[ From the Editor: "A lot of folks are really serious about printing, and a lot of those people use Epson printers, (myself included), which is why Epson puts on this big tour every year called the Epson Print Academy, where a group of instructors teach people how to get better prints. Andrew, Jeff, Greg, Mac and JP are together out on the road right now and we thought it might be kinda cool for each instructor to give you their take on what their job is on the tour, and what they're going to teach, so that way if it comes near you, you can check them out. So here, in their own words, is what the tour is all about. I listed their upcoming cities at the end of this, my first-ever group blog post]. -Scott

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Andrew Rodney
I do warm-up for the band, starting the morning with 30 minutes of non-lethal color management fundamentals. Its lays a foundation for much of what we’ll present the rest of the day using Photoshop, soft proofing and printing. My goal is to get people comfortable with color spaces, working spaces, the gamut possibilities of our capture and output devices. Since we cover Lightroom and Camera Raw, its important for the audience to understand the implications of what color space they select from the beginning of the capture process. I tried to keep it fun and math free; there’s a really cool optical illusion in the presentation.

I also do a session on printing using Photoshop and the Epson drivers in OS X and Windows. The various paper settings and profile names are decoded in this presentation. We dismiss the old ideas about resolution and printing. Printing should be easier, and here are a few pitfalls to look out which I discuss. Throughout the rest of the Print Academy, there’s a 7900 printer being used to output some amazing photography. The audience gets to see the processes presented from start to finish.

Our group has so many talented photographers who discuss the aesthetics and the art of photography and fine art print making. I speak from the opposite, left side of the brain hemisphere,the geek end of the imaging process. Its a great mix of talents and personalities on stage that make this such a fun, educational and well rounded event.

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Jeff Schewe
As long as I’ve been in photography (which seems like a really, really long time now) my main purpose as a photographer is to produce a final print. While I was a commercial/advertising photographer, the “print” was the final halftone reproduction, but now it’s the final inkjet print. However, the task of producing a technically excellent print really comes down to having a technically excellent capture that has been optimized for printing.

As a user of both Lightroom and Camera Raw/Photoshop/Bridge, (I’m coauthor of Real World Camera Raw these days) I’m often at a quandary about what tools to use when and for what purpose. From the standpoint of dealing with mass amounts of raw captures, I find Lightroom to be uniquely suited for that task. The power of the parametric editing in Lightroom allows me to do the vast majority of the image adjustments right in Lightroom. Lightroom also has a optimal print output capability (and even has output sharpening based on PixelGenius’ and Bruce Fraser’s output sharpening from PhotoKit Sharpener). But, for substantial image retouching, compositing or low level pixel editing, the image will still need to be round-tripped into Photoshop. Photoshop also has another function that Lightroom is currently missing and that’s Soft Proofing.

To truly optimize and image prior to printing, you really must soft proof it using the output profile of the printer paper combination you’ll be printing to. But merely soft proofing for color is not enough. You must also soft proof for the final dynamic range of the print and that means using the “make your image look like crap” button in Photoshop. This is the Display Options (On-Screen) for simulating paper color and black ink inside the Customize Proof Condition dialog in Photoshop. By using both the color profile and the Display Option, you get a really accurate prediction of the look, color and dynamic range of your final print.

I realize many people don’t like (or don’t understand) Photoshop’s soft proofing, but it’s a valuable tool when you know how to use it to save both time and money (ink and paper in particular) and to optimize your image prior to the final print. Clearly, not everything can be soft proofed to a really high degree of accuracy (things like image detail and sharpening come to mind as well as paper texture) but from the standpoint of tone and color, Photoshop is really pretty darn good.

I also take the opportunity while in Photoshop to do any and all retouching (beyond spot healing) that needs to be done at a pixel editing level. Once I get the image tweaked and ready for printing, I save the image and Lightroom will automatically add the edited image to the catalog. From there I take advantage of Lightroom’s considerable improvements in making and using print templates for error free printing. Lightroom and Photoshop should both be equal in terms of print quality, it’s in the printing workflow where Lightroom really outshines Photoshop.

That’s pretty much my role at the Epson Print Academy, teaching people how to optimize images for printing–particularly on these new UltraChrome HDR printers like he 7900 that travels with us to each city. At this stage in my career, the thought of going back down into my darkroom with stinky chemicals and long hours rocking trays just isn’t very attractive. The fine art print output I can get these days from the 7900 far exceeds the technical aspects and quality of the traditional darkroom by such a margin, I’ll never have to face tray rocking again.

