Part of running a successful printing operation is setting clear parameters for the types of files you’re willing to receive and print. Renée Besta, professional printmaker and photographer, shares insight into how to educate the customer on file transferring, avoiding embedded profiles that disrupt an efficient workflow, and why larger commercial labs may only accept images in the lower-quality sRGB color space.
- The importance of guidelines when transferring images to be printed
- Key formatting choices: resolution, color space, and file type
- An explanation for why you may only be able to upload your images in the sRGB color space to labs
- Built-in look-up tables
- Internal LUTs that allow you to easily move your calibrated display to another computer
- Fuji Chrystal Archive – the best paper in its category, not the best paper in general.
- eCommerce platforms that allow you to pick your print vendor from a large list
- Weighing effort vs. ease of use – put more work in, get better images and more print options.
- Much more!
Listen in to learn about embedded ICC profiles and the sRGB color space
- Check out Renée’s photography and blog by visiting her website.
- Listeners featured in this episode include Jim, Steve, and Paul.
- We’ve compiled all of Renée’s printmaking articles and podcast appearances into a single PDF! Get it by texting “RBESTA” to 33444.
- Love the show? Have some feedback for us? Leave us a review on iTunes.
Prefer to read over listen? Want to save this conversation for reference later? We transcribe all of our shows for these reasons! Download this episode’s transcription below:
Or, to view a web version of the transcript:
Announcer 1: You are listening to the AskBC podcast – your printmaking questions, answered by the experts!
Justin: Hey guys, it’s your host Justin. Welcome to Episode 23 of the AskBC podcast. Today we have back with us, a special guest, Renee Besta joins us again, and we are going to talk about embedded profiles, display look up tables, and printing files from the sRGB color space. Let’s go ahead and jump right in!
Announcer 2: Jim asks, “How do I use embedded ICC profiles in a customer’s image when printing with BC papers or canvas?”
Renee: I’ve mentioned this before in prior podcasts, I encourage people writing with questions to be as detailed and as specific as possible. First of all, what does he mean by embedded ICC profiles? And by that I mean, what type?
So i need to better understand what types of profiles he’s referring to. There’s a lot of types as people may know – you have input ICC profiles, output – your display has an ICC profile, you have working space profiles. So what is he referring to and then what issues is he encountering with that from the customer?
And what i kind of think may be going on is that the customer is actually embedding an inappropriate profile. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s Breathing Color papers or any papers. First of all, he’s got – he should be defining his own file specifications for the customer. In other words, what file types is willing to accept – TIFFs, PSDs, JPEGs, whatever. He should say what color working space he wants to accept, and resolution ranges that are appropriate for the size of print.
So, I’m just really not clear – what I think may be going on, and I’ve seen this happen before when I’ve taught printing classes, is that when people are doing the soft-proofing. And obviously, you know, you’re supposed to select a device to simulate, by that I mean the ICC printer paper profile, somehow, an error – people end up doing a conversion, will go into an output profile instead of just staying in an RGB working space such as Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB.
And I don’t know, you know, why people would do that. That would definitely cause some problems and that’s not what you want to do – you don’t want to convert your image into an output, your paper profile.
That is, you know, you use the paper profile to do the soft-proofing and make adjustments to the image to get the best match and then that profile is applied when it’s sent to the printer to get the color to come out right for your specific printer ink set and paper combination. So if they’ve embedded that or a display profile, what he needs to do is contact the customer and have them resend a properly tagged image file in, say, Adobe RGB or sRGB, it depends, obviously, what types of images the customer wants printed.
So, you know, you need to provide clear instructions on your website, and like I said, you just say, “I’ll take TIFFs, PSDs, or JPEGs.” Some people will take 16-bit, a lot of labs will just take 8-bit. Define the color working spaces – will you even take ProPhoto RGB? A lot of labs are certainly not going to do that, especially if you’re doing – I presume he’s doing inkjet printing, so I’m kind of addressing it from that point of view.
Justin: Yeah, I would assume.
Renee: And then, you know, what’s the best resolution? Because a lot of people still think, “Oh I can get a good print at 100 pixels per inch.” And that’s just, you know, I’ve seen so much misinformation on the web where someone says, “That works well.” and no, it is not optimal.
