Friday, October 29, 2010

The Sequel of "Think you want to be a pro photographer?"


The Think you want to be a pro photographer? post I did earlier was a big hit, so I’m pleased to announce that SunDevil94 is at it again with a new video he calls “I have a professional camera, and now I'm professional”.

Enjoy…
 

Created by SunDevil94 on xtranormal.com

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Extreme Color Management with the X-Rite i1XTreme and ProfileMaker 5 – Part 1 of 2

Earlier this year I introduced you to color management using the X-Rite ColorMunki which I love and use on all my computers. However, if you’ve been following my printing series you’ll notice that when I list out the gear that my featured photographers are using, you don’t see the ColorMunki mentioned anywhere.Instead you’ll often see the X-Rite i1iO Automated Scan Table or X-Rite i1iSis XL Color Calibration System mentioned along with ProfileMaker.

Why aren’t the top pros using the ColorMunki? Well part of it is because the ColorMunki is still fairly new compared to the i1 system, so many have been doing color management since before it came out. However, another important reason involves calibration on the next level – what I call “Extreme Color Management”.

Extreme Color Management

Extreme Color Management is when you use targets with a lot more than 50 (x2) color samples you get with the ColorMunki along with a high precision spectrophotometer and advanced software (ProfileMaker now i1Profiler coming soon) to create a much more accurate precision profile that is more accurate than what can be accomplished with the ColorMunki. Of course, like in all things in Photography, this means it’s going to cost you more money for that extra precision, but is it worth it?  Stay tuned and I’ll try to show you why you should care and who this configuration is intended for.

A good example of an Extreme Color Management Top Photographer is Douglas Dubler (also an X-Rite Coloratti). Douglas demands the best results and is willing to take the time to create the best profiles to get those results. The fruit of his labor are some of the most impressive prints I’ve ever seen, and ones that can stand the scrutiny of wall-size light boxes like the GTI VPI 52. It is for the most critical eye, yet the results are ones that even a novice can appreciate – even if they can’t quantify why Douglas’ prints are so much better than other master printers.

ProfileMaker 5

When using a ColorMunki or i1Basic, it will come with easy to use software to help you generate a custom profile for your display (and projectors and printers for the ColorMunki). ProfileMaker goes beyond the i1Match takes profiling to the extreme by supporting the generation of profiles for scanners, printers, displays, projectors, and even your digital cameras! This is an advanced end-to-end color management system not only for personal and professional printers, but also publishers CYMK printers! In short, if a device can take a profile, this software can be used to create a profile for it.

I will not do an in-depth review of this software at this time as it is due to be replaced in the near future.

i1Profiler

i1Profiler is the name of the current unreleased software which will replace ProfileMaker 5 at a future date. I hope to bring you more on this product as it becomes available.

i1XTreme


Photo Courtesy of B&H Photo
ColorChecker Targets Sold Separately

The X-Rite i1XTReme Color Calibration Solution (Product Overview) is a product designed to give you advanced color consistency between all of the devices in your digital workflow so you can achieve the best color management possible on the market today. It supports not only the obvious like computer displays and printers, but also scanners, projectors, and even digital cameras! The net result is a color managed workflow that goes beyond the basics that a device like the ColorMunki can provide.

This device and supporting software like ProfileMaker/i1Profiler are critical if you wish to generate your own profile for use with RIP software as you need the ability to print and measure outside of i1Match.

UV Cut or Not?

One thing that has always confused the heck out of me is why there are two different versions of the i1 spectrophotometers – one with a “UV Cut” and one without. Well it turns out that the “UV Cut” was introduced when papers with OBA’s came out as they apparently introduced problems. The Built-in UV filter prevents problems when measuring pigments that fluoresce under UV light or papers that incorporate artificial whiteners (source: Adorama).

Because I work with many papers which have OBA’s (like Canon & Epson papers with the word Bright as well as Metallic paper), I chose to get the UV Cut version. In addition, all of but one of my master printers and RIP software companies that I polled as to which version to get said to get the UV Cut version, so that was good enough for me.

The UV Cut has the same MSRP as the regular version, so the decision as to which one to get should really be based on your needs. It seems that if you’ll be doing a lot of measurements off of real life objects for obtaining color matching information, there are cases where the UV Cut would be a disadvantage. This is why both versions are offered, but sadly you have to pick one or the other – there isn’t an adapter that allows one device to do both (do I hear feature request???).

Using the i1XTtreme System

The ColorMunki is simplicity at its best – just plug and play and follow some really simple wizards. However, using the i1XTreme is a big leap from there as you’ll find yourself getting a lot of complex questions for which there isn’t a lot of useful help or instruction to tell you more about what you are being asked or why you should care. From this perspective, I was a bit disappointed in this system as it felt a bit like being thrown into the deep end of the pool before you know how to swim.

