The best printing software for pro photographers

Leading wedding photographer Sanjay Jogia is well aware of the power of print. Here he reveals the best software for creating outstanding prints.

Every photographer needs to look good on paper. This sentiment certainly isn't lost on Canon Ambassador Sanjay Jogia, who runs Eye Jogia Photography with his wife, Roshni. To date, he's won nine awards in the WPPI's annual print competition, and was recently awarded a fellowship from the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP) – the first for a wedding photographer in six years. The fellowship was granted based on a panel of prints that Sanjay created with his Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, using a range of software to get the ultimate print quality from images captured on his Canon EOS R5 and Canon EOS-1D X series cameras.

Sanjay feels that printing is the essential final step in the photographic process, and it's vital to get it right. "Printing forces you to critique your whole approach to photography in a more technical and rounded manner," he says. "I'm a firm believer that it's best to get things right in-camera, rather than relying too heavily on editing. When you're shooting to print, you start to consider a lot more technical factors, such as highlights and shadows, colour balance, and so on. Computer screens can really flatter images but, to me, it's the print that really matters. When you print an image for a client, it has to be absolutely perfect. It's the finished article. The digital file is only the first part of a three-part process."

Here, Sanjay shares his expert knowledge on the best software for professional photo printing, with insights from Canon Europe Product Marketing Lead Suhaib Hussain and DINAX international sales manager Marvin-Lee Roy. Their advice ranges from Canon's free Digital Photo Professional (DPP) and Professional Print & Layout (PPL) software, through Adobe® Lightroom® and Adobe Photoshop®, to the specialist DINAX Mirage software.

An image of a young woman in traditional Indian wedding attire displayed in Canon Professional Print & Layout software.

With a calibrated monitor, the soft proofing tools in PPL give an accurate preview of how your image will look on any specific paper. Here, Sanjay assesses how an image will look when printed on Canson® Infinity Baryta Photographique 310.

Best free pro printing software: Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) and Professional Print & Layout (PPL)

Sanjay has found Canon's free DPP software particularly useful for getting the most out of RAW files, especially when using a camera capable of shooting Dual Pixel RAW (DPRAW).

"DPP enables DPRAW adjustments, so you can effectively fine-tune the point of focus," Canon Europe print specialist Suhaib Hussain explains. "It gives you the latitude to make micro-adjustments to the focus point so that it's specifically on the eye, rather than – say – the eyebrow. That can be really useful in itself, but when you then bring that file into PPL, it will apply sharpening based on the new focus point, rather than just sharpening the whole image with a contrast-based algorithm. We call it 'intelligent sharpening' because defocused areas are left unsharpened and the overall effect makes the image look more realistic – some might say more three-dimensional."

Sanjay believes PPL can also be massively helpful for photographers getting into printing. "A lot of photographers I speak to are scared about printing their own images. I completely understand that. When I started out, colour management and other technical aspects seemed like a different language. PPL makes printing really easy and accessible, with no prior knowledge of the technical side required. You can make printing adjustments in a really straightforward way. The program is really simple and not scary at all. It's also really useful for soft-proofing and hard-proofing, with on-screen previews and test prints respectively, so you can ensure you get exactly the results you want."

Soft-proofing in PPL gives an accurate on-screen representation of how the print will look, based on the ICC profile of your paper, as long as you're using a calibrated monitor. "The Pattern print function goes even further," explains Suhaib. "It creates a kind of contact sheet containing subtly different versions of the same image that vary in brightness, contrast and colour rendition. You can then view the Pattern print in your actual lighting conditions and choose which version you like best before making the final print. It can save a lot of time and money, especially when going on to make large-format prints. You might even like to show the Pattern print to your clients, so they can select their preference for the final print."

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An image of the upper part of a young woman's face displayed in Adobe Lightroom. Several drop-down menus are also open on the screen.

Sanjay uses Adobe Lightroom for managing his assets and for the vast majority of his RAW processing, as he finds it easy to create presets and use filters.

An image of a young woman in traditional Indian wedding attire displayed in Adobe Photoshop.

Colour decontamination is an important part of the printing process for Sanjay. He uses Adobe Photoshop to peg back some of the cyan from the reds and yellows, to make skin tones look their best.

Best all-round pro printing software: Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop

Sanjay uses Adobe Lightroom for RAW processing so he can create and use presets and manage all his assets. He then takes the image into Adobe Photoshop for retouching, sharpening and noise reduction. "I never print in Lightroom," he explains. "I don't print an image until it's fully finished, and I do all my finishing in Photoshop. Lightroom is my digital darkroom, Photoshop is my print lab.