So you need to guide the customer by educating them on your website. So, you know, Jim can feel free to write back in and explain what types of ICC profiles he’s talking about that are embedded that are causing a problem, because then I’ll know what he means by “how to use them.”
Justin: Yeah, I think maybe just some confusion in the working space vs. ICC profile, paper profiles, probably. But again, I don’t know either. Yeah, I definitely urge him to grab the show notes link from the end of the episode and follow there and leave some comments and we can go back and forth.
Renee: Yeah, that’s the easiest thing to do and I’ve just seen that happen, when people just think, “Oh I have to convert it to the output.” No no no. You can’t do any more – you want to pick, obviously, most of us doing inkjet printing are working because that’s the native space for Photoshop and Lightroom. Actually Lightroom is called Melissa RGB, but that’s getting too specific.
But there’s a reason for that and that’s what we’re working in, but, you know, that or a lot of people still work in Adobe RGB and then if you need JPEGs for the web export in sRGB, if you’re using a point and shoot camera or an iPhone or something and you want that printed, then that’s going to be a JPEG in sRGB, but that’s the space you’re going to be editing in. You don’t want that converted to a paper profile or, you know, sometimes if something comes from a scanner it’s going to be untagged, that’s probably the only case I see where an image might not have a tag when you open it up, and that’s, again I’ve talked about this in past articles, make sure in your Photoshop preferences, the color preferences for the settings, that you’ve got those check boxes on to warn you when you open an image – if it’s untagged, if it doesn’t match your chosen working space, what do you do – do you want to keep it? Usually yes you want to keep it until you can test out what’s going to happen if it’s converted into a different space.
I don’t know, I just encourage him to write back and let me know, but it should be in a color working space. RGB, because that’s what the printer expects to receive.
Justin: Yeah, that’s a good explanation. I think your point about, you know, educating the customer up front is huge. It’s going to, from a business perspective, it’s gonna reduce the number of returns, give your customer solid expectations of like, “You give me this and it’s good to what I expect and you’ll get a good product in return,” right?
Justin: So that’s an awesome recommendation. Anything else to add to Jim’s question here without further details?
Renee: No that’s it, just please leave a comment, you know, and I’m happy to write back and elaborate, but I can’t unless I know which profiles are embedded that seem to be causing a problem, and again it has nothing to do with Breathing Color papers, it could be any paper. You should have – I already said it, it should be in a specific RGB working space, so if it’s not you have to contact the customer, have him go back to the original, and make sure it stays in whatever he wants: Adobe RGB, sRGB, and send it that way. It shouldn’t have a paper profile embedded in it for profile printing.
Announcer 2: Steve asks, “Some displays have a built in look-up table while some don’t. I understand that if your display has a built in LUT when calibrating the monitor it will adjust itself to the target values you have set without the necessity of adjusting the screen’s control panel before or during calibration. Is this correct?”
Renee: Absolutely correct. And the last podcast I did where Lily asked about a recommendation for an entry-level display that was color-accurate, I referred to this and one of the advantages of getting a high quality display is that they come with internal look up tables, and you can purchase software to assess these displays internal LUTs and you’re gonna get more accurate calibration and profiling.
And I did talk on the last podcast regarding NEC SpectreView software which allows you to do that, but you have to have their software, and so one of the advantages is not only are you going to get a more accurate profile for the monitor and the calibration will be more accurate, you don’t have to touch any of the external controls on the display like to adjust the white point the tonal response curve which we call gamma or the luminance.
And I’ve done it both ways before I had SpectreView, and when you press those buttons, like it’s saying, “Okay, you want to set your luminance to say 100” and every time you press the button to get it to match when you have the device hooked up and on the monitor, you know, every time I push it it seems like it’s jumping 10 or 15 – it’s like huge increments instead of very, very fine increments.
So that makes it kind of a bear to get it where you want it, so this way you don’t have to do anything. The software, it’ll make those adjustments and it creates another look-up table when you do that profiling.
And one of the really cool things, is if you’re using the display’s internal LUT – basically you can take that monitor and hook it up to any computer – different computer with a completely different graphics card, and that display will still remain calibrated. Which is really cool. Whereas you can’t do it – if you’re using the video card, obviously you have to completely recalibrate the monitor if it’s hooked up to a different computer.
