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Archive 2011 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411
  
 
Me_XMan
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


I'm printing this photo at Costco using their Noritsu 3411 ICC color profile.
I'm seeing a big difference against sRGB as you can tell from this pic.
Is that because their printer's color gamut is not as wide as sRBG?




Dec 12, 2011 at 02:03 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


What do you mean by "printing using their profile"? Converting to profile on the file then printing?

Anything you see on screen is at best a simulation of what the printer can produce. What you should do is compare a print made from a file created with convert to profile vs. one which you just send the file in your editing space. You'll be able to more effective evaluate the test if you use a shot of a subject holding a color reference chart like the MacBeth ColorChecker.

The Costco printers are not profile aware they just print the file values per the printer's calibration profile similar to you sending a file to a printer connected to your computer and let it manage the color. I've compared printing files converted to the printer profile with just printing my ProPhotoRGB editing space file and get more saturation with the latter.

You also need to tell the operator to turn off auto correction when printing the flies. Take a look at these printing tips: http://www.drycreekphoto.com/icc/using_printer_profiles.htm They do the profiles for Costco printers.




Dec 12, 2011 at 03:11 AM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


XMan - What you're seeing is perfectly normal. The gamut of those Noritsu printers is really quite limited compared to current inkjet technology, and that spectrum is one where it really shows. If the profile is a good one, and your monitor is well calibrated your on screen preview should be pretty close to what you get in print, particularly when printing to a printer that has limited gamut. I don't know what the exact red is in those uniforms, but it feels on a gut level that your original might be a tad on the bright side to begin with, sort of exasperating your color shift. You're always going to dealing with a trade-off between saturation and detail with colors like that, and you might just find that dropping the saturation a bit will yield a better looking print with more detail in those reds and be more pleasing to the eye and feel more lifelike, whatever the hell that means.

Chuck - If, like you say, the Noritsu, can't use profiles, and is only passing whatever RGB is gets, straight to the paper, your ProPhoto files should actually look desaturated compared to sRGB - because the RGB numbers for saturated colors are so much lower for a given color in ProPhoto than in sRGB. There must be something else going on here that you left out.

The only way I would EVER print to a Costco Noritsu, and I did run my own custom profiles of the Culver City Costco back when they had a print department, would be to convert to a good known custom profile for that printer, make sure that the Costco people had just run a calibration on the print to bring it into spec, and have them print without any of their auto adjustments to screw up the color. The key is that you have to print the profile target just after the printer has been calibrated and linearized and make any subsequent prints the same way. That would pretty much be the procedure for any of the digital chemical based printers at any lab you might find. Even so, you do get what you pay for, and Costco is not a custom lab, so it's hard sometimes to get them to cooperate with what might seem like custom requests.

If it's price or quantity you're after, you can't beat Costco, but if you want more control and better overall quality with more saturated colors, today's inkjets are not only affordable, but they make damned nice looking prints as well.



Dec 12, 2011 at 08:11 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


Peter Figen wrote:
Chuck - If, like you say, the Noritsu, can't use profiles, and is only passing whatever RGB is gets, straight to the paper, your ProPhoto files should actually look desaturated compared to sRGB - because the RGB numbers for saturated colors are so much lower for a given color in ProPhoto than in sRGB. There must be something else going on here that you left out.


You are assuming I was comparing print to monitor. I wasn't. My previous comment related to comparing two prints of the same file, one made by converting to the machine profile, the other from the unconverted file. In that situation if the converted print max saturation doesn't match the managed one the fault lies in the profile not matching actual conditions.

As you opine, the QA at Costco and skill level of the operators vary, but I factor that into my decision to print there. I agree is not the ideal lab, but then not everyone's requirements are as critical as yours are. It's nice to be able to do your Christmas cards on-line at 9 PM and get 50 of them, with envelopes, the next morning at 10:30AM for $15

When I was running offset printing plants for a living every proof and production press sheet had measurable color control targets and visible indicators for press variables such as dot gain and slur. Whenever I print at Costco do something similar by either embedding an image of my test target into the middle copy of the print I'm making as a control or printing to the next size with a 128,128, 128 expanded canvas on the image with the control targets embedded into that border. Then when I get the prints I can easily tell how well the printer and processor is calibrated that day. The test prints allow me to communicate the problems, if any, to the operator by showing him a good reference print of the target.

Mostly I print portraits and part of my shooting workflow is setting Custom WB and shooting a test shot of the subject holding the target...







