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Category: All About Photography : Digital Photographic Discussions - Imaging Basics : Printing Digital Pictures

Photography Question 
Amber J. Skene
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/2/2007
amberskene.com
 

Color Management and Dark Prints


I have been having a problem with color management. My monitor is calibrated with the Spyder 3 and I have the ICC profiles from the lab. I'm also soft proofing in CS3. My prints keep coming back too dark and flat. So, I have adjusted my brightness and contrast on my monitor to hopefully help with my prints. I just sent them off to the lab to see how they come back.
So my questions!
What else can I be doing to get this color management right? I'm shooting in sRGB, have CS3 in sRGB and do my edits from CS3, and saving as sRGB.
Also, although they look okay on a calibrated monitor, they are blown out on a non-calibrated monitor. So, I have clients that do online proofing on my site. I don't want them to think that they will be blown out. What can I do about this?
Any and all help is greatly appreciated!
Thanks,
Amber


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7/11/2008 11:19:22 PM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member
PhotoshopCS.com
Richard's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: Correcting and Enhancing Images
4-Week Short Course: Looking Good in Print and On the Web: Color Management
  Proper color management is soup to nuts, not just calibration. You do NOT want to adjust your monitor -- especially not after calibration.

Two things here don't seem to work together: your images seem blown out and they print flat. My suspicion is the lab profiles, which I am not sure you need to use at all. If you are supplying them a tagged sRGB image and not converting to CMYK prior to sending the image, I am guessing that it is the profile causing the trouble. One other trouble there is that you say they look blown out on an uncalibrated monitor...if the monitor is not calibrated there is no reference, so likely they could look blown out just as easily as they'd look flat.
Also, depending on your color settings, your previews might be completely wrong - and considering that you are not predicting well using soft proofing, it really isn't proving valuable. Soft proofing is only valuable when you have tested it, and that means running prints that are successful (which means having color management set correctly, etc.), and being able to match those prints with previews on screen.
Many people over-complicate color management. If you look for other posts of mine on the subject there is an outline to follow ... though I also teach a course here at BetterPhoto in color management (available again in September).
I hope that helps!


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7/12/2008 10:49:59 AM

 
David Van Camp
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/27/2008
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  Rich,

Even though I'm not the one asking the questions, I always find your answers very useful and informative. I just wanted to thank you for them!

dvc


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7/12/2008 7:26:49 PM

 
Amber J. Skene
BetterPhoto Member Since: 7/2/2007
amberskene.com
  Richard,

Thanks for responding. The problem was that the prints were coming back too dark and flat from the lab. Since then, I adjusted my brightness and contrast because they suggested that the screen may be too bright. Then I recalibrated and edited a few photos in CS3 and soft proofed (although hardly any change happened between my soft proof image and my orginial). I then posted them on my website (for my clients) and looking on an uncalibrated monitor (which I am sure they have!), is when the images were blown out in brightness.

I would lve to take a class, just right now the funds are not there. Maybe I can in September!

Thanks,
Amber


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7/12/2008 9:54:56 PM

 
David Van Camp
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/27/2008
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  Amber,

Rich, please correct if any of this is wrong...

I read (somewhere) that when calibrating a CRT, you should first
a) set contrast to max and
b) set brightness as follows:
- set your desktop background to pure black and close all windows & turn off wall paper
- resize image area smaller so you get some border (turn up brightness if needed so you can see this)
- now adjust brightness down until the background just turns the same shade of black as the border area
- resize your image area back up (you'll need to maximize a window or turn back on wall paper to see this.)

also, when adjusting your display area, you may want to display an image of a perfect square (you can easily make one in any graphic editor) so you can measure it with a ruler to insure your ratio is exact.

Then, calibrate normally.

dvc


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7/12/2008 10:59:42 PM

 
Richard Lynch
BetterPhoto Member
PhotoshopCS.com
Richard's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: Correcting and Enhancing Images
4-Week Short Course: Looking Good in Print and On the Web: Color Management
  David (and Amber),
Really you should follow the manufacturer's instructions for calibration hardware. Generally the instructions say to max the contrast and set brightness so particular targets (like the one in Adobe Gamma or Apple's Display Calibrator Assistant) appear correctly, and THEN you calibrate. You should always take steps to 'normalize' the monitor before calibration as the settings themselves can get in the way of proper calibration. It seems that may have happened for Amber.

When in doubt, read the manual!

The method you describe here for brightness adjustment may give you pure blacks, but it may not be the best for the entire range of the monitor -- depends on the monitor, its response, etc. The targets can help you balance more than just the shadows. While I see the point of the method you describe, I am not sure it will always be the best.

Funny thing about monitors -- few people ever consider the 'correct' resolution, where the ruler around an image in Photoshop will actually display inches as an inch -- both horizontally and vertically. A lot is generally taken for granted, starting with the idea that the monitor will automatically display the right color.

It is often more complicated to get it right than just working out of the box. Follow manufacturer instructions for setup PRE-calibration. Regretfully all services won't always give you the best information (often staffed by well-meaning people who tell what has worked for them). Monitor manufacturers may have their own suggestions as well, and sometimes the monitor and calibration device will have contradictory instructions...

Practice and effort learning about color and calibrations will usually help. But you've got to handle the whole process correctly, not just one part.

Richard Lynch


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7/13/2008 6:30:18 AM

 
David Van Camp
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/27/2008
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  Thanks Rich!

I'll have to see if I can find such instructions for my monitor... it's a really old 17" Dell Trinitron.

...which I really need to replace soon... :)

I'm hoping to take your course in Sept, btw.

dvc


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7/13/2008 10:48:07 AM

 
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