Summer holidays are over and autumn blues are starting to kick in. This is the time of year to reflect on beautiful summer moments and to spend more time inside again. It is also the time of year to start thinking about photobooks or large format prints, conveying the most precious summer moments and keeping these memories either for oneself or having parents or grand-parents join in and share these memories. I have to admit that although I am looking back fondly at summer, there is still a part of me enjoying the colorful splendor of autumn.
A great variety of print products
At this point, there is a decision to be made around which type of photo product to pick in order to present my favourite summer pictures. There is such a great variety of magnificent print products to choose from these days that I feel inspired every time I face this decision. Everything is available: different photo books, panoramic formats or large format prints on canvas, Alu-Dibond or acrylic printings. This is just awesome! It doesn’t matter whether I “just” want to keep my memories on paper or I have a more artistic approach; as an enthusiast photographer, there seems to be the perfect print product for everyone.
A long and winding road
As I said before, today’s photo products and services are breathtaking. The quality standard certainly rises when you leave the world of memories and embark on artistic paths, which are usually accompanied by the willingness to spend more money on large format prints or photo books. That being said, I find that mainly enthusiast photographers end up editing their pictures. They change color and contrast, sharpen their images, elaborate details from shadows or simply alienate them one way or another. There are a few basic rules one should adhere to in order to avoid disappointment or anger. Frustration with a print result oftentimes depends on the motive itself and to what extent I am happy to tolerate color deviations from display and final print. In order to avoid frustration and save money in the end, I would like to point out a few hints on what you should consider when editing photos and viewing them on your monitor.
Rule #1: The color on the monitor should match the color in the image file
If it is important to me that the color or the color mood of my picture on the monitor and later in a photo book or as a large format print “comes across” identically. I will need to ensure that the colors displayed on my monitor match those that are actually saved in the image file. When I do not take care of that, it is as if I am judging color through colored sunglasses. There are always nuances that make a difference between a beautiful blue sky and a sky that tilts more towards cyan, for example. The remedy for this problem is a simple monitor calibration.
Rule #2: Adjust the brightness of your monitor
Disappointment is huge when the photo book created with much love and dedication or the expensive home-made fine art print turns out too dark. Oftentimes, the cause is a monitor with a factory default setting that is too bright. What is good enough for word processing or internet browsing is by far not good enough when preparing images for printing. Prints generally have a contrast range that is 10 times lower than that of a monitor. Therefore, one should use the monitor to simulate the physical printing conditions and dramatically reduce the brightness of the display. It is best to use Datacolor’s Spyder5PRO or Spyder5ELITE to get this job done, since these tools are capable of measuring and adjusting the display’s brightness and color.
And here’s another tip: If you follow this rule, you’ll soon find that the monitor looks a bit pale and doesn’t display bright and vivid colors. Its brilliance and blaze of color seems to be gone. It is quite likely that you end up fine-tuning your display’s brightness again, simply because you also want to enjoy your holiday pictures on screen or revert to using the monitor for the purpose of text editing or simply for internet surfing. As a result, you will need to recalibrate your display, at least in terms of brightness, whenever you use it as a professional tool to edit your images. A musician does exactly the same. Even if he owns an expensive classical guitar, he tunes it every time he plays it. Although if the guitar is “pre-calibrated” from the factory, it is always at least slightly out of tune.
Rule #3: Ambient light
And finally, an obvious hint. Darken the room you use for image processing and make sure that no direct light shines on your monitor. In addition, make sure that the lighting conditions are always the same and thus are easily replicated.
If you follow these rules, there is no reason left to not achieve great results. When things go wrong, it is usually in your hands and not the service provider’s fault. As such, a properly calibrated monitor is vital in order to properly prepare images for printing. Spyder5PRO from Datacolor is the right device to set both brightness and color on a metrological basis – after all, your monitor is the window to your digital holiday pictures.
Oliver Mews, Datacolor Color Management Expert and photographer3 tips for preparing holiday pictures properly