The good news is that I’m a fast learner, so I scratch and clawed my way through a bunch of confusing docs, web articles (some of which went back to 2004) and more to find out the information I needed to know. The question is, was it all worth it? More on that later…

Here’s how I use this i1XTreme system in my studio:

  • Display Calibration - All good color management begins with a calibrated display, so I use the i1XTreme to calibrate my display. The process isn’t as pretty, but it is very similar to how it is done with the ColorMunki in my Color Management article. You get asked a few more complex questions, but when in doubt just accept the defaults and move on.
  • Scanner Calibration – I’ve always been frustrated with the crappy results I’d get out of my scanner, so it was a pleasant surprise to learn that I could simply scan a test target provided in my kit and run a simple wizard and voila – a nice scanner profile was created. Just as with printer profiles, the difference was like night & day and it was very easy to do. It was actually harder figuring out how to get my scanner software to actually use the profile than it was to create it!
  • Printer Profiling – Nothing is more important than printer profiling in my book, because without a proper profile your prints will look like crap. I’ve actually seen top tier photographers and print masters get lazy and not calibrate their displays because they could trust their printer profile so much that they simply needed to do a test print and put it next to their monitor to get an idea of how the colors would shift. You couldn’t do that the other way around without wasting a lot of time and paper, so this is why I think most people really buy this product.

In addition to the above features, you can also use this product to calibrate your projector (which I don’t own) and digital camera (which requires ColorChecker SG which I didn’t have included in my test kit).

Profiling to the Extreme

Bill Atkinson Profile Chart
Bill Atkinson’s RGB 800 WIR Eye-One 2 page target

Epson Stylus Pro and Profiling Guru Douglas Dubler recommends using the targets on Bill Atkinson’s download folder along with Profile Maker (currently only available i1iSis bundles) to create profiles.

Eye-One MeasureTool (included in ProfileMaker)

I was having trouble getting my ColorMunki to calibrate LexJet’s Sunset Photo Metallic (review and coupon code coming soon) paper for my Epson Stylus® Pro 3880 printer to get the same great results I was getting with LexJet’s profile for the Canon iPF6300. The ColorMunki got me close, but it was still too dark and the print had a green tint to it.  Using the i1 with the included Eye-One Match 3 software I was able to generate a profile, that when printed with the Perceptual rendering intent, gave me something that was much closer to the Canon print.

As happy as I was with my new profile, I decided to take it a step farther and try Bill Atkinson’s RGB 800 WIR Eye-One 2 page target to scan in 800 patches to create an even more accurate profile (profiles up to 5202 patches are available). This sounded great because the Eye-One Match 3 had only printed out 288 patches using the default settings (but more patches were available) and Douglas had recommended Bill’s patches.

Click here to read part 2.

Disclaimer

X-Rite provided a loaner i1XTreme color management solution for me to use so I could write this article, as well a dongle for use with ProfileMaker. If it were not for X-Rite’s generous support, I could not have brought this article to you.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Think you want to be a pro photographer? Watch this!

Please don't be like this! Sadly, it's very common for people to get very excited about their new camera and feel this way...


Created by SunDevil94 on xtranormal.com

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Double Instant Rebates from Canon on B&H

I’m thrilled to announce that Canon is offering DOUBLE Instant Rebates from now until January 8th!
Time to stock up!!!





EOS 60D
EOS 7D
EOS 5D Mark II
EOS-1D Mark IV


























If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

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Friday, October 22, 2010

Lexar Rebates are back!!!

Lexar has joined the rebate part and has some great deals here on B&H’s website, so now is a good time to stock up on fast compact flash and SDHC memory!

Stop waiting on slow compact flash readers

While you are shopping for Lexar products be sure to check out my favorite CF card reader for my Mac:


Lexar Professional UDMA FireWire 800 CompactFlash Card Reader

Demaris at Lexar sent me a Lexar Professional UDMA FireWire 800 CompactFlash Card Reader for review on my MacBook Pro a few months ago and it’s been awesome. This thing screams on the FireWire 800 port, so I’m bummed when I go back to my PC and use the glacially slow Sandisk ImageMate 12-in-1 USB reader! If you use a Mac and UDMA CF cards, you’ve gotta get one of these readers – its fast and not super expensive.

