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DPChallenge Forums >> Photography Discussion >> Incorporating printer profiles into workflow?
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10/06/2011 04:55:53 PM · #1
To the point: So how do you manage various color or printer profiles and where in your workflow do you incorporate them?

The details: I returned from Costco, where I have my quick turnaround prints done, and I didn't like the prints that they did for me. I suspected that it had something to do with the mysterious world of printer profiles so I finally decided to download their's. The problem that I had with the prints has also turned out to be a problem on my monitor now and it's a bi+(h to adjust the image back to where it was.

I am beginning to better understand how the profiles work. I had thought that they simply communicate to the printer what I am seeing after I edit my images, but instead it seems to be the other way around. After I assign the printer profile to the image the image turns a lot darker and the colors are different just like the darn prints that I brought home!!! The profile seems to be communicating to me what the printer is going to interpret instead of telling the printer what it should be interpreting like I thought that it did.

So, back to my question: When does one normally assign the profile? Somewhere near the beginning of the workflow would make sense so that all adjustments are done with the print as the goal. But what about currently being happy with the images for other media (like the printer that handles my regular orders, DPC, website, Facebook, etc.)?

I have two choices that I can think of:

1) If I assign a profile to the image prior to all other post processing then the post processing will be best suited for Costco printers and not for the other media and for which I am currently satisfied with. (On the other hand, maybe those others aren't that great and I just don't know it.)

2) If I assign the profile at the end of post processing and save a version for each media (various printers, website, DPC, etc.) then the post processing looks different for each. For the Costco printer profile the difference is significant.

I've tried to compensate and adjust the image back to where it was in the hopes that it will print the way it looks on my monitor, but that seems to not be a simple matter. I've adjusted saturation, hue, vibrance, levels, brightness, contrast and I still can't get the image back to what I was seeing and what I wanted printed before I assigned the profile. That's why I was thinking of assigning the profile first so that when I post process I'll do so without having to adjust everything again. But that would mean that the image would be adjusted for all other applications and media as well.

What do you do?

edit to add: Here are two images that you can use to compare the significant differences...

- - - -
Original entry - - - - - - - Image using Costco's color profile

Message edited by author 2011-10-06 17:33:58.
10/06/2011 06:56:59 PM · #2
haha... welcome to the world of a color managed workflow... together with the headaches associated with it :-).

The up-shot is that yes, printers are ordinarily calibrated to match your print reasonably accurately. Professional labs will regularly calibrate their printers to ensure accuracy.

however, due to the differences in print media etc ad nausium... it works best to also produce printer profiles in order for you to "soft proof" how the finished product will print on the chosen printer you select. Any adjustments you do to the print in order to achieve the desired appearance will naturally suit that one printer alone... So it is best not to save this over your original :-).

So, yeah, I generally need to lift the tone of prints when viewing how it will appear on the soft proofing option. The lab I'm with also tends to enrich pinkish tones at times, so if I see the potential for this, I run it through a color adjustment action to avoid acenting this in the print. Once I've done this for a file, I keep the files, but for no real purpose--maybe to send them in again if I want another print, but really, the adjusted files are only good for the one lab...

Hmmm, and I'm assuming that you're using a calibrated monitor (?)...

Hope that helps :-)

edited to add:
Oh, forgot to mention, yes, definitely don't convert the color space of your picture into the printer's printer profile. Keep it in sRGB, or (if your lab supports it) AdobeRGB. The lab will do the conversion for you. All you need to do is the soft proofing... Hmmm, also definitely avoid "assigning" color profiles. That will throw your color management completely out the window. If you ever need to change your color space/profile (eg. from AdobeRGB to sRGB or ProPhotoRGB), the only way to maintain accuracy is to "convert" into that space.

Message edited by author 2011-10-06 19:08:03.
10/06/2011 07:34:44 PM · #3
Now I am totally lost.

What, exactly, is soft proofing? When do you do this? How do you ensure that the print that you processed is printed the way you intended?

I've got hundreds of images that are processed the way that I think looks best on my monitor. How do manage these files to get them printed the way they look to me on my computer? If you ever do assign color or printer profiles (are these different?) when in your workflow do you use them?

Did I mention that I am totally lost?
10/06/2011 09:15:47 PM · #4
haha, yep, it's a veritable nightmare to get past all the concepts. Here's a good resource (click around on the right where it says color spaces color profiles color management etc)

"soft proofing" is the word photoshop uses for "proofing" a print through its software. So, it's the digital equivalent to having the print company run off a copy & show you how it will look like once it's done. Generally speaking, you'll only want to use this to proof printer profiles (not monitor profiles). You access it under the view menu-->proof setup etc...

Is your monitor calibrated with a colorimiter (eg. eyeone, coloreyes, color monki, spyder etc)?

(ICC) color profiles are simply the means of telling devices (screens/printers/cameras etc) how to interpret & display the colors in your photo files... So you don't want to "apply" a profile carte blanche (that's the equivalent of telling it to mess the color up). You need to "convert" into the space if ever you move between spaces. But having said that, generally speaking you don't need to move between color spaces/profiles--your print company will do the conversion for you.
10/07/2011 01:32:52 PM · #5
Originally posted by Medoomi:

haha, yep, it's a veritable nightmare to get past all the concepts. Here's a good resource (click around on the right where it says color spaces color profiles color management etc)

AFAIK Costo gets their printer profiles from these same folks (Dry Creek Photo). I think they have someone come in and update the profiles and re-calibrate the printers every six months.

Be sure to go all the way to the bottom of that document and check out the part about the exact size (in pixels) for various size prints on the most common printers (Fuji Frontier and Noritsu) used at Costco. The smaller prints especially will be enlarged about 2% in the printing process -- you need to allow for that if your photo bleeds and you have critical elements near the edge, or if you have a narrow border.

I do almost almost all my printing at Costco, and I seem to have been lucky in having my prints match my (Sony CRT) monitor closely and consistently (enough), without ever opening the settings for profiles, color space, or any of that other crazy stuff.
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