Mpix Top Five Tips for Getting the Best Prints
Mpix, a sponsor of this blog, contributed this advice for us!
Cropping can be a very dangerous tool! Here are three tips to help make sure your prints look good after cropping:
- Do not crop too much. Like dots on a balloon, if you blow it up too much (which is what cropping a lot would require), the dots spread out. Your picture quality goes downhill fast. The best way is to not even crop in Photoshop. Just use the Mpix ordering site to do all of your cropping.
- If cropping in Photoshop, remember your proportions (a non-fancy word for aspect ratio). Pictures are usually in a 2×3 ratio (think 4×6, 8×12, 16×24 and so on). If you crop to a funky size, you will have a hard time getting the print to look the way you had hoped.
- Crop in-camera. Now, I do not mean use a camera’s software to crop after you have already taken the shot – that is a big no-no (and most cameras don’t have that feature anymore). What I mean is “crop with your feet.” Get CLOSE to your subject, or zoom in, if you want close photos. There is a saying that describes this: if your pictures aren’t good enough, it’s because you aren’t close enough.
Put the Light Behind You
To get great color and contrast in your photos, it is smart to put your light source (aka: the sun, or some other main source of light) behind you so that it lights up your subject. If the light is behind your subject, you’re more likely to get a pretty silhouette, but your subject will be really dark. We suggest to front light your subjects with the sun about an hour before the sun sets for the most amazing color and contrast.
Frame Your Subject
There are all sorts of objects, man-made or otherwise, that photographers can use to “frame” their subjects. This is a great composition tool that keeps the eye directed to your subject, which is probably the point of your photograph anyway. It also allows the photographer to incorporate other elements and depth into the photograph.
Image Quality in Camera
Make sure to use the finest, largest image quality in camera as you shoot. Take a peek at your camera’s settings. Without getting too technical, shooting in “L” mode is the best, as is the “quarter-circle,” as opposed to “staircase” mode. There are compression modes that a camera does, and if you use “staircase” or M or S, your file size gets much smaller very quickly, limiting your ability to make quality enlargements.
Another option is to shoot in RAW mode, though this requires a bit more know-how. The advantage of RAW is that it does not compress (shrink) your file size or delete any data, so you have full control over the image in Photoshop. Keep in mind that shooting RAW, while ideal, requires a lot more work and will need to be converted to a JPG file before ordering prints.
Don’t Over Process in Photoshop
Photoshop can be a terrific tool. Adjusting color and contrast (and a million other things) has made Photoshop the premiere image editing software among professional and amateur photographers; however, keep in mind that over processing images, while they might look good on your computer, do not print well. Extreme boosting of saturation or contrast can give your prints a heavy and over-processed look. Mpix has exceptional color prints, and sometimes letting the professionals handle the color is the best (and easiest) way to go.
Thanks, Mpix, for this fabulous advice. I bet some of it is old hat for a lot of you, but there is good info for all of us in this article. I love the analogy comparing resolution to a balloon with dots on it.