If you are a PC user and have a ExpressCard slot, all is not lost. In fact, for less money and better performance you’ve gotta check this bad boy out:


Lexar Professional ExpressCard CompactFlash Reader

When I was at the Olympics in Vancouver this past February the guys at Lexar let me play with the then un-released Professional ExpressCard CompactFlash Reader. At that point in time I was easily seeing 80+ MB/sec transfer rates which is faster than I can move files to one part of my hard drive to another! Well since then they’ve finally released it and this UDMA 6 device can transfer at speeds up to 133mb/sec!!!! At $34.95* as of the time of this writing, this thing has to be the best bargain on the planet!

* = All prices are as of 10/22/2010 and are subject to change without notice.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

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Cool remote releases for your Canon for a fraction of the price

Canon makes a great timer remote controller called the TC-80N3. It works great, and I love mine. However, there’s one little problem with it – it cost $149.95*!!!! In fact, the cost has been such an issue that B&H has searched hard to find a solution that works just as good but isn’t some cheap junk that you’d find on eBay. After extensive testing with pros in the field, the fruit of their labor is the Pearstone RC-C2 ShutterBoss Remote Switch with Digital Timer for a much more digestible $49.95*!  This is a great tool for time lapse, studio and long-exposure photography, so if you don’t have one yet – then price should no longer be a blocking consideration!

When I found out about this I thought it was great, but that lead to the question about the Canon Remote Switch RS-80N3 which retails for $49.95* (this is simple remote release, nothing like the two mentioned above). Well, B&H stepped up to the plate again and this time came up with the Pearstone RS-C2 Wired Remote Switch for Canon DSLRs w/ 3-Pin Connection for ONLY $6.95* - sweet!!!!! Now this is only good for scenarios where you’d do mirror lockup or long-exposures (i.e., waterfalls, star trails, etc…) so it is no substitute for the TC-80N3 or RC-C2, but it’s a no brainer if you don’t have a remote release.

Now, I’ve enjoyed my TC-80N3 but I’ve always thought how stupid it was to have a wire as that is just another way to introduce camera shake. In addition, if i want to do something cool like put my camera in a tree, on a roof, or above a basketball goal then I have to be there right with it to take the shot, right? Well that’s dumb, so the radio controlled Pearstone RW-C2 FreeWave Wireless Remote Shutter Release offer a great solution for only $42.30*!

* = All prices are as of 10/22/2010 and are subject to change without notice.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

REVIEW: ColorByte ImagePrint 8

ColorByte ImagePrint 8

During my printing series, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to a lot of industry experts, top photographers, and master printers. During my discussions I always try to find out what their tips and secrets are to getting a great print, and the product name that came up most often was ColorByte ® ImagePrint. In fact, it’s frequently been said that Epson’s Advanced Black & White feature is modeled off the success that ColorByte first achieved in making black & white prints at a time when it was thought that digital could never compete with film. In fact, many ImagePrint users have said they still prefer the black & white results they get with ImagePrint over what they can accomplish using Epson’s ABW driver.

Now, when talking behind closed doors people always ask me – aren’t RIP’s really just a rip off? After all, some RIP’s seem to do little more than offer a different user-interface to the printer driver, or layout. Others RIP’s are so advanced and complex that you darn near have to be a printer driver programmer to use the damn thing! However, I’ve done exhaustive testing with multiple RIP’s and have worked with numerous experts to get the most I can out of the driver. Up to this point in my testing, ColorByte ImagePrint 8 has show the most dramatic difference over the Epson driver than any other RIP product I’ve used thus far.

For this review, I used ColorByte ImagePrint 8.0.0.5. One of its major features – and for some, the biggest selling point – is that it contains multiple paper profiles created with the best spectrometer that money can buy. In addition to having a great spectrometer, the profiles are created for a variety of lighting conditions as well as both color and grayscale, leaving you with the right profile for the right condition for all of the most popular papers. In fact, ColorByte is so committed to customer satisfaction that if they don’t have the profile you need, they’ll generate it for you and make it available to everyone via their handy profile downloading tool. What this really translates into is a purchase that goes beyond the RIP but also a profile making service which saves you the money and hassle of generating your own profiles.

When you consider the cost of high-end profile making software and spectrometers (which are still a fraction of what ColorByte uses), it’s easy to see that this product it’s actually cheaper than tools needed to make great profiles and your time saved makes it well worth the investment! This is why top name pros like Bambi Cantrell swear by this product as being a critical part of their printing workflow.

User Interface


Main Window

Since my day job for the last 16 years has been in the software industry with an emphasis on user-interface development, I consider a good user interface to be one that is so intuitive that a manual isn’t required for the most common scenarios. In this sense, ImagePrint comes up short as I struggled to figure out how to do tasks like delete a page, undo (which is done via a history window accessible via View Undo rather than the OS standard Edit | Undo), and start over with a new page (which seemed to require restarting the app). I frequently found the tool icons to be illogical, but fortunately tooltips were there to save the day. However in some cases even the tooltip didn’t help me understand what it was a tool was supposed to do. In general, I didn’t care for the user-interface and would love to see a future version of this product to get a major overhaul under the supervision of a strong user-interface designer.

