Example Print
Creating & Mounting Prints
Follow these instructions to turn your image into an acceptable Print for inclusion in club and external competitions. It is assumed that you are using Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom or similar software. Other free tools are available (see the Links.) Full details for acceptable images are included in the Competition Rules.
The sheep on the right links to an example of an acceptably prepared image that could be printed though it won't score a 10.
Make sure your monitor is showing correct colours and tones, otherwise your images are unlikely to look right when viewed elsewhere or printed. Consider calibrating your monitor and using test charts to get this right.
Resizing example PDI
1. Select
It may seem obvious but you need to start with a good competition picture. Does your image show creativity? Does it show or provoke emotion? Is there good composition, lighting, tonal range and form or colours? Ignore any personal or sentimental reasons when choosing an image.
2. Size
Level the horizon and then Crop your image. If window mounting, allow sufficient room at the edge of the subject to let the mount cover the edges.
After cropping ensure that your image still has enough pixels to produce an acceptably detailed print. As a rule of thumb, if home printing on an inkjet printer use at least 240 pixels per inch (10 pixels per mm) or for commercial internet printing use exactly 300 pixels per inch.
Print sizeDimensionsInkjet (minimum)Internet (exact)
A4 297x210mm 2806x1984 3510x2475
A3 420x297mm 3970x2806 4950x3510
7"x5" 1680x1200 2100x1500
10"x8" 2400x1920 3000x2400
12"x8" 2880x1920 3600x2400
Photoshop You can either set the pixel dimensions in the toolbar for the Crop tool or use a combination of Image size and Canvas size menu options. Always use a bicubic resizing setting with Constrain Proportions and Resample image options ticked.
Lightroom You can set the proportions in the Crop tool and then crop. You can resize when Exporting.
If you do resize your image please note that the PPI resolution setting is there for convenience but the pixel dimensions are most important. Set the ppi at 240 or 300 ppi; Photoshop will then assume that this is the ppi you will want to print at and use it as a default but it actually has no influence on your print quality.
3. Strengthen
Clone, heal, dodge, burn, convert to monochrome, whatever and otherwise embellish to create your masterpiece.
Sharpening example PDI
4. Sharpening
The image on the right of the cactus has been sharpened on the lower half only to show the difference that sharpening can make. The top half has not been 'softened'.
Sharpening a print will usually need a larger radius than sharpening for screen because of the pixel density is higher for a print than on screen. Be careful not to overdo the sharpening and cause halos around the subjects.
Photoshop
After all other edits have been made, apply sharpening using 'Unsharp Mask...' or 'Smart Sharpen...' or any other technique you prefer. A starting point for settings in Photoshop is a radius of 1.5 pixels and an amount of 80%.
Lightroom
Use the Develop, Detail section and adjust to taste. Sharpening of 50% and Radius of 1.5 is a good starting point.
5. Print to your Printer
Refer to the instructions for your printer and Photoshop or Lightroom.
Recommendations for best results are:
  • Use genuine ink and paper from the manufacturer of your printer
  • If you do use other fine-art papers or inks and want optimum colours learn about colour profiling
  • Keep the paper packs sealed and handle with care to avoid damage, fingerprints and dust
  • Do small test prints before committing to huge ones
  • Standard quality may not be much different to the high quality setting, but it will be cheaper
  • Keep your printer and paper away from radiators
  • Prints can take up to 24 hours to dry fully; avoid stacking fresh prints
  • Inks change colour in the first hour or so; especially noticeable in B&W prints so wait
  • Only evaluate your prints under good daylight or a proper colour-balanced light
  • Always keep a full set of spare ink cartridges in stock
  • Don't remove an empty cartridge before you're ready with the new one
  • Put a dust cover over your printer when not in use
  • Keep the paper tray guide close to but not hard against the paper; 1-2mm is OK
  • Your printer will print long prints (panoramas) irrespective of its width
  • Use your printer regularly
6. Professional printing
Commercial printing may be used to prepare your work provided that no alterations to the image are made by the printers.
Photoshop
Change the colour space to sRGB; select from menu: Image, Convert Color Profile, Change to sRGB. (If not using a supplied custom profile.)
Set the Mode to 8-bit; in the menu: Image, Mode, 8 Bits/channel.
To save the file in JPEG format select File, Save As..., select JPEG from the File format drop-down. Give the file a different name to avoid overwriting the original. Press Save and when it asks for JPEG options Quality must be set to maximum: 12.
Lightroom
Use the Export... option. Select the Export Location where you want to save the file. In File Settings select Image Format: JPEG, Quality: 100, Colourspace: sRGB, do not limit the file size. In Image Sizing select Resize to Fit: Width & Height, W: and H: use the calculated pixel dimensions. In Output Sharpening select Sharpen For: Screen (Not Glossy Print), Amount: Standard. Do not use a watermark. Press Export.
Top tips for using on-line printing
For large prints, or sets of smaller prints, professional printing labs may offer a more cost-effective solution.
Here are some tips to get the best results.
  • Check their technical services, prices and delivery before ordering
  • Delivery costs may make this a more expensive option
  • Make sure you choose the correct print dimensions (see above)
  • Consider using their profiles, otherwise most will use sRGB with acceptable results
  • Allow for 2-4mm cropping around the edges, especially when using key lines
  • If given the option do not select any auto-correct or auto re-sizing options
  • Odd sized images (including A3) may need trimming
  • You may need to use a different browser (Firefox or Chrome) to upload successfully
  • Monochrome prints on colour laser printing may not give top results
  • Examine the prints under good daylight or a proper colour-balanced light
  • If you are not happy with the results discuss it with your supplier
7. Mounting your Print
Mount dimensions
Most competitions are now insisting on 500mm by 400mm mounts. This simplifies handing many prints together and exhibition images can be framed more easily. Smaller mount sizes are now only eligible for the Intermediate print class. Mounts exceeding 500mm or 400mm are not eligible for use in competitions (except our club's special Panorama and Innovative Photography classes.) Please note that 20"x16" mounts are also too large and must be trimmed down to be acceptable.
Mount colour
The colour of the mount shouldn't matter but it does. The mount should add to, and not detract from, the image. Competition images are most often (90%+) presented on white or off-white mounts. The second most popular are black or dark grey mounts. Complementary or contrasting colour mounts are the least favoured. Try your image before committing yourself.
Window mounts
When using either pre-cut or custom window mounts be careful not to use masking tape on the back to avoid it sticking to other prints when stacked; Framer's tape is the preferred material to use. Window mounts in A3 and A4 sizes are now available for purchase at club meetings (see David Moore).
If cutting your own window mounts ensure that your blade is always sharp.
To avoid your mounted print flexing you can add an extra thin card layer on the reverse.
One advantage of using window mounts is the possibility of re-use if the current image proves unsuccessful.
Surface mounting
This is a quick and simple way of mounting using double-sided tape or spray on glue. Care must be taken to level and centre the image before placement. This method is not suitable for images that may be exhibition mounted in frames.
Identification
Clearly identify the title of the image and your name on the rear of the mount in the top left corner (as viewed from the back).