By doing the technical part of capture "by the numbers" that is to say recording a full range of detail with neutral WB the results I get, for better or for worse, are the best my camera can produce with it's default settings. The reproduction of the MacBeth target isn't an exact match side-by-side with it appearance on the monitor and when I print that control file in the same batch as the final portraits the target in the print doesn't exactly match the original target either. But the that really doesn't matter in practical terms for that type of work. What matters is that the camera exposure control winds up revealing a full range of detail in shadows and highlights on both final JPG screen images and the prints, and that both the monitor and print images stay neutral. The MacBeth target test image makes it easy to see and measure both with the only measurement tools I have nowadays: the eye dropper measurement tool and by eyes by side-by-side comparison with a known reference.

I put a good deal of trust in the fact that the profile based color management will control the gray balance over the tonal scale, but also have a realistic expectation that the colors are somewhat of a moving target between gamuts in the middle values due to the physical differences in the gamuts. The 3D wireframes, while not a precision instrument, provide a "ballpark" understanding of how different colors will change between my monitor and the print. I have an iMac and here's how it compares to the Lustre profile at my local Costco..







As with most monitor > printer comparisons some colors are less saturated on the print, others like reds are even more saturated, which works out nicely for the Christmas cards, when the full gamut of the printer is utilized by letting it manage the color...







My goal is maxing out that gamut, relying on the color management to sort out the rest as best it can give the difference between the gamut sizes and shapes. I trust the color management technology will do that, by understand the physical limitations of the process and device the means to monitor them via my test image protocol.

My personal needs are not that critical with respect to color, but let's say I was selling clothing on line. In terms of my workflow making the prints I'd want a wide-gamut monitor because it would, with experience of actual printing results under my belt, help me during editing, eliminating the need to make as many test prints. So in that sense montitor > printer match is desirable. But in the case of clothing I'd want the color of the clothes in the photo to match the actual clothing in the image the customer sees in the web or print catalog to make the selection.

That creates a bit of a dilemma because I must assume the potential client will be using an sRGB monitor and printing an offset catalog will shift the colors. That introduces the potential for a person buying the print or pair of pants, comparing them to the on-line image and being disappointed when they don't match and returning them.

One way clothing and other retailers deal with that problem is by starting with a palette of colors that both an sRGB monitor and SWOP CYMK gamut can both reproduce with colorimetric accuracy. In other words the colors in the colored SWOP gamut which don't hang outside of the sRGB wireframe below...







There are orange and cyan colors the monitor can reproduce better, and greens the press can print better but the "safe" colors are those where the two gamuts overlap. What they do then is create a press printed swatch book of all those colors and use it to guide the selection of the fabrics used for the clothing. The color is managed from the lowest common denominator the colors monitor and offset can match backwards to the fabric dyes. When managed that way the person buying a pair of green pants on-line or from a catalog will not be disappointed when they get them and they don't match. Not everyone manages their color that way, but those who do probably have a lower rate of customer returns.

Color management for photography is much simpler. All you really need to do to make the color look "real" is capture and reproduce a full tonal range and keep the neutral grays R=G=B in the files on screen and neutral on the prints per the "recipe" for grays in the printer profile. In that regard Costco works for me for my photos. But I buy my clothes off the rack where I can judge the color in person, both under the store lights and over by a window in the daylight



Dec 12, 2011 at 02:46 PM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


Chuck,

I'm still confused. How exactly are you sending your files to the Noritsu?

"You are assuming I was comparing print to monitor. I wasn't. My previous comment related to comparing two prints of the same file, one made by converting to the machine profile, the other from the unconverted file. In that situation if the converted print max saturation doesn't match the managed one the fault lies in the profile not matching actual conditions."

Well, it depends on which one you converted and which you didn't, assuming you're still comparing sRGB to ProPhoto. Why wouldn't you be comparing the print to the monitor? That's the whole idea of using calibration and profiles - in order to get what you're actually seeing. Your notion of going only maximum saturation is wrong. You almost never want that. What you want is a print that not only matches your screen as close as possible, but one that looks good too. And if you're printing two copies of the same file from the same color space - ProPhoto - you should be seeing much lower saturation on the ProPhoto in the non-profiled version.

And what does this side trip reminiscing about offset days gone by have to do with printing at Costco? It seems like a smokescreen and a distraction to make up for some sort of misunderstanding about the basics of color management.