With that major gripe out of the way, this product comes with an exhaustive 277 page users manual and videos on the web site. Both of these resources help give you the information you need, so you can be successful in using ImagePrint. In fact, the manual’s 8 page printing quick start will be enough instruction for many to do all they’ll ever need to know in ImagePrint, so I commend ColorByte for its solid documentation. 

For those who want to do more complex tasks such as templates, backgrounds, frames, gallery wraps and more, the manual comes through to save the day.


SpoolFace

I appreciated its peppy performance and its detailed SpoolFace window to find out what happened to my print job. It was great to be able to view all the print job settings for those times when you think “oh, did I do X before I clicked print?”.


Job information may be intimidating for some,
but everything you need to know is in there!

I would have done many things different in the user interface to make it more user-friendly, but for those who’ve taken the time to learn and master this product, they are probably happy with things just the way they are. I’m not, but with the aid of the manual, I was able to figure out how to do the things I wanted to accomplish. 

Complex Print Layouts / Templates


Complex template layouts created with just a series of clicks

Do you want to create a template to layout photos for a portrait package? Do you want to use the same image for all of the image frames or do you want a different image for each frame? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this is your product.

The layout features of ImagePrint offer the flexibility to create custom layout templates to your design specifications which is especially help for school, studio and wedding photographers. If you’ve ever tried doing this in Photoshop or even Lightroom, you know how frustrating it can be sometimes. This feature along with its great performance with huge image files, result in a feature that some will find it to be worth the price of the product.

Accurate Colors and Top Quality Profiles

Ask any major pro who uses ColorByte ImagePrint 8 what was there #1 reason for purchasing this product, and you’ll usually hear them say – it’s the profiles. ColorByte users will say that they didn’t have time to fiddle with printer profiles, so ColorByte has generated over 27,000 profiles for 400 different papers so you don’t have to!!! The printer profiles in ImagePrint create accurate colors, a wide dynamic range, and best contrast of any product I’ve used thus far.


Additional Profiles are easily accessed over the web via Profile Manager

This is a highly relevant feature as the cost in products and time required to build accurate profiles is a fine art in and of itself. To be able to use these profiles on your own images results in great prints that stand apart from those using the Epson driver, and ultimately a product that has the appearance that you slaved over the computer generating complex profiles for that extra 3% of quality.

Black & White

As good as the Epson Advanced Black & White is, some have argued that it’s still lags a few generations behind what is possible using ImagePrint 8. For those frustrated with muddy or block blacks with their older Epson printers, they will find the results possible with ImagePrint to be a great leap forward over what they’ve been getting thus far. The real advantage comes in the massive dynamic range achievable using this product, which is sure to please those who have struggled in the past.

Great for Obsolete Epson Printers

Do you have an older generation printer that was working great until your computer died and you replaced it? Uh oh, now what? The good news is even if you can’t find  a working printer driver, this product includes all that is needed to print to many legacy Epson printers. See http://www.colorbytesoftware.com/ under “supported printers” to see if this might be the product to bring your old Epson back to life.

Dongle Schmongle


Dongle / Product Activation Web Page

One thing to keep in mind when deciding if this product is right for you is the fact that it uses a USB software dongle. A dongle is a little gadget that must be plugged into one of your USB ports in order for this product to work, so this means you’ll need to have a spare USB port (or buy a hub) to use this product. It also means setup is a little bit more complicated, but fortunately the instructions were clear.

I’ve always hated USB dongles for their lack of a pass-through technology that prevents you from losing a USB port, but alas I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for this security protection to go away.

Conclusion

After some initial skepticism, I found the religion and understood why so many like this product. The reason why I love this product is because you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to use it. In fact, in many ways it is easier to use than the printer driver once you get the hang of it. More importantly, you can go back into your job history and print again to get identical results (assuming the source image hasn’t changed) without having to remember all of your previous settings - that alone is a huge benefit!

Now, I did find that after being used to the printer driver and having an established workflow that when I switched to ImagePrint that my prints were brighter and had different shades of color than what I had grown used to. Upon close inspection I could see improved dynamic contrast, better aliasing and much smoother gradients so it really boils down to seeing your images printed with all of their details for the first time! This makes softproofing a little more tricky as I found that my display doesn’t match up to the ColorByte output, as it had with my calibration I had done using the printer driver. Fortunately, ColorByte includes detailed instructions on how to calibrate your display to improve your softproofing results.

