Basic Camera to Print Workflow
Digital cameras, monitors and printers are fundamentally different devices. They are constructed differently – one to interpret the colour and intensity of light in a scene (camera); one to emit light (the monitor); and one to deposit, on to white paper, mixtures of inks that will reflect light (printer).
Modern digital cameras capture data from a scene at very high resolution and record nearly as great a range of colours as the human eye can see.
Sadly, while a large-sized print on a quality ink-jet photo printer may well have a similar resolution to that of the camera, the range of colours of such a printer is much smaller than the camera can capture.
Typical computer displays and projectors display an even smaller range of colours. Furthermore, they have very much lower resolution than ink-jet printers or digital cameras.
Because cameras, monitors and printers are all different electro-mechanical devices, a lot of clever electronics and computing software is involved in making sure that a colour seen by your camera is reproduced on your monitor (let alone someone else's monitor) and printer so that it looks the same.
Many things must go right in this system to end up with quality printed photographs whose colours match those seen on a monitor and match the colours of the real world originally seen by the digital camera.
Printed images can contain more colours (they have a different 'colour gamut’) than digital images on a screen. In addition, a high quality print is made up of very many more coloured ‘dots’ than an image on a screen — it has higher resolution.
Knowing how to capture and retain the maximum amount of image data, and how to maintain the quality of that image data throughout the process of preparing an image for print, are the keys to making high quality photo prints, particularly if you may ever want to print ‘enlargements’ — prints bigger than about 10″ x 8″.
High quality images, which:
can be very satisfactorily enlarged for exhibition sized prints.
On the other hand, images that have been compressed, or downsized, or have had colour information thrown away, often cannot be satisfactorily upsized for printing. Enlarging such images usually introduces jagged edges, ‘pixelated’ areas, and stray colour ‘artefacts’. In short, they’re no good.