So, What Makes A Color Print A “Good” Color Print?

Have you ever heard someone look at a print and say, “Oh, that’s digital”? Usually, that is not a compliment. So, what makes a color print a “good” color print, anyway?

The process always starts with a well exposed and composed image. Remember, GIGO—garbage in, garbage out (see the last post). Learn how to properly use your camera or scanner. While Photoshop is a great tool for enhancement, it is not a “miracle program” for correcting poor photography.

So what makes a good color print and how do we use the basics of Photoshop to achieve it? In my opinion, there are 8 basic elements, listed below, followed by the tool(s) in Photoshop to control that element:

Element: Photoshop Tool(s):

1) Contrast: Levels, Curves

2) Color Balance/Hue: Levels/Curves/Hue-Saturation/Photo Filter

3) Luminance/Brightness: Levels/Curves

4) Color Saturation: Hue-Saturation

5) Sharpness: Unsharp Mask

6) Crop/Composition: Crop Tool

7) Touch Up: Cloning Tool/Healing Brush

8) Impact/Feel/Creativity/”WOW” Factor: No tools for this one – this is part of the Art!

To make good prints, you only need to use about 10 -15% of Photoshop’s functionality so don’t let it overwhelm you. K.I.S.S.- Keep it super simple. Yes, there may be other ways of achieving the desired results, but the tools listed above are the simplest and most effective ways for photofinishing, and proven in a commercial environment. As an aside, I find the generic tools such as “Brightness / Contrast” control are too global or destructive to the image to be of any major use.

Hope this helps, let me know what YOU think!!!

John Watts


Leave a Reply