File optimizing and sweetening.
If done properly, this is an area in your work flow that can really make your image sing. Gross corrections in color and density should have been handled using Bibble as your raw converter. Fine tuning localized areas of the image such as burning and dodging can be handled in Photoshop or Gimp using curves with masks. For saturation adjustments, I prefer to use selective color over hue/sat, when I need to add more red to the reds, more blue to the blue, etc. I have found that using hue/sat is more likely to cause banding and other visible damage in the color channels. Sharpening happens in several steps for me. First pass of sharpening happens in the raw conversion stage. I sharpen there, just enough to tighten up the pixels while avoiding halos and edge artifacts. After sweetening the file in Photoshop or GIMP, I will scale a print ready file for output and sharpen according to the type of output. If I am just using unsharp mask, I prefer to sharpen using a high percentage – 400-500% with a low radius. 0.3-0.4 and a zero threshold. Else-wise, I will use a modified version of a hi-pass sharpening. I’ll cover that method in another post.
Once sharpened, I will convert to an output profile appropriate for the printer the file is to be imaged with. After this convert to profile step, I will carefully examine each of the three color channels for the presence of banding or other artifacts related to the profiling. If the artifacts are concerning to me, I will undo the convert to profile and print using the working color space. I ALWAYS test any file before printing large, and I recommend that others do the same if you are looking for the “best” print. Files submitted for printing in a large working space tend to need additional saturation – 12-18% for the first test. Then I will tweak the file a bit more based on the first test. If I had to make dramatic changes, then a second test is warranted.
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