Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

May 29, 2008

Sharpening Photographs for Blurb Printing

Filed under: Books, Photography, SoFoBoMo — Doug Stockdale @ 10:07 pm

Front Patio I” from the series “Places Amongst Us”, copyright of Douglas Stockdale

Well this is a strange series of events. It now appears that my first published book (Blurb) is going to be technical How-To. I just uploaded and made available my book “Sharpening Photographs for Blurb Printing.

For those who have been following my disjointed and lately infrequent posts, know that when I received my first Blurb production proof of my softcover book “In Passing“, everything was hunkie-dory until I compared it to my LensWork publication. Then the big disappointment with the comparable lack of image sharpeness in my Blurb book. I mean BIG dissappointment. I essentially stopped working on my SoFoBoMo project “Places Amongst Us“. A DEAD stop. Yep, right in my tracks, dead stop. If all I was going to get was a soft mess, why bother, eh?

Well, that mopping around lasted about one day. So I needed to fix the sharpening for Blurb printing, that was all there was to it. Then the sound of grinding of shifting gears.

So I figured that I needed to first find out what was written about image sharpening for Blurb. Not much other than the sage Blurboriam advice, the books are cheap, keep making sharpening changes until you get it right. Huh?

Okay, I was going to do this the old fashion way. Make a bunch of sharpened examples, load it into the Blurb SmartBook template, upload it and see what looks good. It was going to cost me ONE book, but I was not going to buy a library of books to figure out what I needed for the neccessary sharpening.

So then my wheels started spining. And to make sure that I maximized my investment, I did the whole thing twice, once with a digital image and once with a scanned color negative film image. I was getting traction. Then the idea hit me. If this is what I needed, a bunch of other SoFoBoMo’ers were thinking of using Blurb (the Epson of the POD crowd), why not let others in on my research. Thus a book idea was formed.

Forget SoFoBoMo, this was SoFoBoWkend. Yep, I created a technical how-to book over a long holiday weekend. Okay, the final edit has taken me to today, but I like to let things set a day or two. I like to review my writing after sleeping on it a night or two and look at it fresh. Makes a difference sometimes.

So quickly, what I published (I am still under the deadline for my real SoFoBoMo project!). Its a 70 page book with about 104 images in a horizontal format. I choose two images, one was “Double Cross” from my series “In Passing” that was published in LensWork. It is from a digital camera and since it was in LensWork, a good basis of softcover publishing comparisions. So this covered my full digital workflow.

Then I used “Front Patio I” (above) from my current SoFoBoMo project “Places Amongst Us“. This kinda kept this how-to book in the SoFoBoMo game, as the photograph was created this month. This photograph covered my other work flow; medium format color negative film that was scanned on my Nikon 8000L dedicated film scanner.

So I discussed very briefly the late Bruce Fraser two step sharpening work flow, then created samples to illustrate. Chapter One is the image capture sharpening action, and Chapter Two is the output sharpening action. Both use the CS3 UnSharp Mask and then the samples made varying the Amount, Radius and Threshold.

What I found is that if the image has an initial sharpening action, the output sharpening action does not have to be too intense. So I use a 150/0.3/3 for a digital input sharpening and a 100/1/3 for output sharpening. I also found that there are a number of similar combinations that work probably equally well. And the output sharpening is neccessary and needed. It makes a difference.

So there you have it. A technical how-to book in a week. And I still might make the SoFoBoMo deadline for my project. We’ll soon see, eh?

So with that, back to Photoshop!

Best regards, Doug


  1. Doug, are you all right with the paper Blurb uses? I was very disappointed. I haven’t noticed that anyone else has commented on that issue, so maybe I am alone. Don’t know, but I’m curious.

    Comment by Anita Jesse — May 30, 2008 @ 2:42 am

  2. The paper that Blurb uses is very much like a high grade magazine media and comparable to the paper used by LensWork. It appears that LensWork uses a spot varnish to increase the gloss and relative contrast.

    I would love to see more paper options with Blurb and the option for a spot gloss varnish. But unlikely in the very near future as Blurb’s market sweet spot is speed and trying to keep costs down.

    The recent B3 program might be an indication that this might be changing. I think that Blurb understands that some authors are willing to pay a premimum for a more options.

    Comment by Doug Stockdale — May 30, 2008 @ 3:15 am

  3. Hi Doug,

    very interesting post since I would like to use Blurb as well. I already use the Pixelgenius “output” sharpner. I’m wondering if what you get out from your sharpening, done with Unshap mask, is similar to the Pixelgenius “output” contone sharpening. If you send me a crop of the original image I can do output sharpening for you so we can assess if the original pixelgenius sharpener tools fullfill the Blurb requirements.


    Comment by mcristaldi — May 30, 2008 @ 3:22 pm

  4. Thank you, that is a wonderful offer and we can discuss the details off line. In the prior post, Kjell discussed using PKS by Pixelgenius with LuLu to good effect. So I suspect that PKS would get you in the same ballpark using their workflow knowing that Blurb uses a halftone printer, HP Indigo 5000, at 175 lpi with coated paper.

    Comment by Doug Stockdale — May 30, 2008 @ 4:28 pm

  5. I appreciate the effort, but about making the images available with the book – it does me little good to look at the images on paper after they have been through the printing process – I need to see the JPGs as they look on my screen at 100% to get a sense of the sharping I need to do on my images.

    Comment by Ed Richards — May 31, 2008 @ 10:27 pm

  6. Ed, which is a very good point and one that I was trying to resolve. Thus walking the details of the two step sharpening process and showing the relative changes. If you see the same relative change with the first sharpening, then you should be able to get in the ball park with the final output sharpening.

    Comment by Doug Stockdale — June 1, 2008 @ 3:05 am

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