LAST week, photo labs were all busy printing for the Sinulog Photo Contest. I’m not sure, but based on the number of registrants, the Sinulog Foundation would probably have about 20,000 photos in their hands for judging. I’m sure that this is something photo labs look forward to every year, given the fact that printing has really slowed down significantly due to social media.
One thing I noticed about photographers printing for the Sinulog Photo Contest is always their confusion on where to print. Which one offers better color and how should I prepare my file for printing? Some photographers would even print from multiple photo labs just to compare the colors.
Outputs from photo labs are generally accepted in terms of color quality. However, due to the advancement of digital photo editing, photographers meticulously work on their photos using photoshop and proof their work based on the monitor’s display. What’s
frustrating is printing it in a photo lab and getting a different result.
Color is one of the most difficult factors to manage in image reproduction. I’ve been into color management for more than 15 years and until now, I haven’t seen a plug and play solution to this impediment. The only way to deal with it is to understand the limitations of different media and technology in color reproduction.
When shooting through a digital camera, a typical 12-bit sensor of a DSLR can capture around 68 billion colors. Your monitor can display around 16.7 million colors. You’ll be lucky if you can print more than a million colors in a photo lab.
The numbers look really bad, but consider that an average pair of eyes cannot even see more than three million colors. according to the industry standard CIE (Commission internationale de l’éclairage) and what you get from the photo lab is good enough to render a good image.
The idea is to adjust your monitor not to display more than the printer can render.
This way, you’ll be simulating the colors of your printer in your monitor. This is where color management comes in.
In order to ensure that the monitors are displaying the right colors, you need to profile it using a monitor profiler. The device will read the monitor’s colors and will make a profile out of it. An operating system like Windows will use it to simulate the printer’s color.
In Photoshop or even in Lightroom, there’s an option for you to simulate the colors of your destination profile or you printing device. For Photo Lab, you can download a profile from Noritsu. Pro Inkjet printers deliver far more better colors than the photo lab and just the same, you can simulate by installing the profile in Photoshop.
Color is a complex topic. Even if I write a book about it, I’d probably wouldn’t be able to explain everything there is to it. What’s important as a photographer is to know the limits of your devices from camera to monitor to the different printing devices.
Keep on shooting, everyone!