop have versions of saturation adjustments and hue adjustment. These can help bring the out of control colors back into a printable or viewable range. With practice we can learn to tweak these settings to balance what is possible with what we want to see.

But even if we give up and decide to print images with out of gamut colors, there are options. the print settings have a great feature called “rendering intent”. They are a way to give guidance to the print engine on how we want it to handle these wild colors. Several different rendering intents are available, but the 2 that are most commonly used are Relative and Perceptual.

Rendering Intents

I use Perceptual intent most often, at least in situations where the are significant out of gamut colors. Using the Perceptual directive signifies to the print driver that I am willing to give up complete tonal accuracy for a result that “looks right”. The driver is free to “squish” the color and tone range in proportional amounts to scale the whole image into a printable range. I don’t do product photography or portraits, so I am usually not fanatical about absolute accuracy. How they work this magic is usually kept as a trade secret. But secret or not, it often does a respectable job of producing a good output.

The other common intent is Relative. This basically prints the data without modification, except that it clips out of gamut colors. That sounds severe, but the reality is that most natural scenes will not have any significant gamut problems, so no clipping will occur.

This is a great intent for most types of scenes, because no tonal compression will take place.

The answer

The answer is “your mileage may vary”. Most images of landscapes and people will not have serious out of gamut problems. When you do, this information may help you get the results you want. When you have a problem, turn on the soft proofing and try the Relative and Perceptual rendering intents. Look at the screen to see if one is acceptable. If not, go back and play with saturation and colors .

Why do I have problems? Well, I’m weird. I have been gravitating to extremely vibrant, highly saturated images. I like the look I am trying to get, but it can be hard to get it onto a print. The image at the top of this article is a slice of an image I am working with now. It is seriously out of gamut. I need to work on it a lot more to be able to print it without loss of color detail. Ah, technical limitations.