New chapter in photobook workflow

Chris Jordan
Monday, November 17, 2008

Over the past three years, demand for personalised digital photobooks, calendars, postcards and yearbooks has increased significantly. As all modern digital printers and presses produce good high-quality colour output, several of the workflow and server vendors have started to address this new opportunity. The question is where in the workflow should these millions of lower-quality images be corrected and enhanced?

Obviously several specialist software products already exist, including products from M-Photo, MyPhotoFun and Transeo Media, for enhancing and correcting images prior to photobooks being composed and printed. Some products, such as M-Photo’s, have very comprehensive correction and enhancement tools while others just accept a PDF. Many digital print providers are already using these tools very successfully and printing on a wide variety of digital presses including the Xerox DC250, Canon ImagePress C7000VP, HP Indigos, Kodak Nexpresses and the Xerox iGen3.

For other service providers just starting to print photobooks or that want large numbers of image-rich digital documents automatically corrected and enhanced, a number of new capabilities are beginning to appear as integral parts or options on colour servers/RIPs. These include some basic image enhancement features on the Xerox FreeFlow Print Server, which it calls AIE, and a new capability from Kodak’s Print On-Demand Solutions Group (Creo) on its Creo Color Server. The Creo Photo Touch-up software is interesting as it is on the RIP immediately prior to the printer. This puts it in one of the two most logical places in the workflow.

The Photo Touch-up software is based on Kodak’s Perfect Touch technology but it is a proprietary development for Creo colour servers. It uses this to automatically correct common image flaws.

The high-speed algorithms that operate sequentially and together analyse film order characteristics and scene content of each image, to automatically determine the best image enhancement in terms of colour accuracy and density balance. In fact, algorithms offer control over each pixel in an image, which is typically scanned at 4.5m pixels, as well as 4,000 gradations of colour and density. Whether the photograph is over- or under-exposed, the software digitises and adjusts image content to produce colour, sharpness and detail in prints.

The Photo Touch-up Software is a fully automated tool that applies to JPEGs embedded in a PDF and closed on high-quality print settings, but the user has the freedom to apply some or all of the options.

This software will initially be available for the Creo Color Server that drives the Xerox iGen4 and the Indigo 7000. I sincerely hope it will quickly become part of Creo’s standard offering on all its RIPs. It is the light- and mid-production presses, and the service providers that use them, that probably need this as a standard capability far more than the high-end service providers that have Indigos, Nexpresses or iGens. These companies will almost certainly have specialist photobook software.

Two-minute takeaway on photobooks:

  • Although a large proportion of the photobook require-ments captured on global websites such as Apple,Tesco and SnapFish already have a print service provider, there are still thousands of local B2B opportunities with event organisers, schools, universities and marketing departments
  • The challenge is in deciding which B2B market to go after locally, researching the competition and putting together a good sales pitch
  • If you are planning for photobooks to become a major part of your revenue, you will want to evaluate specialist software from companies such as M-Photo, MyPhotoFun or Transeo Media
  • If you are still researching and want to try out the possibility of producing image-rich documents where the quality of the originals is usually poor, Creo’s Photo Touch-up software should help to increase the quality of the photographs and streamline production

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