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Thread: Preventing washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

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    Preventing washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Having difficulty with prints from large processors like Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc. Several use a Frontier printer. My photos look good on screen then are washed out/gray or sometimes yellowish when I have them printed.

    What I have been told so far:
    Calibrate monitor--have done so with the MacIntosh software but no luck
    Camera RGB needs to match photoshop RGB but then comes workspace etc. I just seem to get lost.

    Do I need a more accurate monitor calibration tool like Pantone huey or huey Pro?
    Is there someplace I can get some tutorials or help setting my Mac. Photoshop, and cameras so they coincide?

    Any ideas?

    Paul
    Last edited by McQ; 11th January 2009 at 12:41 AM. Reason: post moved to new thread

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Hi Paul,

    What you're describing is what's called a colour management issue - and it can be caused by a number of things including:

    - Monitor calibration / profile

    - Printer calibration / profile

    - Lighting conditions

    - Camera and or Post-processing preferances

    ... or literally "all of the above"

    It can be tricky to get to the root cause of issues like this (or we might luck out and get it sorted quickly).

    Without seeing a sample of the problem (with exif data intact) I can only guess - but the first thing to check is the colourspace being assigned to your files by the camera or post-processing software - for cameras there are often 2 main choices; sRGB and Adobe RGB - if the camera is set for adobe RGB and the processing lab assumes sRGB then the images will look darker - less saturated - and will have very poor colours (a bit like you're describing).

    Monitor profiling equipment is never a bad thing, but it's a significant investment - and may not help all that much in your case.

    It would be helpful if you could let us know (a) what camera you're shooting with - (b) what software you use for post-processing - and (c) if you could eMail me one of the shots you're having trouble with I can take a look at it in a colour managed environment and see how things look at this end (and possibly give you other advice on processing) (send me a PM with your email address if you'd like me to try and help with this).

    Hope this helps,

    Cheers,

    Colin - flickr.com/photos/colinsouthern

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Paul,

    I guess you are in the US with Walmart being on your list of processors? I can only give my experience from the UK, and would echo the comments made by Colin.

    However, I guess these processors are high street, non specialist outlets, whereby they will just set up an 'average' customer standard and work from that. In the UK we have similar setups, whereby however good the input, their way of working is going to create a poor end product. I have had it myself, some outlets that produce prints for 0.04 each or less, sometimes even free for a certain limited number, really dont cut the mustard in terms of quality.

    Ask yourself why the quality professional photo labs can afford to charge say 0.70p for exactly the same size output? Of course there is a difference and the way they accept and monitor the throughput reflects this.

    So whilst you might have a calibrated monitor and your profile is set up to be spot on, from even the best camera/lens, you will get disappointing results from these 'bucket shop' outfits. I am afraid that is my experience and yet not everybody can understand the difference, although I would have thought most people here would be able to comprehend this. The better labs usually specify how your camera should be set up, in terms of profiles and whether they prefer them RGB colour space etc and at what size/resolution. If your lab doesn't ask such questions, then move on!

    PS ask here if you require any further clarification on any of these terms.

    Mac calibration is better than nothing at all but an X-Rite Colour Munki, Spyder or Huey are better and they really are a no brainer to set up. Our local camera club lends one out free to members once they have paid an initial fee. Maybe you can find a similar arrangement or I know of guys who will call and do it all for you for a small fee.

    Re-calibration is recommended every 6-12 months or so, more frequently if you are printing frequently and essential if you are in business or entering competitions.

    Hope that helps?


    Ian

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Ian gave me another idea that might be helpful ... if you establish a working relationship with a more "high-end" print shop you may well be able to work with them to discover the source of the problem (they might be able to take one look at a file and say "Ahhh - there's the problem - get it all the time", whereas the budget services are pretty much "monkey see, monkey do"

    Cheers,

    Colin - pbase.com/cjsouthern

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Colin and Ian,
    Thanks so much for the input. The issue of AbobeRGB vs. sRGB hits home as I have been trying to deal with this. I know that most of the "bucket-shop" outfits as Ian refers to them use sRGB but I think I became somewhat confused when reading and I got the impression that AbobeRGB was better so I may have made the assumption that I should set camera as such but then there is working color etc. and I have probably set everything badly.