I know the cost will be a problem for some, so my advice is that if you aren’t making money off your prints then this might not be a wise investment for you. If you are, then I suggest you suck it up and buy this product as the quality, consistency and ability to do identical reprints will help you recoup your cost in a reasonable time in the form of time saved and customer satisfaction.

Despite the fact that the stupid USB port eating dongle drives me insane (I hate those things), I can say with confidence and sincerity that I highly recommend this product. I feel that the quality of profiles and results you get from it make its steep price a value compared to the expense and energy it would take to do it yourself. This isn’t software that just talks to driver API’s, but rather the low-level printer interfaces directly so you won’t be able to reproduce these results with any other product (even those that also go directly to the printer).

I encourage you to download a copy today and try it out to see if it’s many features meets your needs. If you aren’t getting great results then call ColorByte to find out why as their friendly staff will help you to see why so many love this product. For additional questions, I encourage you to check out their FAQ.

Special Offer – Save up to $300 with our 10% OFF discount!!!

After months of discussions, I have worked with ColorByte to offer you the first ever discount that has been made available for a blog. ColorByte is offering a 10% off discount to readers of this article when you contact JVH Technical, LLC by phone or email. You can not get this discount through the web or ColorByte directly, so you must contact JVH and you MUST mention this blog in order to get the discount. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact JVH, ColorByte or me directly about this discount program.

Disclosure

I may get a commission if you take advantage of the special offer or purchase products from select partner links in this article. Thanks for your support of this blog by returning here when making your purchases!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Deals of the Week: Tamron Rebates, Redipix.com, Imagenomic & Trey Ratcliff HDR DVD Workshop discounts

I’ve tried hard to have my articles stick to reviews and education, but I’ve been getting bombarded with some great deals to stimulate this tough depression we are in so I thought I’d collect them all and pass them along as a new Deals of the Week concept. Feel free to leave comments if you like this and would like me to continue it, or if you hate it and would rather me not do these in the future.

 

Tamron Rebates

Between now and November 31st, 2010, B&H has instant rebates of up to $150 on Tamron lenses (including its popular 18-270mm).

 

REDIPix.com (prints) now offers 10% OFF ALL orders!

Effective today, REDIPix.com has changed their policy and is now offering 10% off all orders to readers of this blog when you use the code RONM when checking out. Check out my review where I love the great job they did with my landscape shot, and check out this cool new Gallery Wrap Dazzle which is actually BACKLIT!!!! I’m going to have to get one of those as they are just too cool!

 

Imagenomic now offers 20% OFF!!!!

Imagenomic, makers of Noiseware (winner of my Noise Reduction Roundup) are also offering 20% off all their products when you use the discount coupon code RONMART when checking out!

 

HDR DVD Workshop by Trey Ratcliff discount ENDS SOON!

Time is running out for the discount on this series! From now until October 30th, when you USE THIS LINK to get to Trey Ratcliff’s website and enter the promo code, you can save up to 20% off his super successful HDR DVD series (which I will be reviewing soon). Here’s the codes:

  • USE THIS LINK and enter 55BASICDVD to save 10% OFF of the HDR DVD - Basic Edition
  • USE THIS LINK and enter 66PREMIUMDVD to save 20% OFF of the HDR DVD - Premium Edition

Check out my review of Trey’s HDR DVD Workshop – I loved this series and think you might too!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Color Management 101 - How do I get prints to match what I see on my display? (X-Rite ColorMunki Review)

WARNING: This is a high-level overview of a highly complex subject that ultimately advises several resources for the photographer to help minimize color management nightmares. There are ton of products, concepts, and techniques that are intentionally missing from this article. I’ve tried to break it down to the recommendations I’d give a friend who is struggling with color management nightmares without boring them with weeks of lectures and discussions on this sophisticated topic.

How well do you see color?

Click here to take a test that will test your color IQ. I highly recommend this for those who think they can visually calibrate their display. In case you are wondering, I got a 35 on a calibrated display (without my glasses or contacts on), so you can imagine how that score would probably be much worse if I was on a non-calibrated display.

Color Management

Tim Grey's Color Confidence: The Digital Photographer's Guide to Color Managementalt  and many similar books on the complex subject of Color Management have been written to guide photographers though the hassle of understanding all of the variables involved with how your capture device (your camera), display device (your monitor), your editing software (i.e., Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, etc…) and your output device (a web browser or printer) all have different ways and limitations on how they display color, and what is required to get all of these devices in sync with each other.

If just one link in the chain is converted improperly, it’s easy to get inaccurate results in your final output, so understanding this topic is essential for photographers to express their artistic representation of color in a way that will allow other calibrated displays to show accurate results. The sad truth though is that many people don’t calibrate their displays so all bets are off and it’s Forrest Gump calibration – you’ll never know what your gonna get! This is why understanding color spaces and working with calibrated profiles is essential to getting accurate output!

