Heeding my own Advice

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Remains of a volcano off the Island of Stromboli, Italy. Olympus EM5.
Remains of a volcano off the Island of Stromboli, Italy. Olympus EM5.

Around 18 months ago I published a book titled “Perfect Prints Every Time”. The book was intended to help people who struggle with print making, master the techniques and produce images that match their screens. Judging from the feedback I received the book appears to have helped a lot of people. Unfortunately, it didn’t help me – allow me to explain.

As regular readers may be aware, I recently purchased a MacBook Pro and have been very impressed. So impressed in fact that I have now upgraded my main office PC to an iMac and am in the process of switching across. As part of this I wanted to set up and use my printer (an Epson 3880) and this is where the fun started.

Now I have friends who use Macs and swear the screens come well calibrated and the colour handling is so good, you can general do without printer profiles. All you need to do is allow the printer to manage the colour. I have also seen some very well respected authorities on printing say the same. And just to prove this, I have looked through many excellent prints produced in this way with the same printer I’m using. Everything should be easy, right?

The first thing I noticed when trying to produce a print was how flat the print appeared, lacking both contrast and vibrancy. After consulting with a friend, he pointed out that I need to set the “Color Matching” section of the print driver to “Epson Color Controls” as shown below.

Color Matching in the Print Dialog
Color Matching in the Print Dialog

This would then allow me to set the “Print Mode” in the “Printer Settings” tab of the print driver to be “AccuPhoto HD2” and then set the “Color Mode”.

Setting the Print Mode in the Print Dialog
Setting the Print Mode in the Print Dialog

After making these changes I found the prints had improved but they still didn’t look like the image on screen. They were quite dark and still lacked contrast. I then remembered he had also advised increasing the Contrast and Brightness settings in the Lightroom Print module. These changes improved the results but the print still didn’t come close to matching the image on the excellent Mac screen or what I could produce when printing from my PC.

I decided it was time to check the screen calibration of the Mac and used the inbuilt screen calibration routine that comes with the Mac. The new calibration appeared identical to the old one and the images looked great on the screen. I decided to copy one of the images over to my PC to see how it appeared there. Amazingly I found the image was too dark and lacked contrast.

It was at this point that I realised I needed to go back to basics. I pulled out my Color Munki Photo calibration unit and installed the software to the Mac. I ran the screen calibration first and found the screen profile produced lacked both contrast and brightness when compared with the Mac profile. I decided to edit a couple of images and then copy these over to my PC. This time I had a good match between both systems.

Having managed to calibrate the monitor I decided to produce a new printer profile for my paper using the Color Munki on the Mac. With this new profile installed I soft proofed the image in Lightroom, adjusting it so that the soft proof matched the original (un-proofed) image. The resulting print was a near perfect match for the soft proofed image.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Calibrate your monitor, use the correct print driver for your paper and soft proof your images, adjusting them to match your finished image. I could have saved myself hours of wasted effort if I had only just followed my own advice.

Embarrassing!

6 thoughts on “Heeding my own Advice

    Victor Rakmil said:
    September 25, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    The usual reason prints are dark is the monitor is too bright. Calibration software has improved with respect to Macs, but it always be a challenge to get it exactly right.

      thelightweightphotographer responded:
      September 26, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      Yes I can imagine it is a challenge as a lot of the controls seem hidden. At least to me as a PC user. I’m still quite happy with the results I’m not achieving. And your right, I did reduce the screen brightness first. I forgot to mention this.

        Victor Rakmil said:
        September 26, 2016 at 6:24 pm

        On a pc you can go down to 90cdma, on apple it’s higher. Working in a darkened room, putting your computer under an opaque black cloth when calibrating also helps.

        thelightweightphotographer responded:
        September 26, 2016 at 6:30 pm

        Good tips also. Thanks. I have actually switched my office layout around to achieve better viewing conditions.

    Jed Orme said:
    September 25, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    Hello Robin,

    I just bought your ebook on printing & am starting to use it. However, with my iMac & printing to my Canon Pixma Pro-100 dye inkjet printer from LR6, I also have found it necessary to both calibrate my monitor with ColorMunk & use the printer profiles for the paper I am using. Also I’m soft proofing in LR, & then find I am getting both fairly good & consistent results. My printer only goes up to 13X19, but with the right papers I am pretty satisfied.

    However, I know there are many fine points that I am missing & hopefully a careful reading of your book will help to reveal some of these. Canon has its own plugin & I have to fight with it at times to let me control the printer with the LR instructions & selections. But with the correct settings & profiles for the papers, I think I am starting to get the hang of it. So I fully appreciated your latest posting & it was very timely for me as well. Keep up the great work. Cheers,

    Jed

      thelightweightphotographer responded:
      September 26, 2016 at 6:28 pm

      Hi Jed, thanks for buying my book. The process you outline is pretty much the three areas that need attention in my experience with the main step being soft proofing where people just don’t get it right as they often don’t use the “simulate paper” option because it makes the image look poor. They don’t realise you then need to apply adjustments in order to bring the soft proof in line with the original image. Lightroom is an excellent tool for this. What I can’t understand is how some people achieve excellent results without the need to use profiles – and I have seen some excellent results.
      Cheers
      Robin

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