    1) The prints are in fact a little darker and color tends to change yellow into orange/yellow or almost yellow. Blues turn whitish.

    2) No "high end" shops here in town (all high end stuff gets sent out of town) so I may have to make some phone calls and maybe upload to some place.

    3) I have looked at the Exif data a several photos and note that color space is "uncalibrated". Not sure exactly what this means because I have tried several combinations and still shows uncalibrated.

    4) So... (by the way I am currently using Photoshop CS2) when I look at "Color Setting" there are are about a dozens possible settings---then there is "Assign Profile which suggest a Working RGB and a Profile---finally there is the camera itself sRGB or Adobe RGB.

    I am sure I have checked things so they conflict. Is there any place to understand how to set this stuff?

    5) Own 40D, 20D, Nikon70 (primarily for family and street) and use a Prime 300 IS 2.8 Canon with X1.4 and/or X2 converter (never have "stacked" them).

    6) Am considering huey as a decent monitor calibration but I really don't think that is the problem as the colors on the screen be it MacIntosh or PC do not match what is printed.

    7) What kind of files(s) would you like to look at and how might I send them to you (files size and location to send to).

    Thanks again ahead of time.

    Paul

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Hi Paul,

    The industry standard book is Real World Color Management by Fraser, Murphy, and Bunting - it can make your brain hurt in places - but it'll literally teach you everything you'll ever need (or want) to know about colour management. Highly recommended.

    Adobe RGB has what's called a "wider gamut" than sRGB - so good in theory, but in practice the difference is relatively small - is confined to a few shades of colours - only high-end monitors like Eizo can display them - and printers usually have a different gamut again. So the theoretical advantages can easily and quickly turn around and bite you in the bum. Ultimately you'll probably end up shooting RAW which doesn't have a native colourspace - so for now I'd suggest just leaving the camera set to sRGB - I can promise that you won't notice much difference (if any) - except that your prints will dramatically improve if that's the problem!

    If you want to make sure your images are in sRGB profile from CS2, then simply open the image - click on EDIT and then CONVERT TO PROFILE (NOT assign profile) - and choose sRGB as the destination colourspace (it'll also tell you what colourspace it's already in before you start). You won't see any difference on screen (as CS2 is a colour-managed application and will convert the image sent to your monitor to compensate for the change in profile), but you should see the difference in non-colourmanaged applications like internet explorer.

    Possibly the easiest thing is to simply shoot something with the camera set to sRGB - process it the usual way (without assigning any profiles - it should already be assigned by the camera) - have it printed to see how it looks.

    Cheers,

    Colin - pbase.com/cjsouthern

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Colin,
    You brought up a point I forgot to mention. I do shoot in RAW with the 40D which I have to convert to dng before I can use it in CS2. Does this make any difference with settings at all?

    I plan on setting camera to sRGB and Profile in CS2 to sRGB and see what happens.

    Really appreciate your input. Lots of this stuff has already hurt my brain and I am guessing I am making some of it too difficult because I know just enough to be dangerous but not enough to REALLY know what I am doing.

    Thanks,

    Paul

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Hi Paul,

    Yes and no.

    When you shoot RAW - by definition - there is no profile attached to the file. Converting to DNG doesn't change this.

    However - ACR (Adobe RAW Converter) WILL use the colourspace it's been told to ... and if you've told it to open the image in a very wide space like ProPhoto (and you don't convert later) then your printed images will look absolutely ghastly!

    If you can, send me an image with Exif data intact and I'll be able to tell you in 10 seconds flat what it's set to - just PM me for my eMail address if you'd like it.

    Cheers,

    Colin - pbase.com/cjsouthern

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Hi Roisenp

    What I'm writing might be not so pro as what Colin and Ian wrote to you.

    I know what you might be suffering. I'd almost the same problem as you have, however it was printing by myselft. It took me some months until I could understand what my problem was. I had to learn a lot about color management. Now after so much time, I'm glad I could learn it, however at te beginning I was desparate because nobody could tell me, step 1 do this, step 2 ......

    What I can see is that you also own a Mac, therefore this link might help you:
    http://images.apple.com/pro/pdf/Color_Mgmt_inTiger.pdf

    Here you can learn why is important to have your monitor calibrated with a Hardware instead of just Software, however you might just do it as you already did.

