Free Photo Enhancement Service On Every Order
That’s right! We have always manually reviewed every single order that comes in and provided free photo enhancement service on image files that need it. Whether that’s denoising, resizing, sharpening or lightening, we use our decade of experience in looking at many thousands of files and testing dozens of photo enhancement tools to make sure your photos look their best.
It’s not something we’ve advertised much, but it’s a big part of why customers prefer us over the many competing options out there. We personally work with you to make sure your photo looks its best.. all at no extra charge. Several days ago we noticed another company advertising it’s photo enhancement services for up to $75 per image! It’s nice they offer that considering most companies will print exactly what was uploaded, but we strongly believe this should be included in the price.
We could not imagine reviewing a file for print, noticing that a few adjustments could yield far better results and not making those improvements simply because the customer chose not to shell out another $75. That service is always included in our pricing which reflects gallery quality print products.
So what’s our process and what are things we look at when analyizing and improving an image before printing? While we won’t discuss the tools and processes we use publicly for obvious reasons we’ll generally discuss each one and would be happy to discuss that with our paying reseller customers. For more in-depth discussions there are tons of great articles out there discussing each issue. As a Bumblejax customer purchasing a print, we do all the work for you to make sure your print looks it’s best and that’s included at no charge in our pricing.
Lightening The Image To Avoid A Dark Print
There are so many variables when it comes to producing the best print possible, but something that comes up from time to time is the comment “my print is too dark”. This happens for one simple reason.. most people are viewing their monitors at or near 100% brightness so when they receive the print that is only illuminated by the light in the room and not via backlit LED’s, it can cause some disappointment. What to do?
- Lower your expectations of a print vs a backlit monitor. Unless you’re backlighting it, it’s not going to illuminate the same way.
- Reduce your monitor brightness to about 50-60% to get a better representation of a print.
- Light it up! Since you aren’t backlighting the prints, it’s important to get good natural light during the day and good overhead or spot lighting at night. It’s amazing what good lighting will do particularly with our acrylic prints since light is absorbed by the acrylic and reflected back at you which appears to almost illuminate the print. We’ve had customers tell us that their acrylic prints almost appear backlit with good overhead lighting.
- Lighten up the image digitally. Some images are inherently dark and can’t be lightened without blowing out the details, but others can be lightened and that’s where we come in. We lighten the image based on our years of experience and what we know will work best with our prints. The process we use is beyond the scope of this article, but a quick way to improve your own images is to lower your monitor brightness to around 50-60% and if the image is too dark for you, lighten it up. Reducing monitor brightness will be much more representative of a print. There are a few ways to lighten up your image from free online tools to more advanced Photoshop techniques using layers. We provide this at no charge to all of our paying customers, but if you aren’t a Bumblejax customer and need assistance there are many great articles out there.
Example of lightening an image for an optimal print. Notice the darker, somewhat drab shot of the parrot on top. The colors are a bit dull and the print outcome will produce the same result. The 2nd image has been lightened to produce more vivid colors without blowing out the details. It will produce a much better print particularly when paird with our acrylic face mount product and metallic paper which provides additional vibrancy and color pop.
Sharpening The Image
Most photos we see can use a bit of sharpening to accentuate the contrast a bit more so it’s something we do a lot of. Digital camera sensors and lenses tend to blur an image slightly, so some sharpening is typically a good idea particularly when producing larger prints. When done correctly, sharpening can often improve apparent image quality even more so than upgrading to a high-end camera lens. Typically sharpening produces subtle improvement, but there are cases where it can significantly improve a photo. Just be aware of over-sharpening as it can ruin an image. Unfortunately, we see some of this as well and make suggestions to tone it down. In most cases sharpening an image is a subtle improvement. Do you see the difference in the two examples below? The sharpened image is on the right.
Upsizing The Image
Almost daily we get a request from a customer to print larger than the native pixels of the image will allow. Typically you need roughly 85 – 150 PPI (pixels per inch) depending the quality of the camera to produce a good print. Sometimes you can artificially add pixels to get rid of pixelation and get a larger print than you otherwise would. Just know that it’s not possible to produce miracles and expect to print an iPhone photo at a very large size (most iPhone photos will max out at around a 30-40″ print size unless you have a pano photo). The more pixels you artificially add and the larger you print, the more it’s starts to take on a cartoonish effect. Try taking a photo from Facebook or an iPhone, resize it to more than 10k pixels and then view it at a large print size of say 60″ wide. It won’t look good. It’s such a common misconception even among some photographers that we work with that you can print at any size simply by resizing it and adding pixels. That is absolutely not the case and there are limits to that.
Here is an example of an image that is very low resolution at just 800 pixels wide. The view below is a screenshot of a section of the print viewed at actual print size of 15″ wide. This would yield a PPI of around 50 which is very low and you can see the pixelation happening. In the image below, you can see what happens when it’s properly resized. The pixelation is gone and it will be an acceptable print at 15″ wide and possibly even a bit larger.
Denoising The Image
Image noise (grainy appearance) is something else we often see and is common in darker photos particularly when shot with lower quality cameras (such as iPhone cameras) but happens to some degree with all cameras. The good news is that the noise can oftentimes be greatly reduced with software. The software programs that specialize in this are typically better than the built-in functionality of Photoshop so you’ll want to explore the different options out there many of which have free trials.
In the example below, showing an underwater photograph, there isn’t a lot of natural light. There isn’t a lot of noise in the original photo at the left and quite frankly some customers prefer a bit of noise in the photo, but for the purposes of a denoising example you can see in the image at the right how we’re able to eliminate the noise completely. It’s more obvious in the background blue of the water.
We get a fair number of nighttime city skyline shots and in most cases there is too much noise in the shot. Denoising can make a dramatic difference. We’ll try to add one of those examples here as well if we come across one.
Remove Lens Flare
Something else we see quite a bit of is lens flare which is when the light source in the image (typically the sun) directly hits the front of the lens, bounces off elements within the lens and causes unwanted “ghost” flares. Certainly there are times when lens flare is warranted and intentional, but when we see lens flare that is obviously unintentional and distracting to the image we’ll remove those to clean up the image. We’ll add an example of cleaning up lens flair soon, but see the example below for an example of an image where we’d likely remove it.