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Getting Good Prints From Dig Files

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  • Getting Good Prints From Dig Files

    I've noticed a lot (or it seems like a lot) of threads lately about not getting good colors in print.

    I thought I'd start this thread to kind of try and round up a few things into one place.

    I'll start...

    First, I know virtually nothing about getting good prints from computer printers since I don't use them. Some of you more enlightened computer printer users will have to contribute any jewels of knowledge you have in that specific area.

    What I know a little about is getting good prints if you take your dig files to the local photo lab.

    The first "jewel" I'll contribute is to make sure your image isn't over-saturated or too contrasty. It looks great on your monitor, but doesn't usually work out well on photographic paper. Photo paper doesn't "see" vivid colors/bright primary colors well. It doesn't distinguish well between black and almost black or white and almost white either. I can't spout out all of the technical reasons, but it hates really bright primary colors, especially red. Remember the good ol' days of school photographs when they sent home a sheet telling parents what colors NOT to dress their children in for school photo day? There was a reason for that. Photo paper these days handles things way better than it did then, but can still be a problem if the thing is too saturated. Optical prints from film have less problem with it since the colors haven't been artificially enhanced (except for what's built into the film emulsion) and photo paper is (more or less) related to film in the way it "sees" color, so they sort of "understand" one another.

    Digital is different. We can put things there that, to the photo paper, must seem like it's from some other planet...

    When you scan a print (at least this is the way it is here in my world) it looks flat when you display it on your monitor. The tendancy for most people (I think) is to want to "punch it up" a lot. Add a bunch of contrast and brighten up the colors.

    No matter how good that looks on your monitor (transmitted light), it's probably not gonna look real good on photo paper (reflected light).

    For actual chemically processed photos, more subtle is usually better...

  • #2
    Thanks Jak. My limited experience with print shops has not been very good. I can see why.

    Here is how I set up the color profile for my Epson 1270 printer.

    My Princeton Graphics monitor came software that included some color profiles. I used one of the profiles in conjuction with Adobe Gamma and a new modified profile was generated. Right click the new profile and look at properties. On my computer there is an "associate device" tab. I entered both my Epson printer and scanner in this box. (All of the profiles are in the Windows-System-Color folder.)

    As long as I save my Photoshop files with this color profile the color match is almost perfect.


    • #3
      Thanks gland - I knew there'd be some computer printer wizards out there who'd chime in to help with that area...

      The next thing I'll mention on my end is monitor calibration.

      It's crucial.

      I've gotten numerous messages from RP members who just can't seem to get a good print from the lab. I've had a few send me files, and most of the time I can play mindreader and tell them exactly what the printing problem was at their lab.

      It's because I get files that, when I open them here, look sickly green, bright red, and every other color in between.

      I'll open up a green image and say, "the lab print was way too green, right?"


      "I thought so. The file you sent looks very green here on my monitor..."

      Monitor calibration is a biggie...


      • #4
        I'm starting to round up thread links that might be helpful for this topic. Here's the first batch - I'll add to them as I find more. Please feel free to add any of your own!


        Getting good B&W prints on an inkjet

        Prints Skin Tones Too Red

        ICC Color Profile for Fuji Frontier MiniLab

        Black & White (off color prints)

        psychology of color (Excellent info here!)

        Color Calibration

        Additive/Subtractive (Read this one mainly because it is hysterically funny as well as being very informative about how color works. It happened before I joined RP, and shows that some of our members [and fearless leader] are truly silly...)

        color output

        Color Matching - Prints and Monitor


        • #5
          Even before monitor calibration, a good monitor is the place to start. The sony Trinitron line is fantastic. I have had 2 of them - the first one for 4 years of constant use, then it started to get a bit blurry. Got the new 21 inch in January, and the colors are oh so accurate and crisp.


          • #6
            Here's another piece of advice copied from THIS THREAD on Matte vs. Glossy:

            Getting good prints means building a working relationship with a lab. Relationships take work, even that kind. What customers are looking for is so widely varied and subjective that you have to have quite a few "dates" before you even get to know one another well. And as you get to know one another, you get to know each other's limitations and strong points, likes and dislikes. But giving up on a lab before that relationship can form just builds frustrations on both sides - you don't stay long enough to get a good print, and the lab loses you as a customer before they have a chance to get a "feel" for what your particular likes and dislikes are.

            Give the lab manager the address for RP and ask them to check it out. This would be a good place for lab employees to visit, even if they don't do retouching or restoration themselves. It would put them in touch with a slice of their potential client base and allow them to learn some things that may make them better able to give you the kind of service you want.


            • #7
              Jak: Thanks again for all the information.

              Chiquitita, although I'm happy with my Princeton Graphics monitor, I think my next one will be a Sony. I've heard a lot of good things about them.


              • #8
                I have seen several topics related to image correction related to color and contrast and other variables. Let me recommend a book that has been invaluable to me. Professional Photoshop, The Classic Guide to Color Correction, by Dan Margulis. It is a college degree in itself. It is written for the advanced user. It spends no time explaining Photoshop. It assumes you know. It tells you how to get near perfect corrections using a scientific method of measurements and curve and level corrections. It goes into great detail about teaching you the methods and how to apply them. A great and indispensible reference. So far there has been no question asked in this forum about color corrections that I have read that have not been dealt with in this book.