Dec 13, 2011 at 01:40 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


Peter Figen wrote:
Why wouldn't you be comparing the print to the monitor? That's the whole idea of using calibration and profiles - in order to get what you're actually seeing. Your notion of going only maximum saturation is wrong. You almost never want that. What you want is a print that not only matches your screen as close as possible, but one that looks good too. And if you're printing two copies of the same file from the same color space - ProPhoto - you should be seeing much lower saturation on the ProPhoto in the non-profiled version.


Peter you never seem to understand what I write, possibly because you don't read it carefully.

When I view a 255,0,0 red on screen I expect that red to be the brightest red the calibrated monitor can produce. I then trust the the engineering of the color management progress will render all the less saturated colors in a way that reproduces the photo the way I saw the scene in person.

When I print that same file I expect the 255,0,0 red to be mapped by the printer to the most saturated combination of Y+M it can produce. I then trust the the engineering of the color management progress will render all the less saturated colors in a way that reproduces the photo the way I saw the scene in person.

I view photography on a technical level as an engineered process designed to produce a nominal result. If I put an object in face in front of a camera and exposed it to fit scene-to-sensor and get the color balance neutral indoors and outdoors at mid-day the resulting photo, with no special manipulation, produces a facsimile reproduction of that face that that seems real on screen, on a Costo print, or an ink jet print.

With respect to making that technical engineered process work nominally there are only three basic requirements: 1) correct exposure (i.e. fit scene to sensor); 2) neutral WB, and 3) you don't f*ck it up based on what you think you see.

The weakest link is the human perception process.... Stare at this for awhile..







and you'll swear the lines are magenta. You may think you see dots at the intersections. It's a classic optical illusion that occurs because the rods of the eye are sensitive to green and get fatigued. The same thing happens to your color judgement if you sit in front of a monitor looking at an outdoor scene. Your monitor might cost $3,000 and be calibrated perfectly but your brain isn't. It is the weakest link in the process.

That's why I don't trust what I see on the monitor, I trust the numbers and try to get them "right" at capture. From that point on I trust the color management process to juggle the numbers, as needed, and reproduce the color on whatever device I view it on in a way that look real.

Look at it another way....

If I set Custom WB off a gray card when shooting a studio portrait and expose for a full range of tone it will will not look as good as is can get on the monitor, it will only look as good as the monitor calibration profile allows it to. It would look better by comparison if I were to crank up the brightness but I don't do that because, why? Because I want the monitor to predict the contrast range of the print.

But what happens if I open that file on the monitor and it seem so have a magenta bias? One of three things could be the problem: 1) Custom WB in the camera didn't work correctly; 2) the monitor isn't calibrated correctly, or 3) my eyes haven't recovered from looking at that green square yet.

How do I find out which is the case? I measure the gray card in the test image with the eye dropper tool. If the RGB values are correct I know that the file and Custom WB is the baseline I should trust, not my monitor or my eyes.

The reason people struggle so much with color management is that they don't manage the process starting with capture by the simple expedient of using a gray card to set Custom WB and including it in a test shot then they make all their critical judgement solely by eye based on what is seen on the monitor. I don't and that's perhaps why you don't understand me.

I'm a technician first, artist second. When I shoot a portrait I expose for a full range of detail and set neutral WB as a baseline to get the technical part under PREDICTABLE AND MEASURABLE control. At the start of each sessions and lighting set-up I'll set Custom WB off a gray card then have the subject hold the target shown below. I would have already set the lighting ratio to record a full range of tone.







When I open the RAW file in ACR it is correctly exposed and has neutral WB, the two basic technical requirements for faithful facsimile reproduction. I typically don't touch the Temperature (blue/yellow) or Tint (Green/Magenta) sliders because color is R=G=B neutral out of camera.

Instead I use the camera calibration tab in ACR shown above. Abobe when adding a camera to ACR shoots a MacBeth target and duplicates the various styles include in cameras. What the styles do is shift colors without affecting gray balance . Including the MacBeth chart on the test target makes the color shifts easier to see.

I can take a wide range of "artistic license" with the color rendering with Styles without affecting the gray balance in the neutral content as would be the case with Temperature / Tint changes.







Beyond the pre-defined styles I can select any one of them and customize it, again without affecting the color balance in the neutrals so critical in the perception of overall color balance. Unlike landscapes and scenics you can't take much "artistic license" with skin tones. Even the "Portrait" style is a bit to saturated in red for my tastes.

