If You Are Not Happy With Your Digital Prints, Remember GIGO

We can talk for days here about why you should print your photographs. And we have.
We know that a lot of folks are somewhat disappointed with the results they get in their digital darkrooms, no matter what printer they are using.
There is a reason for that. GIGO. Or “garbage in, garbage out”. If you don’t have a proper file going in, the printer will get you at the other end.
Your monitor may be sitting in a place where the light changes throughout the day. Sure, your eye adjusts, but this is digital world my friend. Or the colors may have been set too magenta, or yellow, or cyan. Subtle, but the print will reveal it when its too late.

Simply put, you must calibrate your monitor to show consistent, standardized colors that can communicate directly to your printer. This will help eliminate wasted ink, paper, and probably frustration.

Then, when you have done all of your hard work in the digital darkroom, whether it is a simple crop, retouch, cleanup, or a massive overhaul, the info can be sent to your printer, which then understands what your monitor already knows.
Does that make sense?
The first time I discovered this process, it opened up the digital world for me, again. Finally, what I saw through the viewfinder and monitor, could translate into a print and be pretty much the same on first blush. Heck, these inks and paper are not cheap! Neither is my time.
The solutions I have used in the past didn’t get the entire workflow easily. I don’t have a digital tech on staff, nor a person that does my prints. Chief cook and bottle washer over here. I needed an easier end-to-end solution.

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The folks at X-Rite have simplified the process with The Color Munki.

Check the video:

They know what you’re up against, and have pledged to make it an easier process for you to calibrate andprofile your printer and monitor. (what’s a profile? kinda like a personalized color setting for your equipment, ensuring a good result from the beginning. Many pro labs have their own printing profiles for their systems, which you can download to your programs such as Photoshop, so when you output a file to have someone else print it, what you saw on your monitor will look like what they print out for you.)

OK, lets get started:
You open the box to find 4 items – The calibration device itself in a neoprene casing, a quick start booklet, CD, and a USB cable.
Easy to follow instructions in the booklet, and the CD automatically downloads the latest version of the software.

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Once the software was installed, it took all of about 2 mins. to calibrate my monitor. I then got a “before and after” comparison just to tell me where I was at, how much the monitor may have been off.
Next up was tying the printer to the monitor.
Step one was printing the 1st color chart with a sweet timer which includes allowances for ink drying on the specified paper. That way when you scan the chart the ink has settled into the paper for a more accurate read.
While I waited for the ink to dry, about 10 min.,, I was sent a full up, Pantone Digital Color Matching System by email, which loaded directly into the Color Munki program. Another excellent tool, given to you only if you have gone through a couple of levels including registration. I’ll let you know later where this comes in.

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Next up is using the Color Munki to scan the simplified color chart #1, which prints out with printer name, time and date stamped so you have a point of reference. I used the video help, AND the written info help which were both very clear .
Now a 2nd chart is printed to further refine the profile.
Same process, just as easy. The final step is using a photograph to tie the 2 together.
Very, very, easy steps.

With 4 mins left to drying finish, I made a cuppa joe.

Ok, It was all done in about 30 min. including drying time. And the first print?
Excellent match.

Then there were some other software tools for you:

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A color picker which will give you associative colors for the main colors in your photo. Your photo programs (photoshop,Lightroom, Aperture, ) are listed on a side bar to pick an image. Key colors are shown in a separate block. Then you can either match them by a Pantone chart to make sure you get the accurate rendition, pick a complimentary color for matting, or adding other colors in a layout. This is where your emailed Pantone Color Chart come into play.

And if you have to send a file to a client or a printing lab, the Digital Pouch is a tool that allows you to view color-accurate images on displays other than your own. The application allows you to load any number of images for transport. Once the images have been selected, it creates a Java photo viewer applet. The applet lets you know if the display you are viewing the images on has been profiled in the last thirty days. And it can be viewed on any machine-Windows,Mac or Linux.

To sum it up, calibration and profiling is something you really have to do if you are going to work in the digital photography world. Even if you shoot film and print digital. Even if your goal is to change the look of the original shot, you have to be able to translate that desired look anywhere you want, be it prints or publication.
I have worked with a bunch of these tools.
This is the simplest, full service (monitor and printer) calibration system, available today. And at under $500 USD, it’s an awesome price.
Just think of the ink, paper, time, and screaming fits you’ll save.

And we are giving one away. Right here at Photoinduced.com. Details in the NEWSLETTER this week, and then on the site.

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