                A must for our business.

                Attached Files


                • #9
                  Here is a good resource page:

                  Making fine prints in your digital darkroom

                  by Norman Koren


                  • #10
                    I'll comment from the perspective of a newcomer to digital photography - my last serious involvement was b&w darkroom 20 yrs ago.

                    I use a Fuji S602Z, Photoshop, QImage, ProfilePrism and a Canon S9000 (Win2000)

                    I've used ProfilePrism to profile my 602Z(for the various white balances I use).

                    I've adjusted my Trinitron monitor using several of the 'gamma' websites (I don't have access to a 'Spyder').

                    I 'assign/convert to' the 602 profiles in Photoshop.

                    I've used ProfilePrism to profile my S9000 (for each of the 7 papers I regularly use).

                    I View-Proof in Photoshop using my printer profiles.

                    I use QImage to resample my images to the native size for the selected printer using Lancoz and apply my printer profiles and print.

                    And I get excellent color match - all the way thru the process, including carrying the prints back to the flower gardens and comparing to the original subjects.

                    I'm currently profiling my local photofinisher's Noritsu / Fuji Crystal so I can get truly archival prints.


           has a database of profiles for Fuji and Noritsu printers that are popping up in Walmarts, Sams, etc across the land. These profiles are more accurate than using a generic.


                    And I'd be happy to expand on the above if any one has a question.


                    • #11
                      Question for Jakaleena

                      I was at the Beach several days ago and was able to get a really good shot of a seagull. I usually do my own printing but I like the photo lab’s paper better then inkjet. Their paper is shiner.

                      I tried one online photo service. The colors were good, but they zoom and crop. So important detail was lost at the right and left side of the photo. I could have them redo it and not crop and zoom, but then the actual photo wouldn’t be an 8x10. Apparently they use 8x10 paper.

                      Does Wal-Mart use larger paper so the finished product will be an actual by 8x10? I have a 5MP digital camera. Do you have any suggestions on how I should size the photo before I take it in. Also, does Wal-Mart accept a CD or do I have to leave my compact flash card? I'll be using the Lynnwood, WA Wal-Mart.

                      I’ve attached a copy of the photo I am so proud of.

                      Thanks so much for any help you can give me.

                      Attached Files


                      • #12
                        I downloaded your image. The problem isn't with the printing, it's with the aspect ratio. Your image is not proportional to an 8x10 print.

                        I resized the image without resampling, and what you have is a 6.656x10 image which can't be printed to an 8x10 size without cutting off the ends. When I reset the height to 8 inches, the width went to 12.02 inches (equivalent to a 35mm full frame negative).

                        In order to get an 8x10 print from it without cutting off any of the seagull, you'd have to add to the 6.656 height until it was 8 inches so that your image size aspect ratio was equal to 8x10. Or, you can ask for an 8x12 print and you should get the whole seagull.

                        If they can print from a CF card, they should be able to print from a CD. Wal-Marts that can handle one type of digital media should be able to print from any other type of digital media.
                        Last edited by Jakaleena; 11-15-2002, 05:38 PM.


                        • #13
                          Oh, I almost forgot. I print a lot of images that don't have the correct aspect ratio for the print I want to make from them. What I usually do is change the canvas size so that it's proportional to the print I want.

                          For yours (attached) I just changed the image size so that the width was 10 inches (without resampling). Then, I changed the canvas height to 8 inches. If you do that though, don't make your canvas white since the printer can't "see" white and will ignore it, making the same problem you had before where the seagull was cut off on the ends. I usually use black. Then what I do is trim the black edges off of the print after it's made. This will all cause it not to fit into a standard size frame, so you'll probably have to have a matt cut for it with the correct size opening.

                          Let me know if this helps you out....
                          Attached Files


                          • #14
                            Hi Jakaleena,

                            Thanks so much for your detailed information. You’ve just saved me from making the same mistake a 2nd time. I’ll resize according to your instructions and make my canvas black.

                            I didn’t know I could have the photo printed as an 8x12. I think I’ll have one done as 8x10 and one as 8x12.

                            That seagull was good enough to pose for me so he deserves to be placed in a proper frame.



                            • #15
                              The key to achieving accurate color is to have a color managed workflow.

                              If you don't have a calibrated monitor, you are simply working in the dark. Adobe gamma is a very, very poor subsitute for a properly calibrated monitor. The problem is when you "calabrate" your monitor using the "eyeball" meathod, you are doing nothing more than giving it you best guess.

                              Profiling software is available but it can be expensive. A spyder is a necessary if you are trying to achieve accurate color.

                              A few ideas that might be helpful is to set up you monitor out of direct light. Keep the light consistant.

                              An expensive monitor with "profiles" is nice but I have found that even a inexpensive monitor that is properly calibrated will perform better than a monitor with a canned profile.

                              If you have no way to profile your printer then its "by guess and by golly" all the way. Some printer profiles are available but be wary. Your monitor profile, color space and printer profile are linked. If one isn't accurate, you may be chasing a tiger by the tail.


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