    What I'm sure is that when your prints have a yellow cast is because there is a profile problem. It might be that you are assigning another profile different to the one they're using to print your pictures, so why don't you call Sam's or Wal-Mart and ask them what profile you should assign when sending them pictures.

    Once you know or have the profile they use, you might assign it to all your pictures. you could do this using the ColorSync Utility on your Mac.

    Cheers,

    Daniel

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by dasle View Post
    It might be that you are assigning another profile different to the one they're using to print your pictures, so why don't you call Sam's or Wal-Mart and ask them what profile you should assign when sending them pictures.

    Once you know or have the profile they use, you might assign it to all your pictures. you could do this using the ColorSync Utility on your Mac.

    Cheers,

    Daniel
    Daniel,

    I had considered suggesting asking, but decided that some of these places <might> not know what they were using if you just got an assistant. No doubt if they have a techie on hand or the manager might know, but you might need to be persistent and ensure they don't just brush you off. (I may be wrong here and they might be very knowledgeable, but not my experience).

    Paul,

    You say there are no pro shops in town, well that is not unusual, as the demand is going to be less for a quality, higher priced product. You could try checking out ads in some decent photo magazines, (they will run comparative tests every now and again) and such labs quite often have the ability to upload over the internet.

    Or you could approach a couple of pro photographers, ask them who they use?

    You never know, they might offer to do them for you!

    Keep us informed.

    Ian

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Update: Not sure if Paul intends to pop back with an update or not, so I thought I'd just drop in this little note for others who are following the thread.

    Paul eMailed me a couple of very nice bird photos yesterday - and both were set to use Adobe RGB as the colourspace - so I'm assuming that was a big part of the problem.

    Haven't heard back yet as to whether or not Paul has been able to convert to sRGB for printing, or if the colours are now acceptable.

    Cheers,

    Colin - pbase.com/cjsouthern

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Have converted several images to sRGB and 1) Will take them down today to be printed locally and 2) sent them online to be printed. Will see the results in a couple of days and thus be able to compare them.

    Really appreciate the extra help you have all provide. Will check in ASAP.

    Paul

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    You brought up a point I forgot to mention. I do shoot in RAW with the 40D which I have to convert to dng before I can use it in CS2. Does this make any difference with settings at all?

    You should be able to open the raw images from that camera directly with acr. If it's not supported just get the camera raw update from adobe site (I think it's on version 5.2 now). I've noticed sometimes things appear on adobe ftp first (sometimes quite a while before) so sometimes worth looking around there (but I don't bother these days as not often you'd really find something useful and most the stuff is same as linked on the http site).

    Sorry if I misunderstand you here as I wasn't sure if you meant you convert to .dng so can open them or you do open them in acr but when you save the files you preserve raw data by saving as .dng. Obviously update is only needed in former case. Dave.

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    "Does this make any difference with settings at all?"

    No. With the new 1.1.1.0 DNG specification it's a totally lossless conversion - with the older 1.1.0.0 DNG specification there was a small issue where masked pixels weren't included (which could potentially affect noise threshold calculation, but in reality wasn't a problem).

    "You should be able to open the raw images from that camera directly with acr. If it's not supported just get the camera raw update from adobe site (I think it's on version 5.2 now)."

    The problem is that Adobe have maximum versions of ACR for specific versions of photoshop - and they don't retro-add camera support to old versions - so if you have something like a Canon 50D and you're still running CS2 then you're out of luck. The workaround of course is to simply convert the images to DNG (which I do anyway).

    The converter can ...

    1. Move the images from card to PC

    2. Rename them in the process

    3. Give you backward compatability with previous versions of photoshop, and

    4. Most importantly of all, because ACR understands the DNG format, it can write change information directly to the DNG file whereas if you open the camera's native RAW file it has to create a companion *.XMP "Side Car" file that you have to forever keep in the same location as the main file (or alternatively they're written to the Adobe database on your PC, but that tops out at (I think) 1GB, and is seldom backed up by anyone because most don't tknow it's even there!).

