Archive for October, 2008

Hot or Cold?

Many times when I am working on a customer’s order, they will write a comment like “print warm” or “slightly cooler than guide”.
I want to share one of my favorite quotes.
“What some people call help, I call sabotage.”
Allow me to explain. There are many color models depending on the type of color correcting you are making.

Rather than writing a three page explaination of the various color spaces, please follow this link.

It is a site I found while researching color spaces and does such a good job, I’ll just let you visit them.

Back to the sabotage, the color space used in silver halide based printing is the RGB color space.

“Warm” refers to the red-yellow side of the color wheel while the term “Cool” refers to the cyan-blue side of the color wheel.

Telling the lab you want warm could lead to prints that are more red when what you really wanted was more yellow for that “Golden skin tone”. Another example would be to ask for cooler than proof because you wanted the skin tones to be less yellow, but the lab employee takes out red instead leaving the subject looking dead.

Along this same train of thought, green and magenta can be either warm or cool. If the color is a yellowish-green it is warm and a cyan-green is cool. A reddish magenta is warm while a bluish magenta is cool.

Also, Don’t use vague or made up terms like brightness, chocolatey or peachy. The lab employee may misinterpret your understanding of that term. I once had a customer request “add brightness” when they really wanted contrast. I lightened the image thinking they wanted a change in density.
Summary: If you are wanting specific color corrections made or want a certain look to your prints, please use actual colors that the color person at the lab can use. Red, green, blue, cyan, magenta and yellow are the colors available to them. They can correct saturation (how vivid the colors are), density (overall lightness or darkness), contrast (the difference between highlight and shadow areas), sharpness and gamma (a.k.a. luminescense – kind of like contrast for the colors).

Mpix Forums

The last entry I had pertained to photography links. This site could have been listed there, but I felt it deserved its own post.

Mpix forums is the forum of the prosumer lab Mpix. Currently they have 7 different forums.

  1. Mpix 2.0 – discussions specifically about the revised mpix website.
  2. digital photography
  3. photo sharing
  4. Mpix – discussions about any and all things mpix
  5. film photography
  6. the “business” side of photography
  7. General Discussions

I want you to know that the customer service reps for mpix are constantly checking the forums when they aren’t responding to customer emails. This is probably the most fanatically followed lab forum out there. The Mpix Forum community are very close knit and sincere about helping one another. They constantly amaze me how they answer each others requests for information or technical or artistic opinions. Additionally the customer service reps also jump right in and offer assistance whenever they can.

If you only have time to check out a few websites, I highly recommend this one.

Photography Links

I am always looking for ways to become a better photographer.

Here are a few of my favorite sites and magazines that have helped me the most in my photography skills. – this is digital photography review, a massive sight with a little bit of everything. – this is a blog that is all about lighting (the best I’ve found). – although a little cheezy, I’ve found a few invaluable tips on this site. – this is Professional Photographer Magazine‘s homepage. – here is the website for the magazine RangeFinder.

color guides

When a photographer wants their photos to look a certain way, they will often send in something for the lab to match. I want to share some valuable tips to get the best match you can.

1. Send in a physical print – not a digital file.

reason – the file you see on your monitor may not match the monitor of your lab resulting in a non-match.

2. If possible send in a print that is printed in the same department on the same printer the final prints will be printed on. (say that 5 times fast).

reason – every printer has a different profile and color processing algorithm. It may be possible to match the greens but not the reds, or blues but not the greens, or match the skin tones but not the shadow areas, etc… In addition, some labs use different paper types or color profiles in different departments which will also cause matching problems.

3. If you can’t print the guide at the same lab, try to print it through any lab (don’t print it yourself).

reason – it is easier to match a print when there are fewer variables. Matching photographic paper to photographic paper is easier than matching to inkjet paper (usually)

4. Try to get the guide on the same brand and type of paper as the final print.

reason – once again fewer variables. It is easier to match kodak paper to a kodak guide and fuji paper to a fuji guide.

5. If you must use an ink jet or laser printer for a guide, use photo paper not plain paper.

reason – photographic inkjet paper has many more characteristics in common with silver halide based photographic paper (the stuff photo labs print on). Less variables the better.

6. Objects other than guide prints may require some sort of digital art for the best color possible.

reason – cameras don’t always catch the light reflected from fabrics the same way skin tones do. This can result in off color fabrics. Without digitally correcting the fabric color the skin tones may look very funky (this is a technical term). If you don’t want or can’t do the corrections yourself (no photoshop skills or too many to photoshop) or don’t want to pay the lab to do them or your lab doesn’t offer this service, understand that the colors may not match and you will have to sacrifice those beautiful brides gown colors or the skintones of the women wearing them.

7. If you are printing from negatives, make sure the final output will match the guide printing method.

reason – Once again, I can’t stress reducing variables. Scanned film printed on a digital printer (using lasers or leds) should have the guide printed with the same printer. Film that is to be printed traditionally by shining light through the negative should have both the guide and final print printed in this method. Scanners usually do not match the color characteristics of traditional photo paper and will often require extensive efforts to get even moderately close.

These are the main recommendations to get the best match possible from your color guides.

Photoshop Links

Before we get too far, please allow me to provide you with some helpful links.

For training on photoshop I recommend – this is a video training site (around $25/Mo.) They have videos on photoshop, photography, lightroom and a few other topics like dreamweaver and flash. This is my current favorite site. – for a more basic overview of photoshop. This site is also around $25/month. has a lot more content overall. It has many many different types of software training videos from microsoft office to all of the adobe products and a lot of apple and corel programs (there are way too many programs to do lynda justice). The only problem is that they only give you a cursory overview of each program. Sure you learn how to use all of a program’s various functions, but it doesn’t give you much to chew on after that. is also a great website for photoshop training. is a weekly online video show hosted by NAPP (the National Association of Photoshop Professionals).

Finally, is the homepage of NAPP.