Calibrate Your Display - A Beginners Solution

For the past couple of years I’ve been very happy with my Pantone Huey as my monitor calibration device. Since most of my output was for the display, this solution was sufficient for my needs. If you fall into this camp, then I highly recommend this product as a cost effective starting point into monitor calibration. If you have more than one display attached to your computer, you must purchase the huey pro as the non-pro version only supports one display.

You can buy a huey pro from Amazon, Adorama, B&H and other online and local dealers.

The next step up from the Huey, which I highly recommend as your starting point, is the i1 Display2 (available on Amazon, B&H and Adorama). If you are graduating to doing your own printing, regardless of how inexpensive your printer is, I highly recommend you move up to a device that can also profile your printer and papers.

UPDATE: X-Rite now has these new products that replace the products mentioned in this section. They are NOT spectrophotometers, so they can’t do printer profiles, but they are colorimeters so you they can calibrate your display. What’s great about these over the ones mentioned above is that they support wide color gamut display calibration which neither the Huey Pro or i1 Display2 supported. For printing I still recommend the ColorMunki Photo or greater as this article suggests.

ColorMunki Photo Color Management Solution – Calibrate Your Display to Your Printer for WYSIWIG results

ColorMunki Photo Color Management Solution by X-Rite is more than just a display calibration device, it also allows you to calibrate your printer to the paper you are using to provide an end to end color management solution. What does this really mean? It means you can have your display match your printed image as close as possible (up to the limits of your display and the natural differences between a backlit display and a printed image).

Seeing is believing

A picture really speaks a thousand words here though, so I’ll start with a few examples. First, let’s take a look at what my color management dialog looks like in Photoshop CS4 when I try to print one of my images on an inexpensive Canon PIXMA MP560 Wireless Inkjet All-In-One Photo Printeralt


Photoshop CS4 Print Settings on a system without a printer profile

I can’t demonstrate what a calibrated display looks like, but if your display isn’t horrifically off then the above photo should look very pleasing from a color perspective with warm (but not red or pale) skin tones and nice vibrant blue water (but not way over saturated).

I did my first print of the photograph above by telling Photoshop to just print this image using the printer driver’s settings as I did not have a custom profile for the Office Depot High Gloss Premium Photo Paper (the worst paper I’ve ever used). Here’s my printer driver settings:

This is what a typical consumer would do and expect to get good results. However, the results I got in this case, and every prior case when printing from this printer without a color profile were horrific. Compare the before (left) and after (right) below, where the accurate print was done AFTER I used the ColorMunki Photo to generate a paper profile for this paper:


Pardon the reflection on this photo of the before and after prints side by side – some fidelity is lost in this photo

This photo of the two prints don’t really do it justice as the before on the left looks worse than you see here and the after one on the right looks significantly better than what is shown. However, I think you can see the most important point – the before is horrific and the after closely represents what is shown on the screen (in fact, in real life it was identical on my machine). WOW, what a difference this made on a printer that cost less than $100!!!! Who says color management is only for expensive pro printers, right?

For those who are interested, here were my settings AFTER creating my paper profile using the ColorMunki (described later in this article):


Photoshop CS4 Soft Proofing and Print dialog settings for the AFTER photo using the ColorMunki generated printer profile

Those paying careful attention will notice that this version lets Photoshop manage the colors and I use the printer profile I created with my ColorMunki, which is why the results are so much better. Now, let’s show you how easy it is to use the ColorMunki Photo to calibrate my display and generate a paper profile.

Buy a ColorMunki Photo Color Management Solution now on Adorama and B&H.

ColorMunki Photo Calibration Demo

I’ll skip some steps here, but screen shots of nearly the entire process can be found here for those who are interested.

While you can perform your calibrations for your display and printer separately, here we’ll do them together since we are just getting started. The net result of this process is the creation of a profile which will be used by your Windows or Mac operating system to accurately display the colors on your display and to give your printer driver the info it needs to render those colors accurately to your printer for the paper used in this profiling. Here’s where we begin:


Step 1 - Choose what type of profile you need to create

Next, we’ll choose what type of display we’ll calibrate:


LCD’s, Laptops and Projectors are all supported display devices

You’ll also notice here that I chose the Advanced feature so I could have my display adjust based on ambient light conditions which is important as your results will vary based on the light in the room near your display.