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Greg Gorman
My session happens just before lunch and just before your brain feels as if it is going to explode from the generous technical information shared by my colleagues. Being a photographer first and foremost and certainly long before the age of digital, I spend half of my session exploring image making through the images taken during my 40 year tenure as a portrait photographer working in the motion picture business and my transition to digital. I discuss how I built my team, how to communicate succinctly with the talent and most importantly how to see and evaluate the proper light in different situations. I explore through my images what it takes to develop your style, vision and intuitive skills and how to pursue your own personal work through fine art photography. The second half of my session is a bit more geeky in terms of subject (but less than the others!). I share my Black and White conversion techniques, which as Mac expressed are on line in the form of notes and an action. I also cover in depth, printing in the Advanced Black and White Mode of the Epson Print Driver-printing live during the talk.

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Mac Holbert
I am first up in the afternoon fine art digital printmaking section. I cover the broad issues of fine art output and leave the specifics to John Paul later in the afternoon. I stress the importance of a structured digital workflow in the proper optimization of an image. Without one, the optimization process can quickly become a haphazard waste of time, energy and materials. I outline a logical yet extremely flexible set of steps that guide the user through the relevant considerations one needs to examine when creating a world-class print. Along the way I point out elementary, yet extremely common mistakes I’ve seen in clients files over the past 18 years of printmaking.

I try and keep my presentation simple and well-documented. (all the notes and techniques are available on PhotoshopNews.com) I remember attending my first imaging presentation and being overwhelmed with too much information. I want the EPA participants to leave with a simple yet powerful understanding of image making. Ultimately, I believe this will have a powerful impact on their ability to make a great print.

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John Paul Caponigro
In my session Fine Art Printing, I discuss the interpretive moves photographers make to enhance their images and realize their personal vision. I demonstrate techniques for making regional adjustments (such as dodging and burning) and strategies for applying them, quickly unveiling powerful techniques that help people make the most of their images. These same skills (gradient and contrast masks among others) are also extremely useful in the proofing stage of printing, the steps that go beyond color management, which I outline a recommended workflow for, that will help people perfect their print quality.

Here’s one example of what I present. Contrast masks are extremely useful for making adjustments to shadows, typically, but not limited to, lightening to reveal more detail. That same technique can be used to compensate for overinking. See shadow detail on your monitor, but not on the print? It’s classic. You can use this technique to get the detail back. What’s more, while it used to take hours, now you can do it in seconds.

In addition to in-depth craft, each of the presenters touches on other aspects of the business of imaging. There are tips on the care and handling of digital files and digital prints. I discuss issues in the fine art markets, like the current trend towards larger scales, smaller editions, and escalating prices. The core content is fabulous, but all the little tidbits cast off on the edges are equally interesting and useful.

Everyone of every presenter’s sessions is jam-packed full of information. That’s why we put extended notes online for attendees. They’re a useful review. Many times, they go into even more depth on specific subjects. The online downloads also include useful test files and actions. And we update them periodically, so past attendees continue to benefit as the content evolves. Of course, the downloads are for attendees only. This is just one more reason the Epson Print Academy is such a great value.

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The Epson Print Academy returns to address recent major advances made in the field of digital imaging and printing, with fresh new content and featuring the new Epson UltraChrome HDR ink technology.

Two tracks target different skill levels. Track 1 offers a variety of tips and techniques designed to help you improve your photography, digital imaging, and printing skills – presented by Jack Reznicki. Track 2 offers advanced level tips and techniques designed to help you get the most out of your digital files and printers – presented by Andrew Rodney, Jeff Schewe, Greg Gorman, Mac Holbert, and John Paul Caponigro.

In addition you can find out what’s new from major manufacturers and talk directly with their representatives in the intimate trade show. Finally, you can see a gallery of prints made by today’s top photographers using the latest printing technology – Epson UltraChrome HDR ink. It’s an amazing day of training at an incredibly low price. Find out when the Epson Print Academy will be in a city near you by visiting http://www.epson.com/cgi-bin/Store/PrintAcademy/pa_home.jsp

Dec 6 New York
Dec 13 Boston
Jan 31 Seattle
Feb 7 San Francisco
Feb 21 Los Angeles
Feb 28 Dallas
Mar 14 Chicago
Mar 21 Toronto
April 4 Minneapolis
April 25 Denver
May 3 New York
May 9 Los Angeles – Orange County
May 16 San Francisco