Lightroom: Add a "Test Strip Mode" to the print module.

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I have have used lightroom for some years but I have always printed in photoshop... why? Because there's no way to configure and print test strips in lightroom. Even doing it manually in photoshop is a huge pain.

Coming from the darkroom the first thing you learn is how to make a test strip. You make a test sheet with strips of different exposures to determine the correct time to expose said paper. This saves paper and allows you instant comparison and feedback as to what to change. You can also do this to test different settings such as contrast and dodging/burning type adjustments getting true side by side physical feedback. In digital printing I still see this as a great practice to fine tune prints and save sheets upon sheets of paper rather than just loading a profile and crossing my fingers. I have been able to do this in photoshop but it's clunky. You have to set the printable area and and guesstimate it's position to avoid overlapping the previous strip. Having to jump back a forth trying to make adjustments in between each strip is also very time consuming. Honestly I just find it a laborious process that's 10x harder than in the darkroom.

It has always been one of my aspirations to have a test strip mode for lightroom. Have a print configuration setting in the print module to allow you to setup a test sheet for print. You would be able to select a portion of the image to crop to determine the strip (which would automatically tile to fill the selected page size) then select how many strips you want per page including their sizing and layout. The key feature would be able to set a range of changes between each strip and have Lightroom automatically divide the changes over each strip. Say for instance I was testing how my paper took tones and wanted to test contrast between 0 and +50 with 6 test strips, lightroom would automatically apply an adjustment to each strip so that the first strip would be +0 adjustment, then +10, +20, +30, +40, and finally +50 for all six strips. This could be performed for any adjustment available in the development module to test for print.

Lightroom and digital editing allow me to do things that are difficult or seemingly impossible in the dark room. Yet, this is one of the few things that I find is much easier to do analog! Please consider adding a feature like this as I would find it a HUGE productivity booster in fine printing.
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Michael Bakowski

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Posted 4 years ago

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fotofundi

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This may be quite an old thread but I agree entirely and could never understand why there was never a test strip facility built-into PS from the outset and assume that by the time Lightroom came along any demand had dwindled significantly.  However IMO it is one of those occasions when it is MUCH faster to select the optimum from a test strip than from soft proofing and multiple - and wasteful - test prints. Although soft proofing does a good job of getting close to the optimum, it is never the same as holding a strip of half a dozen or so subtle variations printed on the actual paper and inks that you will use for the final image.

In this day and age where waste is such an environmental issue, test strips could do much to minimise wastage, both of expensive paper and inks.

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Johan Elzenga, Champion

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You can already made a test strip in Lightroom, just not fully automatic. Make a few virtual copies with increased exposure. Then use a Package Print to print these on one sheet of paper.
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Michael Hach

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Good Idea!!
Why didn't I think of this??
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fotofundi

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Thanks for the tip, I'll give it a try
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JC

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An option like Michael Bakowski suggests would be a great addition to the print module. The Print Adjustments (brightness and contrast) is a help, but there is no indication of the potential impact on the final image. It's trial and error at it finest. I realize this is a very difficult, subjective, and often artistic adjustment for many users. The test strip approach would be a great enhancement.
(Edited)
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Johan Elzenga, Champion

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The thing to consider is always: is it worth the time and effort that Adobe would put into it (time and effort that won't be spent on another improvement)? Will it lead to yet another feature that hardly anyone uses and so will only lead to making Lightroom even bigger bloatware than it already is? I would say 'Yes' to both these questions.

Yes, the workaround is obviously a bit more time consuming than a fully automatic option would be, but you can create a template for it so it's really just a bit more time. How much time does it take to create a handful of virtual copies, set the exposure for these copies and drag and drop them into a print template? Thirty seconds?
(Edited)
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fotofundi

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This actually doesn't work in the way of a traditional test strip. Using Johan Elzenga's method I would produce - say - 5 variations in exposure or contrast or colour balance, but each one of these will be of the full image area and on a single sheet of paper each of these images will be quite small and yield little more more information than a soft proof.

