Printing with VSCO Film

Lightroom, VSCO Film presets and the Epson 3880 printer

I love to print my photos As nice as they look on screen, I like having physical prints hanging around the house or my office. I also get the opportunity to make prints of my photos for work, so I have significant experience printing with the Epson 3800 and 3880 printers.

To that end, I have invested a lot of time and some money into producing high-quality prints of my work. I have refined the process in Lightroom (I teach how to make consistently great prints from Lightroom in my workshops at Lúz Studios) and have tested various paper stocks with my Epson 3880 K3 printer to the point where I’m confident that I will get the print I am expecting most of the time. I have been very happy with the results and continue to update the living room gallery on a semi-regular basis.

Recently, I added a new component to the processing of my photos when I started to use VSCO’s Film presets for LR, which have been optimized to work with Fujifilm cameras. As many of you might have already seen, a number of photographers have been posting photos processed with VSCO Films on their blogs and websites. In general, they look great and these posts are a major reason that I opted to incorporate VSCO Film into my Lightroom development process.

Fine, now I’m producing interesting colour and black-and-white versions of my photos with that subtle VSCO look. What has been such a nice surprise is how using VSCO Film presets has affected my prints.

Fisgard Lighthouse. Fujifilm X100. VSCO Film 01.
Fisgard Lighthouse. Fujifilm X100. VSCO Film 01.

Warning, for those of you looking for a scientific and rational study supporting what I’m about to relate, stop reading now. Nothing that I will write here can be supported by anything more than my personal observations.

For those of you who are still reading, VSCO Film presets add a level of vibrancy and interest to my prints which I haven’t experienced before.

Here is my LR printing workflow. I optimize my photo using the basic exposure controls in the Develop module. When I want to make a print, I make a virtual copy using the Soft Proofing option. At this point, I make adjustments to the image to insure that colour saturation doesn’t exceed my printer/paper combination’s gamut. I also adjust contrast and overall exposure to fine tune the print version of my photo. In the Print module, I choose the appropriate paper type and size and set the Print Adjustment to the values I have determine work for the paper I am using. Hit Print One and I have a lovely print.

Tulip. Fuji X-Pro1. VSCO Film 01.
Tulip. Fuji X-Pro1. VSCO Film 01.

So what has changed with the introduction of VSCO Film presets? I believe that my prints now have a greater dynamic range than I was previously seeing. I can’t explain it, but I do believe it is true.

I first notice this when printing some photos at work with our older Epson 3800 on Moab Entrada Bright White uncoated stock. In general, this very nice paper does not reproduce highly saturated colour well. I have always been happy with the results on the paper, but never got vibrant output on it. After processing my photos with VSCO Film presets, I did! When I switched to soft proofing, after having developed my image using the Film preset, I noticed that areas of the image that I would expect to be out of gamut didn’t have any warning signs flashing. Curious, but not really thinking about this too much, I then proceeded to produce a print from the file. The resulting prints confirmed my observation; those incredibly saturated reds actually printed, in detail, when I’m certain they would not have before the use of the VSCO Film presets.

Smoke stack. Fujifilm X-Pro1. VSCO Film 01.
Smoke stack. Fujifilm X-Pro1. VSCO Film 01.

Last night, I reproduced the same type of results when making three new prints (the prints can be seen hanging in the top photo) for the living room gallery. I processed the three images using VSCO Film 01, which has recently been upgraded to support Fujifilm X cameras. Soft proofing did not produce any out of gamut colour warnings and the resulting prints were, in a word, vibrant. A more difficult to describe result was the overall quality of each print. Each of the images had more of whatever that preset delivered, softness, crispness, I don’t know what. They just looked great.

Wow, what a nice surprise to see that the use of these preset not only produces interesting on-screen results, but, more importantly for me, has also given me better printing results. Thanks VSCO for supporting Fujifilm X cameras and improving Lightroom in such a significant way.

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