Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Digital images, color, and color printers

Most of us non-professional photographers trust our digital cameras to do the work for us, using the automatic settings for exposure, white balance, and color.

It works quite well; in my case, the algorithms that the Nikon photo engineers devised for my trusty D100 camera (now getting a bit weathered, but it's a workhorse) are excellent. Set on sRGB, I get realistic natural color in the images on my monitor, and hopefully on yours. I may crop an image or tweak an exposure, but otherwise don't do much aside from resizing before I upload and post photos..

But actually printing photos, at least in a non-professional way, is a whole different beast. I haven't printed many photos, but normally the home version of color printers coordinates well with my Mac, too. The old HP printer did, and the current Epson printer does, just fine, although both were/are slow. And, they chew up ink cartridges rapidly (and I mean rapidly) on high-quality settings.

But my foray into testing local print shops (to print out 150+ pages of photos arranged in pdf files) has been informative (for my gardening companion's final book ms submission). Who knew how color could vary among color printers (really color copiers) and the computers that drive the photo process? I had wildly varying results, from blown-out colors to yellowish tinges to dark images. Yikes.

I've had good success with image quality when I've produced interpretive signs with page layout programs on professional imagesetters, but obviously the color printing market is different.

I won't go through the comparisons or the vendors, but I'm returning to printing out the color proofs on the home Epson printer (a dinky home version, not a photo-quality one). I can at least print out realistic color for what I need. Even if it will take multiple cartridges!


  1. My memory fails me> I found a great source for Epson ink online a few years ago it was the web sites own brand and it worked great I got 5 ink cartridges for the price of one in the office supply store. My epson is so own and has been so little used It does not print well anymore.

    Does your D100 do blues. purples and reds right on? I've yet to find a camera that can get all the colors right all the time.

  2. Randy,
    I've just finished printing all of Tim's book photos on our Epson C120 home printer. The cartridges were wildly expensive (I bought Epson brand instead of the Rapid Refill ones I normally use). But, the prints look great and the color fidelity matching to what we seen on the screen is excellent.

    I'm not sure that the D100 has excellent color all of the time, but it does pretty well. Tim's Nikon is also good, but the translation from download to screen to print is where the challenges lie.

    Your images look great onscreen at your website, so you're doing just fine!



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