now established at our new address which is:
4 Marine Drive, Goring-By-Sea, Worthing, BN12
Our new telephone number is 01903 243909
The Joys of Digital Photography
The growth of digital
imaging over the past decade, and the availability of reasonably priced
digital cameras, has encouraged many more people to take up
photography. If you have converted to digital imaging then you will
have experienced the pleasure of instant previews of your images and of
being able to edit them using your computer.
However, you may also have experienced the frustration of printing your
images only to find that the colours on the print look nothing like the
colours that you saw when you took the shot. You may also have found
that no amount of "tweaking" in your image editing software will make
the colours right every time. If you have
experienced this frustration, then read on, or use the links below to
go straight to the relevant section.
How accurate is your
need a custom printer profile?
What is a custom printer
How much does it cost?
How do you order a profile?
Why optimise the media
What about the monitor,
the projector, the scanner..?
How accurate is your colour?
If your prints look like this ...
when they should look like this ...
or like this ....
when they should look like this ...
..... then your problems
may lie with your printer, and may be solved by a custom printer
Every time you print an image with your desktop printer, the driver
uses data called a profile, to "translate" the colours in your image to
something that should
give the correct colours on the final print. However, every printer is
different - even printers of the same type - and expecting to get
perfect colour from a mass-produced printer, using a generic profile
embedded in the printer driver, is unrealistic. This is especially true
if you are using third-party inks and papers; these invariably give a
different colour balance from that given by the manufacturer's ink and
You can't edit a print, so if the colours are wrong, you can only tear
it up, throw it in the bin, and try again. Printing is not an artistic
endeavour. It is simply a process, and for your own sanity you need to
get the process right, and make it consistent. An accurately profiled
monitor and printer will allow you to do just that. You will be able to
press "Print" knowing that what comes out of the printer will look like
the image you saw on the screen. The bin stays empty.
We can provide a custom profile quickly, and at very reasonable cost.
We offer full support - by phone or e-mail - to help you install and
use your profile with Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, or other
applications that support colour management. It's not a difficult
process, and in the unlikely event that the printer
profile doesn't improve your prints, we will give you a full refund.
Do you need a custom printer
It depends on how good (or bad) your prints really are. If you want to
give your printer a real work-out, don't judge it on one of your
favourite images. You have probably invested too much time and money in
your own image to be objective about it. Try printing the PDI test
image, as shown at the top of this page, instead. Download the image
unzip it and print it with your normal settings, but do not
edit or adjust the image in any way. The image has an
embedded profile (Adobe RGB) and you should leave the profile as it is.
Leave the print for a while for the ink to dry, then examine it
critically - very critically. Does the print look too dark, or too
light? Do the flesh tones look natural? Does the vertical grey gradient
on the right look smooth, with no bands or colour shifts? Can you see
all the shadow and highlight detail? If the print looks perfect, close
this window and forget about custom profiles - we don't want your
If, on the other hand, you see any "odd" colour effects, don't blame
the image file. The producers of this image have taken great care to
make sure that the colours are accurate and that shadows and highlights
are not clipped.
Any deficiencies that you see are almost certainly caused by your
printer, and the way that the ink interacts with the paper. Don't waste
time trying to adjust the colour balance, curves and levels in
Photoshop. Trial and error can be very expensive
and the adjustments may vary from print to print!
The best way to improve the quality is to use a custom printer profile.
you're not sure about the quality of your print and would like a known
good print to compare it with, we can provide a reference print. See
here for details.
PHOTO PRO magazine tested six A3 printers, from Canon, Epson and HP,
using manufacturers' ink and papers (November 2008 issue). They found
that all six gave better results when used with
custom profiles! Would your printer give better results with a custom
What is a custom printer profile?
A custom printer profile is based on science and measurement, not on
guesswork and trial and error. Using your printer/ink/paper combination
you print two special test images, containing 918 different coloured
patches (see below). We then use a calibrated spectrophotometer, the
industry standard Gretag Macbeth i1 Pro, to measure the colour of each
individual patch in your prints.
Special software generates the profile by comparing the measured
colours with the actual colours in the image file. The profile
describes the way in which your printer/ink/paper
combination interprets the RGB values representing
the colours in an image file.
The profile is unique to your printer/ink/paper combination.
profile is delivered to you as a computer file, either by e-mail or on
CDROM. Installing the profile takes just a few mouse clicks and you're
ready to go. When you print using the profile, Photoshop uses the data
in it to "correct" the colours produced by your
printer/ink/paper combination. Printing with a custom profile almost
always improves shadow and highlight detail, gives more pleasing flesh
tones, more neutral greys, and often gives a wider colour gamut.
much does it cost?
Prices depend on the number of profiles ordered, as follows:-
each for 2 - 4
each for 5 or more
Not that much when compared with the cost of throwing away prints
because the colour is "off"!
