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In Pursuit of the Perfect Print

While a photographer’s skill and talent are fundamental to the artistic value of a photo, Douglas Dubler believes that printing is the final and most important part of the art of photography.

“The end result of the cycle of inspiration, execution and observation is the print. I go through all the trouble with the capture to get to the print; it’s a means to an end, and the end is the print,” he says. “When it comes to printing, the key to perfection lies in calibration and profiling.”

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Dubler is an award-winning fashion, beauty and fine art photographer. Over the last 40 years, his pictures have captured some of the most famous names in the world for countless magazine covers and cosmetic ads. His training in fine and liberal arts gave him an attuned sense of form, color, and composition. His early experience as a plastic sculptor and silk screen artist instilled the dedication to detail and craft that appears in his photography.

For years, Dubler has used X-Rite color management solutions, most recently the new i1Publish Pro 2, which includes the next generation i1Pro 2 handheld spectrophotometer and the latest release of i1Profiler software.

“Your final print is really only as good as the paper profile you use to print it,” says Dubler. One of the i1Profiler features he appreciates most is its ability to compensate for the use of optical brightening agents (OBAs), using X-Rite’s incorporated Optical Brightener Compensation (OBC) technology together with either his i1iSis or the i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer. “i1iSis has long been my instrument of choice, but with the new i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer, I’m amazed at the high-quality results from this incredibly versatile device,” he says.

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© Douglas Dubler

“OBAs are used by paper mills and premium inkjet paper manufacturers to make paper appear whiter and brighter. Unfortunately, brighteners affect everything from the color of the image itself to how the print is going to look under varying light sources. With OBC, I can achieve visual equivalence between color measurement results I get from my instruments and the visual appearance of a sample in the viewing booth.”

“I have been able to build profiles that are the most accurate that I’ve seen to date, both from a technical and real-world perspective. They have large color gamuts, better shape, enhanced neutrality and smoother tonal transitions. And most important, they help achieve the holy grail of the print matching the monitor,” says Dubler.

OBC resolves print color matching challenges caused by optical brighteners by allowing users to capture the spectral data of the charts they measure. OBC compensates for color shifts caused by brightening agents but retains the advantage of the brighter whiteness and sharper image contrast offered by substrates containing OBAs.

“In pursuit of the perfect print, I have to be able to eliminate variables such as OBAs. I also have to account for UV, color temperature and spectral output of the viewing source. When I do printing for a gallery for instance, I go to the gallery and use my i1Pro 2 device to take a spectral reading of the lighting conditions to create a profile that will generate a print perfectly suited for that space.”

“If I’m on the road, giving a lecture or working off site, I can use my portable i1Pro 2 handheld device to make a custom profile for the printer I’ll be working with. Until I had the i1Pro 2, I would have to ship my i1iSis XL, and it was a little cumbersome to carry around.”

“When I make a profile, and I look at it in the software, I can take a look at the shape of the profile and know immediately if I am off track for any reason. I made a profile yesterday and the color gamut was a little bit low. It didn’t look right, so I didn’t waste time making prints. I found that a couple of the print heads had clogged while the printer was making the targets, so I cleaned the heads and redid the profile. Using i1Profiler, making a profile and being familiar with what the profile should look like graphically saves me a lot of time and money in ink and paper.”

“When you are in the business of high-end fine art print making, you can’t afford not to use the technology that is available to you.”