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Thread: Colors on my screen not silimilar with prints done at shop!

  1. #1

    Default Colors on my screen not silimilar with prints done at shop!

    Hi, posting the question below for a colleague... maybe some of you can help? Thanks.

    I have a problem here which I hope "Photoshoppers" could help me out.

    I just got back some prints from shop of images that I took using my digital camera. Initially, I thought they were good, till I opened the files again at home. Then I suddenly realized the colors were disappointingly different. The images I see on screen were so much more vivid and also somewhat sharper and brighter than the prints.

    I used Adobe Gamma to calibrate my screen and also attach an ICC profile before I sent the images on a CD to the shop. Are these insufficient? Do I need to calibrate my screen to the shop's colors and brightness/contrast?

    If so, I just realized the unpleasant side of digital photography, despite its many advantages over films!!! I mean, what if I need to print from my home photo printer? Then I got to re-calibrate? And if I send to another shop, it's another re-calibration?! I also realized that the files I open in a different photo-editing software other than Photoshop on the same computer, eg ArcSoft2000, yielded slightly different colors. Also, if I open the files on another computer, the colors and contrast are different!!!

    Sigh.... Would appreciate any good help from all of u.

  2. #2


    Other than calibrating your screen and getting the ICC profiles, there are other factors that affect the colours of your print.

    1) Quality of the lab. Some labs offer a lower price but give you slipshod work. In the first place their system may not be calibrated to produce prints of the correct colour. Or maybe the staff are not well-trained. I'd recommend that you pay a bit more and go for Fujicolor prints. Either online, or visit labs like ColorLab Photofinishing, Soo Kee Color, etc. I've always printed from them and never had they disappointed me.

    2) Adjustment by the lab. Many a times, the lab will auto adjust your image for you, like increasing saturation/contrast and sharpening, according to what they consider to be appealing. When you send your next batch of pics for print, maybe you can request for no adjustment, and see if the results are better.

    This problem is not restricted to digitals only (as you said this is a drawback of digital). Labs' professionalism affect film prints as well. I had fantastic negative prints with nice colours and sharp edges from RGB color, and also superb negative prints from Colourlab photofinishing. But when I did bulk reprints of the same negatives at a neighbourhood lab, colours were washed out the the pictures are blur. Once I even had unforgiving red cast on most of my pictures, and the neighbourhood lab still charged me as tho it was normal!

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2002


    1. Though you have calibrated your screen, you will also need to calibrate the printing device to match what you see on your screen. This is verly unlikely if you send the file to the lab for printing. If you print at home using photo ink jet, you can then profile the printer to match your screen.

    2. The ICC profile you attached is for your screen, I guess. If that's the case, it does not help the printer at all. It might even make things worst if the printer apply the ICC profile for the screen onto the print itself, because both have very different colour space.

    3. If the lab you send your pictures for print can actually use ICC profiles you provide to do the print, you might actually be able to generate a profile for the printer using Profile Prism. Not sure if the format will be usable by the printer, but it is definitely worth a look if you intend to rely on lab printing instead of doing your own prints. However, even if you can profile the lab printer, everytime they change media or chemicals, the profile may have to be re-generated.

    4. If you want maximum control over the print colour, you best bet would be to do your own printing using a photo printer. Even printing from negative will yield different results when you change from one lab to another, or even printing at the same lab at different times (changes in media, chemical, operator etc). The "unpleasant side" of digital photography you have listed basically exists for film photography also.
    As complexity rises, precise statements lose meaning and meaningful statements lose precision.

  4. #4


    Thanks Roy. I've feedback to my friend. Hmm, I've learnt something new too. I saw the prints and images on the screen and I must say the difference is very obvious.

    I haven't done much printing of digital from a pro lab but I did encounter slight difference in colours at various shops or even at the same shop at a different time when developing negatives.

    My friend used a D30 to shoot and as most know, the RAW image is not sharp at all and contrast is lacking. The colors and USM have all been adjusted for these but judging from the prints, it's a far cry from the striking image I saw on screen.

    For negatives, which I'm more familiar with, I believe sharpness is hardly a problem if they are developed in a pro lab (and if lens is good of course). Yes, colours can differ but it does not usually err on the bad side...Even then, you don't have to waste precious time over the computer adjusting the colours, levels, contrast, USM and what not. These will all be done by the shop. Slides are even better, though very unforgiving if the exposure is off... WYSIWYG.

    So it does seem a hassle for digital prints in that sense I think.

    Tweek, my friend did the prints at Colour Lab...

    One question though...if I do want to share digital prints with my friends by giving them the burnt CDs, does it mean I have to tell them to calibrate according to what I have adjusted over at my screen if I want the colours to be as how I interprete? Wow, if that is so, I think it ain't fun!

  5. #5


    Just a relatively minor point. Do remember that the image you see on a monitor screen is a product of emitted light, whereas the image you see on a print is a product of reflected light. As such, it is often the case a print will look far less vibrant (or "striking", as you put it) than the corresponding on-screen image, even if the colour-matching is accurate. That's one of the advantages of slide film; the resultant display image is also created from emitted light (via a slide projector) and therefore tends to look more vibrant. Just something to keep in mind when evaluating prints vs screen images.


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