Lightroom Classic (LR) is an excellent tool for editing photos for printing. Previously many of the tools that we needed to retouch photos for printing large were more readily found in Adobe Photoshop. But with every Lightroom Classic update, the need for Photoshop edits decreases, and many of you can prepare your files for printing large soles in Lightroom Classic. But Lightroom does not know if you intend to publish your images to digital platforms or make a permanent large print. Some of the LR settings can create problems in a printed image, and this tutorial will show what you should pay special attention to when intending to print your images. Thankfully, Lightroom settings are virtual, so you can always go back and change settings at a later time.
PROFILE and WHITE BALANCE:
The profile setting is easily missed and likely one of the most important for effect. My philosophy is to start with as accurate a rendering as possible and add effects to achieve a vision after an editing plan for the image is in place. The best profile for accuracy is “Camera Faithful” or “Camera Neutral”. The Adobe profiles don’t take into account the specific camera, but it’s easier for Adobe to present their profile as a default. You may need to go through a step of loading the camera manufacturer’s profile the first time you install LR.
The color temperature setting usually defaults to an auto balance setting from the camera. This setting can work pretty well especially in difficult lighting situations. But I prefer to set the default to a neutral daylight setting (5500˚K w/tint 6), you may need to tweak this to your camera and lens combo. My reasoning is personal on this one. I like to see what color light the camera saw, before I make a judgement on what color to present the image at. Your camera has an amazing ability to see color as it is why not take advantage of that?
The default needs to be adjusted to your image. Manually adjust this setting based on your ISO or the noise you see in the image at magnification. Noise reduction blurs color and details, so for optimal sharpness, use only as much noise reduction as you need. However, it may be useful in softening skin in portraiture. I’m not sure if this is the best tool for that.
“Remove Chromatic Aberration” is almost always valuable except for very macro photos. The “Enable Profile Corrections” loads lens data provided by the lens manufacturer. This can be useful if you want a more even light field and to correct for curvature. I suspect this setting works better with higher-end lenses than cheaper lenses with more variability between lenses. If the profile isn’t accurate, then applying it won’t help. Lastly, if you like the optical effects of edge falloff (vignetting) and curvature, then keep this one unchecked, or if the effects are just not pertinent to your image.
The rule is to do the minimal sharpening at this point if you plan to print the image large. It is better to scale the image to print size and review a test print at scale than sharpen. If you’re doing small prints or low-res web images you can crank up the sharpening here.
What about the “Enhanced” feature in LR or the AI-based enhancement tools? To date, from our testing both from high-res film scans or high-quality digital camera files, these tools create as many problems as they solve. We have found them to be pretty amazing at taking a low res image say a 1.5 MP file from an early digital camera and creating an interpretive image that has virtual, let’s just call it what it is, fake details. Our conclusion is to save AI enhancements for after you have reviewed a test at scale.
Following the suggestions above should produce a very natural/real-looking image. I recommend creating a virtual copy so you have the comparison, then use LR to get the color, contrast, mood effects, etc that you like with all the filters or effects that define your style. I’m more comfortable in PhotoShop (PS) so I use curves, hue/sat, and unsharp masking as layers often with masks to control local adjustments, but you can do all of this in LR.
For scaling, I use Gigapixel AI. But honestly, it is really hit or miss. I find it does some things nicely, but then messes something else up like clipping the shadows, or creating uneven effects! It’s safer to use scaling and unsharp masking to get to the scale you desire.