    Cheers,

    Colin - pbase.com/cjsouthern

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    ah I didn't realise they didn't make it backwards compatible, that seems silly especially since they still support/sell previous versions. I'm using CS3 on one office machine and CS4 on other machine so unsure of case with CS2. Thought it might save time just opening direct and skipping convert step but since the converter has good workflow, pretty much complete "from card to editor" job you've stated I guess it's not a pain. Yeah I liked the fact dng doesn't need a .xmp since they bug me having any sidecar files with any type of files when it can be included in one. I tend to use the database for that reason (it is 1Gb default but you can change size), however I still think that's not ideal (especially editing between different applications since the source files isn't written too and none acr stuff wont read acr database and so on).

    Will be nice if dng does take off and becomes the primary format for raw files. Standardised formats seem better for software compat and sharing reasons.
    Last edited by Davey; 14th January 2009 at 06:50 AM.

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    "ah I didn't realise they didn't make it backwards compatible, that seems silly especially since they still support/sell previous versions."

    It's a subject I've seen debated many times - I guess from Adobe's point of view (a) They probably want to encourage people to move forward into new versions and (b) although it's probably not a big job, they probably don't want to waste manpower adding additional support to what are in essence obsolete products.

    For me, I just use DNG everytime and to be honest, I just don't give compatability a 2nd thought these days - wouldn't have it any other way.

    Only thing I wish they would do is tweak the DNG converter code so that it uses all 4 cores of my processor - if I split the images into 4 equal groups - start 4 instances of the converter - assign each one to a different core - and let it loose it finishes MUCH quicker than if I just let it loose as a single instance.

    "Will be nice if dng does take off and becomes the primary format for raw files. Standardised formats seem better for software compat and sharing reasons. "

    I agree. I think only a very small number of cameras support it, and I really can't figure out why - especially as DNG still support "secret sauce" metadata. Probably for similar reasons we can't all drive on the same sides of the road - or speak just 1 language; everybody thinks that their system is better than everybody elses - just my 10c guess anyway!

    Cheers,

    Colin
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 14th January 2009 at 07:01 AM.

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Colin's latter comment here carries a lot of truth.

    If everyone signed up to DNG, then Adobe are in an even stronger pole position in terms of imaging software.

    Two major camera manufacturers have notably not signed up to this format and I would suggest until they do, DNG (for all its advantages) will not be the ultimate preferred format across the board.

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    I agree - I think DNG (or ANY standardised format) just makes life easier all round.

    Perhaps the key point to remember is that although Adobe developed it - and push it - it's none the less an open standard that anyone can downlaod the specs to - so no "home side advantage" so-to-speak for Adobe - just a win/win for everyone. I've get to see a downside to it.

    Cheers,

    Colin - pbase.com/cjsouthern

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Colin, Ian, shreds,
    No luck with sending them off to another printer. Nice quality prints but anything that has lots of dark in it is made darker. Flesh tones look good in family, Christmas etc photos. Outdoor stuff with good tonal range seems to be OK but photos with contrast look like .......

    I sent some with two copies one in Adobe RGB and one in sRBG. The Adobe came back much darker so I thought I had it solved but then prints came back from Adorama and even some sRGB came back extremely dark.

    ???

    Paul

    Paul

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    Re: Getting washed out prints from Walmart, HyVee, Sam's etc.

    Hi Paul,

    I think my eMails to you must be getting spam-filtered or something - is there anyway you can check? I sent you 3 on 13 Jan (probably 12 Jan in your time zone).

    As a test, why don't you send me one of the sRGB converted ones that you sent in to be printed at your end (use sendthisfile.com if it's over 10MB) - I'll have it printed locally (as well as look at it myself) - and I'll post it off to you so we can "complete the loop". It's hard to imagine commercial printers being that far off - and usually monitors aren't THAT far off either - so something just doesn't add up here.

    Having said all that, if you're really serious about your work (and it looks like you are) then ultimately nothing beats a properly calibrated and profiled monitor using a hardware colorimeter (I use a Spyder III, but there are other good solutions around too such as ColorMunki & EyeOne).

    Also, not sure if you got my PM from here - you might like to make sure that you've got your setting here set to receive messages from anyone. Alternatively, is there another address that I can try to get in contact with you?

    Cheers,

    Colin - pbase.com/cjsouthern

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