If you’re not getting the best results from the specific combination of equipment and software used in your photography studio, there could be a number of causes. To illustrate that point, David Saffir walks through some of the steps involved in helping a professional photographer diagnose what might be causing some of the stubborn problems she was having, including screen-to-print match.
If you have ever experienced an issue with screen-to-print match, you’re not alone. In Part 1, David Saffir explained how to adjust your monitor so you don't waste time editing colors that your printer might not be able to reproduce on your chosen paper. Here, he explains how to use Photoshop to set up an accuate on-screen preview of how your prints will look. Adding these few simple steps to your workflow can save time and money and reduce the amount of time you spend editing images.
When photographers complain that their prints are "off" or don't match their screens, David Saffir first asks them to clarify exactly what they mean. In most cases, the prints look too dark. "In the majority of cases, this happens because the screen is too bright," writes Saffir. "Frequently, the display has been set at the factory to be two or three times brighter than needed for image editing." In this post, he explains how monitor calibration and profiling can help resolve this issue and give you a more accurate look at the colors in your image.
More and more photographers are using LCD projectors to show slide shows of their images to groups of clients, friends, or workshop attendees. Although digital projectors evolved from the projectors used to show 35mm slides, they don’t work the same, primarily because digital color needs to be controlled differently than the fixed colors associated with processed film.
How many of us have seen awful color come out of a seemingly decent, modern LCD projector? I have not only attended presentations in which the color has been completely off, but have also struggled with my own equipment.
Luckily, I own color-management software and hardware and have learned some tips to get the best color from a digital projector.
First, let’s talk about projectors. I own an Optoma EP721 DLP Projector that sells online for about $650 USD. Its native resolution is 800 x 600 and it has a 1280 x 1024 compressed resolution. It has 2200 ANSI lumens and can project from as close as 4 feet and as far as 39 feet away.
Out of the box, the color is OK but not great. The highlights are broken up and not well differentiated and the gray balance is off. When I plug it into my Mac a default profile for the projector shows up in ColorSync. I have never been a fan of default profiles, especially when I own the X-Rite i1Pro color-measuring device.
Like the curious cat that I am, I immediately start exploring the settings on the projector itself. Much like computer displays, most projectors come with a default setting for the brightness, contrast ratios, and white point.
On my Optoma projector, the settings allow me to choose from sRGB, Movie,
Presentation, and User modes. Each mode differs slightly. As with most digital devices, I suggest some experimentation to find the best setting.
For my projector I chose the "User" mode. My red bias was set at a high default level, but I am not sure if this is universal. Then, I made sure the brightness and contrast settings were set to a mid level and evaluated this in room lighting that is typical of the rooms in which I usually give presentations on color management and digital imaging. Of course, room lighting can vary greatly from setting to setting so for color-measurement purposes, it’s best to assume that the lights will be turned down low when you make your presentation. In other words, the less light the better.
Once everything is set up for presentation, I set my i1 Pro spectrophotometer and Projector Holder on the projector with the i1 connected to the projection computer. The spectrophotometer then measures and records how much light is reflected off the projection screen and received at the area in which the projector is set up.
I start i1 match and choose Projector Profile - Advanced. The Advanced setting allows me to set up my own white point and gamma. I like 6500K and Gamma 2.2 for my color management lectures as well as for showing movies and photographic slide shows.
The process is pretty easy because the software guides you through the process. The only real issues I have experienced have occurred when I tried to dial-in the projector with the internal hardware. Sometimes, I have actually made the color worse.
So, I have learned the hard way to keep the settings simple. Also I make sure to calibrate and profile in minimal light. This can be difficult to do in some conference rooms. It’s best if you can show your work in a room in which you can control the light.
The results of calibrating and profiling your projector can be beautiful whether you are showing a few family snapshots or a very important client presentation. The right color says you are professional and care about looking your very best.
If you have additional tips or experiences you would like to share with regards to projector profiling, we would like to hear them!
When it comes to printing our digital images, many of us prefer to do it ourselves. It’s that control freak thing that attracted many of us to photography in the first place. If you’re in denial, you might prefer to think of this as “creative freedom."
One of the nice things about doing your own printing is the control you have over the media selection, and how you tune the image for that media. By now, I’m sure everyone knows the importance of a color-managed workflow – using a calibrated display, letting either Photoshop or the printer handle color translation (certainly not both at once), and selecting the correct paper settings for your chosen media. Most of the time, that’s all that is needed. Most of the paper manufacturers have profiles available for the popular printers from Canon, Epson, and HP.
For those that don’t, profiling services such as Cathy’s Profiles, or my own Custom Profiling are available that will make a profile specific to your printer and paper combination for a reasonable fee.
But, buying a profile one at a time is time-consuming, and ultimately can be expensive if you change media types often or like to experiment. If you happen to use one of HP’s Designjet Z series printers, you also have the ability to create your own custom profiles right from the printer using a high quality spectrophotometer built by X-Rite.
Others might be interested in two very reasonably priced options for printer profile creation: the Datacolor Spyder3Print SR and the X-Rite ColorMunki.
What used to cost thousands of dollars can now be done for $340 - $599. Both are capable of creating professional level profiles for your printer (and monitor with the ColorMunki) with a low learning curve and quick creation time.
So, which one would you pick? It depends a bit on your needs and style of working, as well as what type of printing you want to do. If you’re just getting started with color management and need to handle both monitor and printer, the ColorMunki is the more affordable choice at $499. The Spyder3Studio SR is an option at $599, and includes both the Spyder3Print for printer profiles and a Spyder3Elite for monitor calibration.
To create a profile, you first need to print a patch chart that will be read by the hardware device. This is where the ColorMunki and the Spyder3Print differ the most. The ColorMunki has you scan a simple chart of 50 patches in just a few seconds. You let the paper dry, then ColorMunki prints a second chart of 50 patches that are also scanned. From these two scans, a profile is built, taking about 12 minutes from start to finish.
The Spyder3Print on the other hand looks more like you’d expect a chart to look – 225 patches for the high quality (up to 729 if you like), as well as a optional chart for black and white print optimization. In my workflow, I use the 225 patch plus grays for profile creation. Once again, the total time to build a profile, even with 500 patches to scan is about 12-15 minutes.
I like the extra control that the Datacolor product gives me for tuning the profiles after creation. And, if you’re a QuadTone RIP user, you’ll like the ability to linearize for this application to generate high quality black-and-white profiles. The software also has options to apply adjustments to the profile for different lighting situations, tinting, and adjustment of shadow and highlight details. But, you don’t need to do any of these if you don’t want to – the profiles are great with the basic settings.
Once the profile is built, you’re ready to start using it with your media. Because you’re printing to exactly the same device that was profiled, your results will be as good as they can possibly be. I’ll typically re-profile a paper every time I get a new batch in, or when I change printheads.
Either of these systems will do an excellent job for you – it’s more a matter of what type of interaction you like to have. Scanning is easier with ColorMunki, but you have more options with Spyder3Print.
Regardless of your choice, taking control over the profile process is satisfying and puts you in the driver’s seat when it comes to deciding how your image is going to look on paper.