Justin: So, the $1,000-plus range NEC and other monitors that we’ve talked about, all of these include those built-in look-up tables, right? So you just need the SpectreView software to access them.
Renee: That’s correct, it would be software specifically made by that manufacturer, and actually what’s interesting – after that podcast aired, I’ve had several people write me through my website saying, “Look, I’ve got a Spyder 4, or I’ve got a ColorMunky, or this or that – Can I use it with the NEC?” On NEC’s website, there is a list of compatible calibration devices that will work, but it depends on many different factors, so you have to look at the compatibility – your platform and operating system, that kind of thing.
NEC does make their own device that works really good, and one thing I think I forgot to mention – I was talking about the model numbers and how there’s a “-sv” on the end of certain models, which makes it appear (which it is) more expensive than just buying the monitor itself, and I said that included the SpectreView, and what I forgot to say was that that also includes the calibration device. So when you’re looking at it and you’re saying, “Well this is several hundred dollars more expensive than just the monitor.” And people make that mistake, and they already have a ColorMunky – they could have an i1 Pro, they can have a basic color squid or whatever, and they don’t need to go out and buy a separate device – I was not very good at clarifying that, so it includes the NEC calibration device, and the software.
So when you’re saying it’s, like I said, several hundred dollars more with the “-sv” on the model name, make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when you’re pricing at different vendors.
Justin: Yeah, with and without hardware. Yeah, I got that from the last episode – I understood kind of what you were getting it, maybe some people missed that.
Renee: Yeah, obviously it wouldn’t be worth anything if it didn’t have an internal look-up table – you’re just going, “Is this going to give you more accurate color?” and I don’t want to get into the science of that, maybe in an article or something we can get into that more.
Justin: Yeah, I think we leave that to an article. Awesome, let’s move on to the next question.
Announcer 2: Paul asks, “It is 2015 and still sites that sell and print your art such as PhotoShelter still print in sRGB. I go to a lot of effort to follow a 16-bit workflow in-camera embedded profile. I use a medium format camera, so everything is in true 16-bit for the most colour-depth possible. But if I send my photos to PhotoShelter and a consumer purchased a print, they are not getting all the colors that was my intention to deliver to them. When will these companies start allowing us to upload even Adobe RGB?”
Renee: This is a fantastic question – it is a continual source of frustration, both from myself and many other photographers that want an eCommerce solution. The short answer is that the requested file formats are going to be optimized for photo lab wet process prints, not for inkjet prints. So these are the so-called digital chromogenic prints, or c-prints. So most prints ordered by customers on these sites – it doesn’t matter if you’re on Fine Art America, SmugMugs, PhotoShelter, there are zillions of them – most customers are going to opt for the inexpensive lab prints on papers such as Fuji Chrystal Archive or Kodak Endura.
It uses machines such as a Fuji Frontier or a Noritsu printer. We have some older machines still in existence that aren’t made, such as Lightjet printers or [unintelligible], they use lasers or LEDs to expose photosensitive papers. So the longevity with those is only as good as the chemical processing. So the reason for them wanting to just take – like Fine Art America, I have a lot of friends on that. They will only accept JPEGs and sRGB.
So, why is that?
They don’t want you – because you already have your files uploaded to the cloud, okay? So when an order is placed by a customer, they have instant access, they do the total fulfillment behind the scenes. You don’t have to do anything except set your price and upload the images that you want to sell.
So they’re not going to allow you to upload two different file formats for each image. One that would be optimized for a wet lab print, the other for printing on a inkjet pigment print or a so-called giclee.
That’s too much of a hassle, it takes too much server space. It’s too much.
So the inkjet prints kind of take the hit, and in preference of the right file specifications for a wet lab print. So for a wet lab print you’re not going ot send them a ProPhoto in 16-bit. It’s just not going to happen, you don’t even need a TIFF. So basically, you need to decide, you know, what is your customer base – your target market, and how much effort do you want to put into getting the best. If you want the best, which he’s saying he’s working in true 16-bit, he wants the best color possible, I’ll just say this – I mean, with these papers, I love it – Fuji Chrystal quote “Archive,” – I mean, the longevity is only as good as the chemical processing. So remember hte days of dark room when you had to change out your developer and your fixer and all of that, it’s the same type of thing.