As JC points out these do NOT give an indication of the potential impact of the variation on the final image unless, of course, that image is going to be quite small.

The number of 'likes' that Johan Elzenga's comments has accumulated suggests that most of these may have come from people who have no prior experience of silver based printing and perhaps do not appreciate the benefit of the traditional test strip which is printed at FINAL image size and therefore provides a far greater appreciation and accurate selection of very small differences in exposure/contrast/colour than a small full frame reproduction is capable.

In this method a critical area of the image is selected - usually (but not always) a strip encompassing the brightest highlight and deepest shadow, or critical colour area. This selected area is then printed the full width or height on a sheet of paper with the required variations - so we might have 5 such strips one above the other in a selected sequence of - say - +1/2 ~ +1/4 ~ N ~-1/4 ~ -1/2 in exposure and ditto for contrast or colour variation, and all of which may reproduce on just one sheet of paper.

Because they are reproduced at FINAL size it is much easier to appreciate what the impact will be on the full size print.

To the best of my knowledge in order to achieve anything like the same degree of selectivity currently uses multiple sheets of paper and associated ink - and this is the reason why I first made the plea for a traditional test strip printing facility - to save on paper, ink, time - and of course £$€.

As to the other comment regarding programming time etc. I can only say that unless you have prior experience of the traditional test print method, you really cannot appreciate its usefulness and that were such a facility to be introduced in Lightroom (in particular) I suspect it would become one of the most popular and useful features of the Print module. But that, of course, is simply my opinion.

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Johan Elzenga, Champion

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You can do this at final size. You just need to know how. If you uncheck 'Lock to Photo Aspect Ratio' in the package print cell, you can create a cell at full width (meaning printing the image at full size), that is very small so the sheet fits several cells. Exactly what you want.

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Johan Elzenga, Champion

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BTW, in case you didn't know that either: You can move the image inside the cell by holding the Cmd-key (Macintosh) or Ctrl-key (Windows), so you can make sure that you are printing the critical areas.
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fotofundi

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Brilliant! - thank you. I now have exactly what I was looking for and am grateful for your help and the feedback from this discussion which I hope will be of interest and use to others as well as myself.
Thank goodness for these forums.
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Robert Frost

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Can't you just make a virtual copy, crop it to the test strip you want, make multiple copies and vary your exposure on each, and then use the package stuff to print several variations as full size strips side by side?


Bob Frost

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john beardsworth

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A similar idea might be to add one (or more) graduated filters across the sensitive area. You would minimize the distance between each of the 0-100% lines to make it look more strip-like.So as shown here, the first strip on the left is being darkened by 4 grads of -1, the second by 3.....
This method obviously gives you control of lots of parameters, so you might apply it with contrast or with more than one parameter. Maybe one would save the series of grads as a preset and apply it to a VC or even to a TIF exported and imported (so the preset doesn't overwrite existing grads)?

Of course, you don't need to add such granular features, but would people be happy if the strips were limited to 1 stop intervals, or if they were limited to exposure? To provide satisfactory control in a built in tool would not be cheap in programming time! Conceivably the grad series might be added by a plugin, but as a plugin author I doubt it would be sufficiently useful or popular to merit the likely development time.

And I've plenty of experience of darkroom printing, thank you.
(Edited)
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Johan Elzenga, Champion

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Cropping the virtual copy works, but you don't have to do that (see my comment and screenshot above). John's solution is also very nice.
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fotofundi

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An elegant alternative that I shall enjoy exploring.

I do appreciate that it may be more complex to provide an automated test strip facility than it may seem from a purely user standpoint, and thus simply not worth while.

My main objective was to find a way of being able to make more accurate judgements on printing variables without using a lot of paper and ink, and that objective has been achieved, so I am very happy and appreciate the interest that you, Johan and others have shown - and for the time spent in replying and providing these solutions. I hope they will be of benefit to other Lightroom users as well as myself.

(BTW - darkroom printing - I did say 'most', not 'all')