Color calibration for display and prints


posted on 20th of october, 2008

Color calibration is important to ensure that what we are seeing in our images are the same as what others see in their computer. Even though we can't control other people's display, if we don't take the effort of calibrating either using software or hardware based, we will never know what the other people will see. At least by controlling and calibrating on our side, for those who are calibrated, they will see what we aspire in the images.

To me, this is also true for image submission for dreamstime. What I see is not the same as the reviewers of dreamstime which causes some of my images to be rejected. Sometimes, an uncalibrated display can hide issues with the images that is not seen in the display. I've got a few rejection because of this. So it is important that we ensure that our display is calibrated to have the same level playing field as the reviewer.

To share my experience regarding this topic, I made some prints of a few photos of my family. When I was setting the photos on my computer, they look nice but when the prints come back, it is quite dark.

My first response to this was to calibrate my monitor to the prints, but then another problem was that now my monitor is out of whack.

I then bought a hardware calibrator from datacolor and calibrated my display. Actually, my requirement was the simplest and cheapest hardware that I can get my hands on. Since my friend is using this one, I just buy the same thing.

To my suprise, the old calibration done using software was not that far off as compared to the hardware.

After asking around, I realize that I also need to calibrate the prints. There are a few ways to do this.

1. Get a calibrator that can do print calibration. This can be a bit expensive but it is worth it if you are printing your own photos. This will give you the best result at a cost.

2. Create a color profile using a software calibration to match the print. This is not as accurate since it is done visually.

3. There are companies that can build the color profile for you. This requires that you print the images that they send and then send them back for them to create the color profile. Unfortunately, I do not know which companies does this but heard it was about $50.

4. Get the color profile for the printer that the photo labs uses.

For now, I use #4 because I was able to know and find out the printer that the photo lab is using. I got the color profile from www.drycreekphoto.com which has a collection of color profiles from around the world. Then I use adobe photoshop color proofing to view what would be the outcome of the images before sending it out. It is close but not exact but it's good enough for me.


Since I am mostly keeping my images online and not sending them for printing, I am happy with #4. Until that change, I won't invest in the more expensive color calibration tool.

My next step is to learn how to tweak the color profile so that #4 will be better matched.

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Photo credits: Quentin Bargate, Drbouz, Marzanna Syncerz, Mellimage, Pavle Marjanovic.

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