So the Fuji Chrystal Archive, initially, the estimate of its archivability was around 60 or 70 years, and that was done by the Wilhelm – Henry Wilhelm, who does all of this accelerated fast testing.
So that resulted in that, but then we found out there was a mistake made somehow in the calculation, and the estimated longevity is now estimated to only be around 40 years.
So when you think about that, that’s way under what an inkjet pigment print would have. And the other thing is it’s not going to have the color gamut or many other things that you get with an inkjet print. So the question is – does that suffice for your purposes?
The frustrating thing is, yeah, you can pick a lab to partner with. I mean they all use different labs – it could be MPEX, Adorama, Bay Photo – it’s very confusing, and even with like, say Bay Photo – you can choose a, quote, “giclee,” the problem is, right now, they only offer water color papers to my knowledge.
Word is it that they’re going to start offering some more high end photographic papers – I mean, I don’t know, maybe they have a glossy or a luster, but things are changing. So, you just have to decide what you want. It’s difficult. if you’re on PhotoShelter, one thing you can do is choose the option of self-fulfillment. And that means you can either make your own prints and ship them to the customer, or you can choose to work with a network of their approved print vendors, and there’s about 190 of them.
So if he’s on PhotoShelter, the best thing to do would be to choose self-fulfillment, pick the print vendor that works best for you, if you want the highest quality.
One of the best ones that I’ve found is really close to me, in Carmel, California, here on the central coast, it’s called Carmel Fine Art Printing and Reproduction – and the reason I mention them, not that I’m trying to plug anyone, it’s just that I have looked at many, many sites for labs that make so-called giclee prints, they’re still calling them that, because mostly, I think, a lot of the customer base is artwork for reproduction.
And again, some of these only offer canvas and then matte paper. It’s very rare – or they may just offer a glossy or a luster. Well, I don’t like printing on those papers. They have a lot of OBAs, as you know, they’re too thin, they feel cheesy. That’s why a lot of photographers started printing on the matte papers to begin with, for that hefty look and feel, which I’ve discussed also in paper choices articles.
But Carmel Fine Art has a fantastic selection of papers, I mean they offer – for one thing, a lot of the Breathing Color papers, which you may know – they’re one of your colors. They offer a 100mil Baryta, which is awesome, and he uses an Epson 9900 and he has a 9890 that’s dedicated to John Cone’s carbon monochrome inks. So if you want a pure, black and white print that’s going to have great longevity, you can do that. ANd prices are reasonable and he will accept your PSD or your TIFF in Adobe RGB or even ProPhoto.
So you need to go over that list of print vendors and pick one that’s got your preferred paper types.
The other thing you can do if you’ve got your own website or even a WordPress site, is to use the PhotoMoto plug-in. Have you heard of PhotoMoto?
Justin: Yeah I have, not sure what it is though.
Renee: Okay, basically it’s an eCommerce solution, and let me just say that Bay Photo now owns PhotoMoto and you can install code or a widget on your website, and what’s going to happen – it will place a “Buy” button underneath the image on your website, and you can choose if it’s every image or just select images.
And you have to set up an account, set your prices, and then basically you’re notified by PhotoMoto when you receive an order. The thing is, you have to then upload the file and place the order yourself. And that’s the same, like if you want to order any product from anywhere. Or like Bay Photo has their Rose software, or MPEX, and go through that process.
The problem is, people seem to want this easy print-on-demand, “I don’t want to deal with anything,” you know? I don’t want to ship, I don’t want ot have to upload, I’m just throwing my stuff out to the cloud and using Fine Art America and having all JPEGs and sRGB.” Even if somebody does order a canvas, well that’s a pigment print. You’re not getting, obviously, the best quality that you can, so you’re going to have to put more effort if you want the highest quality.
So if you’re on PhotoShelter, I don’t know about Zenfolio, the options are different. SmugMug you can pick, I think, Bay Photo or MPEX. But one of the other disadvantages is that they force you, al ot of these labs, to crop your image to a standard print size that’s not in your image’s native aspect ratio. And this just absolutely makes me pull my hair out. It drives me insane, because – well the consumer, what they’re looking at from the consumer’s end, they’re gonna give you like a borderless, obviously, 8×10” or 11×14”, or 16×20”, it’s because when you go to buy a matte in your art supply store, or a frame, it has to fit – and those manufacturers still, to this day – I could do an entire article on that.
