Why do my photos look bad when I print?
Did you bring your photos to print in the laboratory and the result is very different from what you expected?
It happened to me too to find myself in this situation when I started to take my first steps in digital photography. Everything revolves around proper color management. Understanding how to manage color is essential to achieve good results in post-production and printing. To work with maximum precision the devices we use (cameras, scanners, screens, printers) should be correctly calibrated.
The objective is to try to maintain the properties of an image, starting from the shot, to the display on a screen and finally in print.
We have several possibilities for calibration:
1. For cameras and scanners (input devices) we will need a “ColorChecker”.
2. For screens (display devices) we will use a colorimeter or a spectrophotometer. On the market, there are devices of different brands, such as X-Rite and Data Color.
3. For printers (output devices), we will use a spectrophotometer.
Although the colorimeter is ideal for calibrating monitors and projectors, the spectrophotometer can also measure the color printed on a physical medium. The most advanced models could be a good solution for calibrating all peripherals with a single instrument.
The calibration generates a color profile, result of the association of the coordinates of the three-dimensional color model CIE L*a*b (developed to describe the colors that the human eye can perceive) with each RGB value of a color space.
The most popular color spaces are the sRGB and Adobe RGB 1998. We can choose which color space to use already in the menu of the camera. In general, I suggest to set it on Adobe RGB 1998 and to convert it to another space (with a post-production program like Photoshop) when necessary.
For photographs to be printed it is ideal to keep a color space Adobe RGB 1998, larger than the sRGB, which is especially suitable for web use. Since the latter color space is smaller, we will have more chances that the image will appear similar to what we see on our screen in all other display devices.