"I find that colour decontamination can be really important," Sanjay continues. "Most people don't realise until they see a decontaminated image just how grimy some colours actually are, particularly in the reds and yellows. I'm always trying to make skin tones look a bit healthier, warmer and more appealing. I start by pulling some cyan out of the reds and yellows, and the skin starts to glow.

"Obviously, you can go too far, so I use soft-proofing with the right ICC profile for the paper that I'm going to use, to make sure everything looks right." For this, Sanjay loves the way you can use PPL as a plug-in directly from within Lightroom and Photoshop, not just as a standalone program.

Suhaib adds: "As well as the Pattern print option, the layout tools make it easy to select different borders and to create multiple sizes of print on the same sheet, whether you're using a sheet-fed printer such as the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 or PRO-1000, or a larger, roll-fed machine such as the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2100."

A photo of a woman wearing a straw hat in a garden.

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An image of a silhouetted couple at a 90° angle displayed in DINAX Mirage software, with a drop-down menu on the left featuring a range of paper types.

With a calibrated monitor and the use of ICC profiles, Sanjay is really impressed at the accuracy with which Mirage previews printed images on screen. For this photograph, he's using a profile for Canson Rag Photographique 310 paper and says, "What you see on screen really is what you get in the final print."

Best advanced pro printing software: DINAX Mirage

DINAX has been producing optimised professional-grade inkjet prints for artworks and numbered print runs since 1993. Building a software program for professional photographers was an obvious next step, explains Marvin-Lee Roy, international sales manager at DINAX, and DINAX Mirage is now in its fourth generation. Like PPL, it's available as a standalone program or as a plug-in for Adobe imaging software.

"Highlights of the program include easy display of out-of-gamut colours, an instant and highly accurate print preview for a vast range of different papers and fine art media using ICC profiles, easily repeatable settings for individual prints, and the inclusion of logos or watermarks without the need to create them in Photoshop," explains Marvin-Lee. "For large-format, roll-fed printers, it also gives options for optimising the printing of multiple images of different sizes, for easier cutting or to save paper."

Sanjay used Mirage to create the prints for his recent BIPP fellowship panel. "I love the program and found it really quick and easy to use, as well as being completely reliable and consistent in the quality of results," he says. "I wish I'd known about it sooner.

"I can test very quickly which images look best on different papers, using on-screen previews that are based on ICC profiles. Another thing that works really well is that you can create presets for various papers. That's really handy because it's so easy to miss something in the settings with variations that you may or may not need. But once you've found that sweet balance of what's required for a paper and what you like subjectively, you can just create a preset and you're good to go. It speeds up the whole process and avoids any mistakes. The software is very intuitive, and I really like the ICC-based print preview, which is incredibly accurate. What you see on screen really is what you get in the final print."

An image of a silhouetted couple at a 90° angle displayed in DINAX Mirage. The bodies of the couple are bright red, to highlight that the colours are out of gamut.

Out-of-gamut warnings are shown very clearly in DINAX Mirage. Sanjay finds that the software makes it easy to pull problematic colours back within the target colour space, which helps to avoid any banding in areas with subtle colour gradations.

Sanjay also finds that DINAX Mirage works brilliantly for avoiding out-of-gamut colours. "Colours that can't be reproduced by a specific combination of printer and paper are shown really clearly, and you can pull colours back within the printable colour space very easily, directly from within Mirage as part of the print job," he explains. "That means you don't have to go back into Photoshop to make any changes to an image you've already edited. Out-of-gamut warnings are much more aggressive in Mirage than Photoshop, and it really helps to avoid any banding in areas with subtle colour gradations. Better still, you can archive the settings for that particular print. If you want to make more copies in the future, you can simply reload the print job in Mirage, complete with all the associated settings, and everything's ready to go."

Looking to the future, Sanjay is keen to experiment with large-format, roll-fed printers such as the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2100. He feels that Mirage goes a lot further than PPL when it comes to printing multiple images in one job, on a roll of paper, minimising the cutting time or the amount of paper used. Even on the imagePROGRAF PRO-1000, the software gives scope for creating multiple smaller prints on a single A2 sheet of paper.

Matthew Richards

*Adobe, Lightroom and Photoshop are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Adobe in the United States and/or other countries.

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