Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Follow-up to Last Post

Hello Photography Lovin' Friends!

After my last post, I had a friend send me an email, saying he had a photo printed on canvas that he was not entirely happy with.  I told him what I have learned about having my photos printed by my local lab and I thought maybe some of my comments might be helpful to others, so I've copied part of my response below:

First of all, if you are particular about how you want your prints to turn out, especially if you are printing something large to hang on your wall, you should use a local, professional lab (if you have one near), where you will get personal service and can talk to someone face to face if there are problems.  (On the other hand, if you need to print a couple of snapshots, and you don't mind if they turn out greenish or bluish, are too light or too dark, and you need them in an hour, then go to a 'big box' store!)

Early on when I began printing large photos from wedding shoots, I found that I was not always happy with the results.  I found that matching the color and exposure so that what I saw on my computer was similar to what I saw printed, was tricky and not an exact science.  I realized that obviously, since a screen and a print are two different outputs, they will never look exactly the same, but they should be in the ballpark, and this takes a bit of effort.  Here's what I do:

1.  First of all, I broke down and purchased a Colormunki Display which calibrates and color corrects my monitor, and then I calibrate my monitor to the same settings my photo lab uses to calibrate their equipment.  (I would imagine that you could get this information from any professional lab.)  There are several different brands of calibration devices to choose from, and you may have to purchase online.  But you don't even need to do this, read on.

2.  Calibrating your monitor will get you in the ballpark, but each monitor is different and will show different color tones, and different degrees of light and dark.  For example, if I did not intervene, most of my photos while looking great on my monitor, would still turn out too dark, too dull and too contrasty when printed.

3.  Here is a good solution that works well even without having to spend money on a device to calibrate your monitor:  Have several test photos printed as 5x7s to use as comparisons.  Print out a landscape, a portrait, maybe something contrasty like a sunset.  Compare them with how they look on your monitor, then 'correct' your photos in your editing program (LR or PS for example), to compensate for what you don't like in the prints.  I've learned that I need to compensate by making my photos look much brighter, more saturated and less contrasty on the computer than they would normally look good to me, in order to produce what I really want them to look like in print.  

4.  Here is another important suggestion: When I submit my photos,  I always tell the lab, "do not correct, print as received".  Unless you give this instruction, the lab techs will usually correct or adjust your photos to their interpretation of what looks good, not yours.  I learned this the hard way.  I have a canvas print of a Lake Powell sunrise.  In my rendition, the water was a dark shade of blue, but still colorful.  The tech decided this image was supposed to be more 'moody' with only the sunrise colorful, so when it came back, the water was totally black.  I didn't like it at all, and since I told the lab not to correct, (they missed my instructions), they reprinted it with no questions asked.

5.  Here is another lesson I recently learned the hard way.  Even though I now know approximately what to do on my computer to get the printed result I'm looking for, if I'm planning to print something large that will cost a lot of money, I ALWAYS have a 5x7 test photo printed first, just to make sure.  It is well worth the small amount it costs and the time to do it, (and if you tell your lab it is a test print before ordering a large print, they might do it for free.  Mine does.)  Because I was too lazy to do this, I now have a Lake Powell sunset on a large canvas decorating my closet!
 
Most labs who cater to professional photographers offer excellent service and great quality, and because of the less expensive online services  available, they go overboard to make sure you are happy and satisfied with the work they do.  Many times when I have called my lab with a problem, or I need advice or instruction, the techs will spend as much time as it takes to help me.

So bottom line, if you are planning to hang your artwork in your home or give as gifts, (and want to insure they don't end up in a closet somewhere), make the effort and spend the money to have a finished piece of artwork you are proud of and will enjoy for years to come!



6 comments:

Sandra said...

thank you Karen, great tips. i have noticed when i view my blog on my laptop and desk top and on my friend Rich's desk top, they all look different. so all this makes sense

Felicia said...

thanks Karen.

Montanagirl said...

Very good post, and excellent advice. I have a 36x24 canvas of a color photo I took of a pheasant hanging over my computer that I am less than pleased with. It looked so bright and vibrant on my monitor, but came back on canvas very dull and muted. I was disappointed to say the least. But the result was mostly my fault I think.

Scott said...

Great post Karen. I have a tendency to be really tight with my money and want to go with the mail order stuff with coupons. The last one I did of Moulton Barn in the Tetons was okay but not great. The color balance was slightly off in the sky and the foreground, though in the shade, still too dark. I'll check around for a good local lab and bite the bullet.

George said...

Thanks for the great advice. I think I'll have to join Scott and just 'bite the bullet' next time.

Mersad said...

These are really valid tip, especially when it comes to calibratioN!

Mersad
Mersad Donko Photography