Monitor Calibration and other questions

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by BekahAura, Jul 6, 2010.

  1. BekahAura

    BekahAura TPF Noob!

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    Ok I've decided to use Zenfolio for online proofing and I'm contemplating using Mpix as the lab to order my prints from.

    I've read all the information on the Mpix website about monitor calibration and soft proofing. The software they suggest for calibration (x-rite i1display 2) is pretty expensive, as are most of the calibration systems I've looked up. Do all calibration systems work the same way? I'm perplexed because I'm wondering how software can calibrate my monitor to print at a specific lab... I'm pretty confused about that.

    Another issue I have is that I currently work on a laptop. I know that I will have to invest in a good monitor sooner rather than later. The x-rite i1display2 software claims to be able to calibrate laptop screens, is this possible? Can I get away with only using my laptop for now and still get prints that come close to what I see on my screen?

    Purchasing both a monitor and calibration software will be a big expense for me right now... although I know how important it is. I have two other options when it comes to printing at Mpix, but I'm not sure if either of these options will be worthwhile when it comes down to the final print.

    1) Mpix does offer to color correct photos automatically, does anyone know if I can trust such a task to this lab?

    2) Mpix offers a cheap calibration package that includes a print of several images along with a disc with those same images so that I can adjust my screen settings myself. Will this work even half as good as calibration?

    Of course these other two options would be only temporary, I'm wondering if any of you have experience using these techniques.

    If anyone could recommend other calibration software I'd be grateful. Any other suggestions are greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I'm sure that our local color expert will be around to give a proper answer, but I'll fill in until then :er:

    The calibration device measures the output of your screen and creates a profile to match the output color to what it should look like. The idea being that if you are properly calibrated, and the lab is calibrated, you should both be on the same standard and end up with accurate prints.

    It's not a grantee that you will have completely accurate results. I've talked to several photographers who have tried different labs, and gotten different results.

    There are several different options for calibration software & hardware. A more affordable (and rather popular) one is the Spyder from DataColor. I think the latest version is the Spyder III. There are a few different software packages, from Express to Pro, you can compare the features on their web site.

    Most monitors are not optimized for calibration, so with most systems, the calibration will create a profile that is loaded by the video card. This isn't ideal because you have the computer telling the video card to correct for the monitor. It's much better to have a monitor with it's own Look Up Table, so that the profile is loaded directly into the monitor. But if that type of monitor is out of reach, the other option is still a lot better than nothing.

    Depends how picky you are. I'd guess that they are probably pretty good. You could also try their Professional branch, Miller's.

    I'd suggest that is more for testing your calibration, it isn't really a way of doing your own calibration, because doing it by eye, comparing it to prints, is a terrible way to calibrate.

    And yes, a laptop screen is terrible for calibration.
     
  3. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Read the reply from Garbz in this short thread: http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/digital-discussion-q/208971-big-picture-calibration-question.html

    1. Mpix will not reprint for color issues, any photos they were not allowed to color correct before printing because the client checked the "Do Not Color Correct" option.

    2. A definate maybe. If you don't have a fairly recent version of Photoshop CS, you can't soft proof.

    For being able to know, in advance, you will be getting high quality prints, $200 is not all that much money. In fact, it's less than a decent kit lens.
     
  4. ZenLaura

    ZenLaura TPF Noob!

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    QUOTE: 1) Mpix does offer to color correct photos automatically, does anyone know if I can trust such a task to this lab?

    I just want to clear up one thing here. Color correction is not an automated process at Mpix. It is executed by highly trained technicians. If selected, color, contrast, and sharpness will be manually adjusted to achieve the best tonal response and color density.

    As a photographer myself I did not want this option at first but over time and lots of tests I found that allowing them to color correct is rarely a problem. If it ever is, they reprint the order immediately and send it out FedEx Next Day.

    Not too shabby! :sexywink:
     
  5. RegRoy

    RegRoy TPF Noob!

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    So if you are going to let mpix.com calibrate the color can you skip the soft proofing or is their adjustment on top of your soft proofing?
     
  6. OrionsByte

    OrionsByte No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    A few years ago I attended a wedding at Lake Tahoe, and a few hours before the wedding I drove up to a vista point I knew about to take a panoramic photo of the lake. I set the photo in the center of a pure black background (digitally), and added text like the couple's names and their wedding date. The idea was to make it look a bit like a poster you'd see at a travel agency or something, and I was going to give it to the couple as a wedding present when they returned from their honeymoon.

    I sent it to Mpix to print as a 20x30, and chose to have them make corrections. The print I got back was dreadfully overexposed... it seemed pretty obvious to me that they had let the computer do some sort of auto-balancing that got fooled by the fact that most of the "picture" was black.

    A "highly trained technician" would have noticed.

    The story ends well, though - I contacted them and they sent a new print immediately, at no charge, and it looked worlds better.

    So maybe things have changed at Mpix since that incident (and btw I've used them several times since), but I'm not conviced that all of their corrections are done by real people. ;)
     
  7. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    ANY print lab can goof.

    What counts is how they respond after the goof is brought to their attention.

    It's really people and always has been. Been there, seen that.
     
  8. BekahAura

    BekahAura TPF Noob!

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    Thanks to everyone who replied! I guess I'll never know how good Mpix is unless I try them out. I wanted to be sure that those of you who have used this lab have had good experiences with them. I will send them some of my unedited files and see how well their color correction is. If it's decent, I will forget about doing color correction myself until I can scrounge up the money for a monitor and calibration. (I have to buy a car this month too so that is my priority now).

    I'm guessing from searching around the forums that Garbz is the expert that Big Mike was speaking of. I've learned a lot reading his posts on calibration and monitors. So now I know I need a monitor with either a PVA or IPS screen. I now partially understand why a lookup table would be beneficial. If the calibration profile has to work through the video card will it be a major problem? Is it possible I will need a better video card?

    I'd like to stay under $500 when I buy a new monitor. I found this one: Viewsonic - VP2365wb 23" Widescreen Professional - VP2365WB

    But I've never heard of the brand so I'm wary about it. What do you think? If anyone has suggestions for a monitor within my price range I'd love to check em out.

    Keith,

    I was aware that Mpix won't be held responsible for prints if I don't allow them to color correct. I'm hoping I will be able to color correct myself soon, but I'm pretty nervous about Mpix sending the prints directly to clients when I never get to see them. I was planning on having a lot of test prints sent to me before I decide to do this. This is what I'd like to do in the long run, but I'm glad that with zenfolio I can always decide to fill the orders myself from any lab I choose. That's my backup plan.

    I'm curious, what do you do? Do you color correct yourself or do you let Mpix do the corrections for you?
     
  9. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    I do all of my own color management.

    All my client print products come back to me first, regardless where they get printed. I check them over before they go on to the client.

    I frequently hand deliver a client's order.

    If you are serious about making money from your photography, forget online proofing. It is not an effective way to generate print sales.
     

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