For that part of the color adjustment process I do rely on what I see on the monitor, but the inclusion of the gray card in the image and the fact that I make the alterations to my color in a way that doesn't alter the neutrals gives me a visual reference "anchor" for my perception. If you don't understand what I mean by that go back and stare at the green boxes again

So I edit to make the image look the way I want it to look on screen. What about printing?

I know that even Costco's printers can print some colors with more saturation than my monitor and I also know that there are some colors on screen even a high end ink jet can match. So knowing that do I want my prints to match my screen? Heck no.

What I want on my prints is the same full range of tone I see on screen managed by the color management to fit the FULL GAMUT OF THE PRINTER. If the color management works correctly I know the some colors will change: some will be less saturated but others like those containing a lot of yellow, will be more saturated.

Do you expect a Costco print to match an ink jet print? It is physical reality that the gamuts are different between printers. So why do you think it is possible or important to match screen and printer in absolute terms?

It's not possible and its not really necessary because color management creates the perception of sameness and it works quite well until you start comparing device output. A screen image of a blonde in a red Ferrari will always look better in person than on in a photo on a monitor and better on the monitor than on an ink jet print, and better on an ink jet print than one from Costco.

But they will all create the same reaction in the mind of the viewer.



Dec 14, 2011 at 12:57 AM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


Well, actually Chuck, I do read what you write, which should be a huge compliment, but there are so many holes that it leaves me asking more questions.

You say that Noritsu printers can't use profiles so you just send the files to the printer and trust that the color management takes care of the rest. Okay. You gave an example earlier of sending sRGB and ProPhoto RGB versions of the same image to Costco. If, as you say, the printers there are profile blind, how do they manage to know what the source profile is supposed to be? Are you converting to a Costco profile before letting them at it or are you sending them files in your RGB working space, tagged or untagged?



Dec 14, 2011 at 01:59 AM
 

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cgardner
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


I've tried both ways. RGB editing space and converting to the profile on the same file.


Dec 14, 2011 at 03:13 AM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


And the one where the ProPhoto file was undersaturated was which way?


Dec 14, 2011 at 04:48 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


Peter Figen wrote:
And the one where the ProPhoto file was undersaturated was which way?


No way...

This was the sequence of events...

1) I edited our Christmas card shot in ProPhoto in as I normally do. I made a reference print on my inkjet, an 8/C HP7960. An old printer but one of the better small ones.

2) For printing at Costco I converted the file to the printer profile for the machine at my local Costco downloaded from DryCreek. The results compared to the reference print and other prints I'd had made there was disappointing.

3) For comparison I reprinted the photo again without converting to profile, just submitting the file still in the ProPhoto editing space and the results off the Costco printer were better and closer to the ink jet reference print.

So where you are misunderstanding is that it wasn't the ProPhoto format print that was desaturated it was the one converted to the printer profile before printing that was. It should have worked but for some reason it didn't, but I have no way of knowing why: machine / processor calibration, operator error, etc.

Since then when needing prints from Costco I've just used the ProPhoto files and gotten acceptable results. I've never done a controlled test where I've taken the same RAW file and worked through four separate sRGB, AdobeRGB, ProPhotoRGB and Costco printer profile converted workflows and printed all files four together in a batch for comparison but I may do that in the near future.



Dec 14, 2011 at 01:20 PM
Peter Figen
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


Because there is such a huge difference in the nature of sRGB and Noritsu RGB as compared to ProPhoto, they MUST have been seeing and using your embedded profiles or your ProPhoto skin tones would have looked like crap. That they were a bit more saturated than the converted to profile versions is not surprising, given that you have no clue as to the accuracy of the profile you used, or the consistency of either the machine calibration or the chemistry line.


Dec 14, 2011 at 05:08 PM
cgardner
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


Peter Figen wrote:
.... given that you have no clue as to the accuracy of the profile you used, or the consistency of either the machine calibration or the chemistry line.


I'm certainly not saying Costco is the best place to print, but will you print me 50 christmas cards with envelopes for $15 on your ink jet? If so I'll send you my order next year.

FWIW - For this year's card I did them on line and just uploaded a file converted to sRGB and they looked fine



Dec 14, 2011 at 11:41 PM
jchin
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Printing at Costco Noritsu 3411


As far as I know, Costco assumes all files are sRGB. That is what the tech said at the desk.


Dec 15, 2011 at 04:15 AM





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