I print out many of my photos in 4x6 to give to relatives, or larger sizes to frame. I'm usually not happy with the way they print. I've tried printing at Walmart, Walgreens, RiteAid, and a local photo shop (these are about my only options where I live). I have found that Walmart is by far the best, even much better than the local photo shop at about a third of the cost. I ran one test last year where I had the same prints done at all four places, and Walmart was the only one that had rich colors as in the digital photos. However, they often come out too dark to the point that they are unacceptable to me for framing purposes.
So how do these print shops do their printing? Is there some algorithm they run through to adjust colors, brightness, etc? Is there anything that can be done in PSE (I use version 10) to lighten up photos in a separate copy that would be used for printing only - i.e. I am happy with the digital copy, but would like to make a copy used for printing only that might offset some of the darkening done by the print shops. Any other advice on how to get decent prints?
Below is one such photo that I like, but is too dark and not of the same quality when printed. I usually apply several adjustments in PSE including shadows, highlights, midtones, levels, contrast, sharpening, and resizing to boost resolution to 300 without resampling, The photo in the link is 800x600 pixels, although the ones I print are 4000x3000.
It’s a common problem. Usually because of PC monitors being back lit and often set very bright. So the representation on the PC will be different compared with on photo paper. Nice image by the way.
Most labs use the sRGB color space; so make sure you are saving your print copy with that profile. If you view your image on screen by getting down on your knees, and looking up at your monitor rather than from eye level, you will get an indication of how dark the image really is.
I always make separate copies for print with an overall levels adjustment and with sharpening as the final edit, based on each different print size. I would suggest for this image moving the middle pointer to 1.75 but you may need to experiment with different settings. Make a test batch and compare them when you get them back from Walmart to see which works best and use that in future.
Hey, thanks Jon! Your screen print was helpful since I almost exclusively use Auto-Levels. Moving that middle pointer in Adjust Levels looks like the way to lighten (or darken) the whole image.
I am using the ICC Profile - sRGB on the Save screen. Never even looked at that parameter before, but it has a checkbox (which is checked) and sRGB is the only option.
Just one followup question and I should be all set:
- So the print copy should have a final levels adjustment plus additional sharpening based on print size - what would you suggest for sharpening parameters, say for a 4x6 print and an 8x10 print? I have always used the Unsharp Mask for sharpening, and this photo has 70-2-0 for Amount-Radius-Threshold. I'm always a little paranoid about how I sharpen because the pros always say that the beginners over-sharpen.
Your sharpening settings look fine. I personally tend to keep radius between 1.0 and 1.5 but often push up the amount slider to +90%
It’s really personal taste. Just do it by eye. But check the preview window at 100% magnification and move the preview around to ensure no halos.
You will need slightly more sharpening if printing on matt paper than glossy paper because matt paper absorbs more ink.
I'll try those sharpening settings sometime and compare them with what I commonly use. This has been very helpful for me, and so will mark it as "Correct". But your last sentence is also interesting and brings up another question: I've always used Matte printing because Glossy printing is available for home delivery only, and I'd rather pick up in the store. Do you prefer glossy or matte, and does one give better quality print? Guess I should try an order with both types to compare. Thanks again.
Matt paper is generally regarded as the #1 presentation media. If you are going to make enlargements to hang on a wall or show in a gallery, its perfect. There will be virtually no reflection from windows or indoor lighting. Matt paper also produces fantastic results in black & white.
Glossy is great for vivid colors, and a wide tonal range, especially family and brightly dressed kids. The coating will stand up to long-life usage although cracks can appear from hard wear or bending.
With glossy paper, fingerprints can be wiped away with a soft cloth, whereas matt prints usually need professional restoration.
It’s a good idea to do a comparison test, but think about how your prints will be used/viewed.