Justin: It’s hard to believe.
Renee: It is! And I use zoom lenses like a lot of people, or even if you have a fixed focal length lense, I do that in camera. I don’t want to go and have my image distorted. So that’s another thing. And I’ve seen people all over forums, and people have written me, “Damnit, I have to crop my image! What’s going on?” Well, you have to decide what your target market is.
Again, most consumers want the inexpensive print that they’re not educated as to the benefits of a pigment print, let alone all these technical details we’re talking about.
So again, the easiest thing for the company to do is have you send a JPEG in sRGB because that’s what’s going to work for your chromogenic prints, right? So they can’t let you upload, again, two different file formats. So, you know, the advantage with the pigment print – you can keep your native aspect ratio, they’re going to print in any size, and again, for people that don’t know – there are places you can buy mattes with the window opening set to the proper aspect ratio for digital.
Now, usually that’s 3:2, or 1.5:1. That’s what 35mm film was. Of course, there are cameras now that are in 4:3, but the majority of digital SLR cameras are in the 3:2 aspect ratio – so that means 8×12”, 12×18”, 16×24” — so, you can go to places like ReadyMatte or LightImpressions and buy window mattes – finally they’ve got them! Where the opening is set for that aspect ratio.
But again, that’s something like I do that labor myself. So you have to decide how much work, you know, you are willing to put into that.
Justin: Yeah, like you said at the beginning – some, you know, these types of prints might work perfectly fine for some people. You just send it on in the lower, in Adobe sRGB, and just be fine with it. Just depends what you’re looking for.
Renee: Well they are fine, they can make beautiful prints, I’m not trying to say there’s something wrong with a chromogenic print. I mean if you’re a wedding photographer or a portrait photographer, obviously they order zillions of these a year. That’s probably their biggest business and it’s quick. Yo uknow, think about it – it’s just like back in analogue film days when you saw the photo booth and stuff just going through and it’s very fast and it’s inexpensive, and I’m not saying that’s not a better process than what we had in the older days, I’m just saying I see routinely on people’s websites that sell chromogenic prints stating that Fuji Chrystal Archive is absolutely the best paper in the entire world. The best photo paper you can get with the most longevity. Well, there’s a caveat to that – you’ve got to compare it within that category, that may be true for a chromogenic print, that that’s got the longest – maybe it’s better than Kodak Endura or another paper, but it’s not got the same longevity as papers like Breathing Color and Epson, Canon, and [unintelligible], you can’t compare them.
So that’s very misleading to tell the consumer, “Oh this is the best paper, it’s gonna last generations.” No! The pigment print is still gonna have the best gamut, the best print that you can get. As most people they know – or why are they listening to this podcast or buying your papers?
It’s just very misleading, again it has its purpose. If I am just, you know, shooting events, family gatherings, things like that, and I just want some prints – basic prints – these are not fine art prints.
What kills me is that there are people like certain famous photographers, and I won’t name names, selling their images in the millions of dollars, and you might know what I’m referring to, I found out they’re printing on Fuji Chrystal Archive – it’s like, if you can believe somebody can sell a print for multi-million dollars, and have the gall, I’m sorry, or audacity, to not get the best print possible, using an inkjet pigment print to give that to a customer that’s paying that much money, I found that just absolutely horrifying.
Justin: Yeah, it’s hard to believe.
Renee: But it’s true.
Justin: Alright, awesome. Anything else to add to Paul’s situation or question I guess?
Renee: no, he’s welcome to write and leave some comments, but again you do have choices and you do have that choice on PhotoShelter, meaning he could pick, like I said, use the PhotoMoto widget or plug-in. But again, it just requires – if you want that, you’re going to have to exert more effort, and maybe that means you’re going to have to upload the image when you get an order to the lab of your choice.
Rather than having it out there, because they’re not gonna let you have two different file formats – if that makes sense, as to why.
Justin: Yeah, that’s a good point. That’s a good note.
Alright guys, those are all the questions we have for today, so that wraps up episode 23 of the AskBC podcast.Thank you so much for taking the time to join us and listen, and if you want to grab the shownotes for today’s episode, you can visit ask-bc.com/episode23.
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