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I have a bit of a problem. I have just been trying to work out which online photo labs to use to print my images. The problem I'm having that the same picture comes back to me completely different from each lab. - pale and washed out, super dark no details in shadows, oversaturated making my eyes bleed, too contrasty. Yet it is the same image. and from one lab my images have yellow colourcast. These differences are not slight, but really strong.
I never thought there would be such huge difference between professional labs that have their printers calibrated daily (that's what I have been told). I'm thinking having my screen calibrated, but I see other peoples images as they are in the books I have (the famous photographers). So not sure if it is a calibration problem or is it something else.
Thank you very much in advance.
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Having your monitor calibrated is the first step and then work from there.
Also when you save your images for a lab most just want srgb.
I also struggle with colour, but my old camera club used to insist competition entries sent for print were sent in the profoto colour space fro accurate reproduction.
This is an article about profoto colour space
But i'm no expert and rarly print inages.
Your camera club were no experts either. Did they stipulate that each member sent their prints to a designated print service and who was to say how accurate they were other than the person who took them in the first place.
Ask your Lab what color space they need your images in....many will say sRGB, and their printers will not be calibrated at all much less once a month.
Monitor calibration (and lack of profiling) is a potential problem, but there's always likely to be some disconnect between what you see on the screen and what you get back from a lab. Unless you say otherwise, your pictures are likely to pass through an auto-correction process, and if you don't switch to sRGB (like what Keith says) you're going to end up with dull photos almost every time. Labs that can deal with anything else are fairly rare.
If you can find a lab that provides a decent printer profile, and allows you to convert to that profile, then you theoretically have a little more control (probably more than most people want or need).
All my quality critical stuff get done by Loxley Colour using the settings they stipulate and all my prints seem to come back fairly accurate, I've certainly never had cause to send them back. However I do make use of their soft proofing printer profile that you can download from them, take a look HERE for more details, you might find it of some use? It works for me!
The real problem that no one will admit too is that there are NO STANDARDS
So what you need is a printer that will provide you with an image to put on your computer and will also send you a hard copy of that image.
Forget all this monitor calibration claptrap, use Mk1 eyeballs to adjust the monitor to get it to look right to you (not some arbitrary set of values that manufacturer says is right)
There are lots of these images available (FREE) that you can download and use the one that most suits your type of subjects and images.
Being from different sources they will vary according to their idea of "Correct Colours" (Colors if your in the US) they will be biased towards their end products, so again consider what it is that best suits you.
Have a look at these guys.
They'll send you a colour profile to apply to your images and you'll have to save them at 300ppi.
Then they'll ask you to send back to them a copy of a test card that you've checked is OK at your end.
Only once everyone's in agreement will they print your images.
They're really cheap too.
I still haven't really fathomed why these labs insist on editing files in sRGB, because any colours outside of that gamut then get clipped (and in a Fuji Frontier, the colours that occasionally exceed sRGB are interesting ones - reds, oranges, yellows). Equally, what's with the 'perceptual rendering intent' arm-twisting? I think these labs are really offering a kludged kind of workaround, and that they're not colour-managed -- otherwise their workflow doesn't seem to make sense.
Quote: I still haven't really fathomed why these labs insist on editing files in sRGB
Presumably Glenn, it's because that's what people are generally happy with.
I shouldn't think that the majority of their customers are too concerned which colour space their shots were printed in as long as they look OK to them. In fact, the majority probably don't know what a colour space is.
To some extent, I think that way myself. I calibrate my monitor using the method proposed above by Graham and I've been more than happy with the prints that I've had done by DSCL.
Quote: I've been more than happy with the prints that I've had done by DSCL.
So was I last year when I had about 15 20* x 16" printed for an exhibition.
I downloaded and used their paper ICC profiles, did you do that as well ?
Quote: I downloaded and used their paper ICC profiles, did you do that as well ?
I've never had anything printed for an exhibition but the quality of the shots that I got back, albeit just family stuff, wouldn't have looked too out of place.
Quote: To some extent, I think that way myself. I calibrate my monitor using the method proposed above by Graham and I've been more than happy with the prints that I've had done by DSCL.
I agree with most of what you say Bren - I'm perfectly aware that most things I ever say on this subject are of no interest whatsoever to the vast majority of people, but fiddling with your monitor colour to try to match a print is a ****-eyed way to go about things. In fact it's absurd - totally and utterly unnecessary, and liable to adversely affect monitor performance (another of my pointless observations).
I don't adjust the monitor to match my prints Glenn; I don't adjust it at all.
I set it up it when it was new; quite some time ago, so that images displayed upon it looked OK to me and I'm able to see all the shades in those tester things and then left it alone . . .
. . . for years.
I did use the so-called calibration tools that come with Windows 8, last Christmas, which may have altered it slightly but I never maintain it.
I save everything in sRGB and my (new) printer is also set to print at sRGB by default and like the monitor, the prints are only checked by eye.
The same was true of my old Epson, which also survived years of compatible inks and general neglect!
Everything seems to work, so . . .
Unfortunately, an amateur can not rely on any mass printing lab for quality - as their main objective is not quality but popularity and profit. Many of them do not even specify anything except JPG format. In my practice the most consistent results with this sort of labs were produced by large printers with known names ( Fuji, HP, Kodak). Monitor calibration makes not much difference in this case - simply because they will autocorrect the image by EXIF and their own set of criteria ( pretty much the same as point-and-shoot camera does). Professional labs that work for art photographers are probably different - but I never had any need to print my images in exhibition formats or quality, so no judgement on that.
Another point that often gets missed - the light in which images going to be looked at. One day I had a puzzling problem of prints coming with strange yellow tint out of my home printer. An hour long fiddling with printer, monitor, etc. traced the problem to a recently changed lightbulb Reasonably bright daylight is the best one for judging on print quality.
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