Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lightroom Identity Plates–The Curse of Scaling

It’s no secret I’m a Lightroom believer.  Up until recently it’s never let me down, but I think I’ve finally found an scenario where it simply falls short – the scaling of a graphical identity plate on prints.

About a year ago I blogged about creating a 2 line identity plate in Lightroom.  For one reason or another, Adobe hasn’t accommodated those of us on the Windows platform to be able to create a multiple line textual identity plate within Lightroom.  Instead, we must resort to creating the plate as a graphical file.  It sounds simple enough and it actually is pretty easy, but here’s the problem.  Scaling.  When you add the graphical identity plate in the Print Module, it automatically scales to 100% of the page size and not the size of the graphic.  Odds are pretty good that you didn’t create the graphic to be the width of the entire page so you’ll immediately notice that the text in the graphic is somewhat distorted.  Even when you scale the plate down to the size you intended, odds are pretty good it will STILL be somewhat distorted.

This hasn’t been a problem for me in the past as I’ve been confined to printing simple posters, etc. for my own use.  Now, however, I’m working on a limited edition print to benefit one of my favorite charities and “good enough” or “okay” are not acceptable outcomes.  It needs to be perfect.  No matter how hard I tried (and how much money I spent on what ended up to be “sample prints”), the text still appears “soft”.  In my example, the page size is 30” wide so I made the identity plate exactly 3” wide and then scaled it to exactly 10%.  Nope. Still “fuzzy”.  So what to do?

Post your question to the nice community of folks on the Adobe forums.  At least that’s what I did.  You can view the entire thread here, but the short answer is to prepare the print as you normally would to provide to a commercial printer, but WITHOUT the identity plate.  Then open the jpeg file produced by Lightroom into Photoshop and recreate the identity plate on a new layer and save it back to the jpeg file using the maximum quality settings. 

This may sound like common sense, but I was worried that “re-saving” back to the jpeg file was going to result in loss of image quality because it was being further compressed.  It took someone with experience with the process to convince me it wasn’t worth worrying about before I actually tried it.  While I don’t have the actual print in hand yet, I did do a compare of the jpeg images within Lightroom; the one where the jpeg with identity plate was produced from Lightroom and the one where the identity plate was saved from Photoshop.  It appears to be true.  I can see no discernable difference in the quality of the actual photo even zoomed in to high magnification.  Well, almost no difference…

The top line is the text captured from the file with the identity plate scaled to 10% in Lightroom.  The bottom is the exact same text produced directly in Photoshop.

Hopefully this is something that is addressed in future releases of Lightroom because so far it’s the only scenario I’ve encountered in my workflow where there isn’t an acceptable solution.


Post a Comment