After your ColorMunki calibrates itself and measures the ambient light in the room, you are ready to hang the ColorMunki from your display so it can read some test patterns and make the necessary corrections. Here’s a few pictures to demonstrate this process:


Place ColorMunki against your display

Here’s a photo that shows the ColorMunki in position after being placed its included case:


This design keeps the ColorMunki in place without any hassles

Color patterns are shown as you see here:


A series of colors and grayscale tones are shown and scanned by the ColorMunki for later calibration

and this data is collected and matched against the values they should be to create a difference that is used in your profile to begin displaying everything on your monitor the way it should be displayed without any modifications. After this process is complete a profile is generated and stored in the appropriate location on your computer so that your display will be immediately updated to show accurate color. if your only output target is the display, then you could stop here (and could probably get away with just a Pantone Huey as your only solution).

Printer Profiling

However, if your target is print, it’s now time to get your display and printer in sync with each other by creating a printer profile. It should be noted that printer profiles are only good for one type of paper and that 8x10 or larger paper is required (I use letter size), so I recommend you do this every time you change to a new paper (unless you have generated or acquired an accurate printer profile already).

Be sure to select the correct printer and give the profile a name you’ll remember (printer name not required as it will be pre-pended to the paper name string).

After clicking Next, you will now be prompted to print a test chart. This process is critical to your success so pay close attention the instructions on the screen, in the help file and the related videos included on your setup discs.

ColorMunki knows what these colors should look like when you scan them later on your paper, but the wizard displays them as they should appear. It’s common to have entirely different results on paper from the print, which is why profiling is so important.

When doing your profiling, it’s important to turn off all color management in your printer driver. Turn off ALL color management in the printer driver as shown here for the Canon MP560:

When you are done, be sure to save all of your printer driver settings to a preset (which most printer drivers support now) so that you can recall these values to reproduce the same print results. Here’s the name I chose for my preset (which will be shown in the Commonly used Settings list):


ALWAYS save your dialog settings when profiling

I now know that every time I print from ColorMunki when profiling or when I am using my custom profile that we will create here. For this example I chose the paper name, but if the values aren’t going to change whenever you are using the ColorMunki or its generated profiles you could just call it something like “ColorMunki Settings”. These are the printer driver settings required to get accurate results.

This will cause a sheet of paper to be printed with a test chart. You will use the ColorMunki to scan the test pattern printed on the paper you wish to profile as shown here:


Scan the test pattern which are in most cases not accurate based on what is shown on-screen

The profiling software will now generate a second pattern based on the results it got from the scan to make sure it understands how the colors on the paper appear differently from the way they should be. When this is done, you can scan the second page and the wizard will let you know which line to scan and if the measurement scan was successful:


This 2nd chart will differ from paper to paper based on the results of the first test chart

When this is completed, your profile is generated using the name of your choice:


Profile names can be as descriptive as you like so don’t make cryptic names

Now when you print or soft proof in Photoshop, you can use your newly created paper profile so that your monitor will display the colors similar to the way they will be printed:

It’s also critical for letting the print dialog (shown earlier for Photoshop) know what type of paper you are printing to so it knows how to put the right colors of ink down on that specific paper. Here’s an example of choosing a custom profile in Lightroom (all versions):


Click to view a larger version of Lightroom’s custom profile dialog


Here’s our settings in Lightroom to ensure that we get accurate results from our printer

Other applications such as Aperture, Acrobat, and more will all use these color profiles as well. Fortunately many paper and printer manufactures provide profiles for download on their web site so that you don’t have to do this, but many argue that for the best results it’s always a good idea to generate your own. The validity of that statement is a bit skewed though as generally profiles that are provided by manufactures are done using more expensive spectrophotometers, but ColorMunki does allow for an iterative process where you can get more test patterns using some of your photos as inputs to create highly tuned paper profiles for your workflow.  One of my favorite Fashion Photographers and printing mentors, Douglas Dubler, highly recommends this process for generating the best possible print results. 

It is important to note that paper profiles must be generated for the exact paper AND printer you are using, so if either of those variables change a new paper profile must be created. It is therefore sometimes easier and faster to just generate your own profile than it is to hunt down the profile for your exact printer and the paper you are using (especially if you have an older, inexpensive and/or unpopular printer). While you may use a little ink and paper to do the profiling, you’ll waste far less than if you get horrible results as i did in my before photo (and many other prints using that printer).

This headache of printing is why I had frequently in the past advised people not to do their own printing, but rather leaving it in the hands of third parties who specialize in the process as the cost-effectiveness of doing so made a lot of sense to me. My position on that has changed a bit as I am doing this series, but if you aren’t willing to invest in a product like ColorMunki to calibrate your display and profile your printer, then I still stick to my advice of using third party services for all your printing needs.