Profiles are delivered by E-mail, normally within 24 hours of receipt
of your printer targets. If you require profiles on CD ROM, please add
£3.00 for any number of profiles (P&P included)
How do you order a profile?
All you need to do is print the two A4 printer targets (see below) and
send them to us with a completed Order Form with your preferred payment
method. You can pay by cheque/Postal Order, or using any credit or
debit card through PayPal. If you pay by cheque we will still process
your order immediately - we don't wait for cheques to clear.
To print the targets we now recommend the use of a special utility
program produced by Adobe. It is called the "Adobe Color Printer
Utility" (ACPU) and can be downloaded free of charge from
the Adobe website
here (opens in
a new window). It was produced in response to changes in Photoshop CS5,
but works as a simple stand-alone application for printing profiling
targets. Versions are available for both PC and Mac platforms (Mac OS
from 10.6 onwards).
To download the
printer targets and instructions on how to print them with the ACPU,
click this link, or you can open the instructions from
our Downloads page. The ZIP-file contains the instructions, the printer
targets files and the order form.
If you want to profile a sublimation printing process see this page.
If you want to print the targets from your normal editing application
(including CS5) you can click
this link. You will also
find the relevant instructions on our Downloads page.
Printing? Dye-sub 9" x 6"??
We can generate profiles for CD/DVD printing or for dye-sub printers
that have a maximum print size of 8" x 6" or 9" x 6". We have special
targets for these printing methods which you can find on our Downloads
page. You will also find a special version of our Optimiser (see below)
for CD/DVD printing.
If you are using third-party paper with OEM inks e.g. Ilford paper with
Epson ink, we recommend that you find the optimum media setting before
printing the test charts. If you are using third-party paper and
third-party inks e.g. Permajet paper and Lyson ink, then we strongly
recommend that you find the optimum setting.
To find out why the media setting is important, and how you can find
the optimum, read on.
Why optimise the media
The quality of a photo print made on an inkjet printer depends on the
complex relationships between the printer, the ink, and the paper
(medium). Every printer offers a choice of settings to suit different
media, but the choices are almost always limited to those media sold by
the printer manufacturer. Each setting is intended to give the best
result for the particular medium selected - that means the best
compromise between colour accuracy, colour gamut, highlight and shadow
To achieve the best compromise for each medium, the driver may change
the amount of ink put down, the balance between different coloured
inks, and even the dot pattern used to "mix" the different colours. If
you are using ink and paper from your printer manufacturer, simply
select the paper from the list and you should be
onto a winner. However, if you are using third-party paper, or
third-party ink then all bets are off. It is likely that a third-party
paper will be quite different from an OEM paper of similar appearance,
and may need a completely different media setting for best results.
We have produced a special test image that you can use to examine the
effect of different media settings and to find the "best" for your
printer/ink/paper combination. It will take a few minutes of your time,
and the equivalent of a couple of A4 sheets of the paper being tested.
The reward can be a much better profile and better prints for years to
Download the test image and instructions on how to use it from the link
below. Alternatively, if you are unhappy about finding the optimum
setting using the subjective (visual) method, we can do it for you
using our colour measurement system. There is, of course, an extra
charge for this but you may well get better results from your chosen
ink/paper combination. If you would like more details of this service
please e-mail or phone.
If you want to see alternative methods to determine the optimum
setting, Keith Cooper's excellent "Northlight Images" web site has a
very useful discussion, and a real-life example of the importance of
this setting. Click on
this link to take a
look. (Opens in a new window.)
about the monitor, the projector, the scanner..?
Monitor calibration is probably the most important factor in producing
reliable colour from your digital images. If you have downloaded the
PDI test image and you have to adjust it to make it look right on your
monitor, then your monitor is probably at fault. Unfortunately, it is
not possible to calibrate a monitor by post, but we do offer an on-site
service for photographers in the South of England.
More and more
photographers are using data (digital) projectors, coupled with
laptops, to show their images. Almost all camera clubs now have
Projected Digital Image events. While digital projectors are capable of
very good quality, the default settings are not usually optimised for
colour accuracy. This is especially true of projectors aimed at the
home cinema market. We can calibrate and profile your digital projector
to ensure that your images are shown to their best advantage.
In one site visit we can
calibrate monitors, projectors and scanners, and carry out printer
profiling for multiple printer/paper/ink combinations. We can also give
general advice on how to optimise your workflow, and all at a
reasonable cost. Phone or e-mail to find out more.
If you want to
calibrate your monitor visually, then you can use
Adobe Gamma, but for a better result use Quick Gamma. However, for
serious work, a hardware calibration is considered essential. Visit
Norman Koren's very informative site from this link to
find out more.
(Opens in a new window.)
If you are happy
with the colour on your monitor but your prints look much darker or
lighter than the image on your monitor, it may be your monitor
brightness at fault. If you don't have a hardware calibrator to set
brightness, try the checks described on this