Video Demonstration

Click here to see my friend and Canon Explorer of Light Rick Sammon discuss HDR and color calibration. Skip to 7:00 if you want to get to the color display and printer calibration part using the ColorMunki Photo.

NEW: There’s a great resource on the ColorMunki including videos located here.

PowerPoint presentation of my ColorMunki Photo 101 Presentation

On December 15th, I gave a presentation to the Seattle chapter of the Pacific Northwest Color Management Users Group (SCMUG) where I demonstrated the ColorMunki Photo as discussed in this article. For those that attended that session, you may find the PowerPoint slide deck here (directly links prohibited – all links should point to this article).

My review of Chromix ColorThink Pro is also available on this site, and my review of the NEC PA Series displays will be coming soon. You may also enjoy my printing series and discount coupon code page as well as the Read This First topic for a wealth of information on this web site.

Thanks for attending and welcome to RonMartBlog.com!

Conclusion

If you are a photographer, after you purchase your camera and lens your next purchase should always be a display calibration device. A huey is sufficient if you are a beginner doing printing via third parties, but as soon as you switch to doing your own printing (regardless of the cost of the printer) then you really need a device like a ColorMunki Photo to get the best possible results. The other ColorMunki devices mentioned on X-Rite’s web site are not for photographers, so stick with the Photo version. There’s also more expensive i1 based solutions for those who will make a living from their prints, but for most of us the ColorMunki is going to meet our basic needs for accurate printer and display profiling.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED: ColorMunki Photo 

Disclaimer

While I purchased my own Pantone Huey, X-Rite did provide me with a ColorMunki for use in this article and in my printing series. I will get a commission if you purchase from the links for Amazon, Adorama, and B&H shown in this article, so show your appreciation of this article by using these links!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Printing Series: Michel Tcherevkoff – Artist, Advertising Photographer & Canon Explorer of Light & Print Master

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
This is a composite of photographs, not drawings!
This series is modified to look like drawings!
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

When I set out to do my interview of Michel Tcherevkoff (pronounced che rev cough), I expected to talk printing and have a fairly short technical conversation. What I ended up with was the most delightful and entertaining interview I’ve ever done from one of the most brilliant minds I’ve had the pleasure of communicating with. This is saying a lot as in my day job I’ve worked with researchers recruited from the best universities around the world and people who have literally changed the world with their inventions. However, all of that pales in comparison to the man I met with creativity that knows no bounds. His work comes from a fantasy world that few could even dream of, let alone see that vision to its completion – in print. 

I found it amusing that one of the first things Michel said to me when our interview began is that he stumbled upon photography because he “never knew he had the seed”, but the first photographer he worked with, Pete Turner, “watered the seed”. Well, I’m here to say that that Pete must have divine powers because the flower that blossomed from that seed is unlike anything I’ve seen in this world.

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Shoe created with a composite of flower photos
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

As you read this article and stare at his work (a simple glance is impossible), I’ll remind you that these are indeed photographs – multiple photographs, combined together to create these amazing images. The people are real, not pencil sketches, the flowers are real, and the bugs are not! :) The true reality here is that Michel has a creative mind that takes the reality that we see in the world and manipulates it into new objects of beauty. His creations transcend everything we know about reality, yet we accept his creations as real and become hypnotized by them. Our senses are delighted and a suspension of disbelief consumes us while we admire something our mind never expects to see.

What I bring to you in this article is Michel on the subject of printing, which pales in comparison to all that he has to offer, but I’ll save the interview I really want to do for another day. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy learning how this master of object manipulation turns his creations into amazing prints.

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Michel’s French side is coming out now where he is having
a little fun with lingerie and flowers.
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Favorite Papers

Michel has a very practical approach to papers as the choice of paper is not only about the image, but how that final print will be used in the end. Once again, even in something as simple as paper Michel’s creativity comes out in ways you might never imagine. For example, his studio windows are covered with huge prints from his iPF8300 that were printed on Canon Scrim Banner Vinyl. His postcards and holiday cards are printed on Canon Fine Art Watercolor for their durability and wonderful texture. His everyday paper for the images he gives to clients or for his promo mailers, his favorite choice is Canon Premium Bright Photo Satin (replaced by the Canon Premium RC Photo Luster) because it has a great texture and firmness, yet it isn’t overly glossy either.

For his finest work which is signed, numbered and stamped he uses the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Paper 460gsm which has a beige tone and a nice substantial feel. He’s also fond of the Canon Fine Art Bright White 330, but he’s always trying the latest papers from Canon so his preferences change as better products become available. 

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved  
Bugs never looked so beautiful – created with a composite of flower photos
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Printing Q&A

What volume of printing do you typically do in a year?

I'll use around 4 or 5 rolls and hundreds of sheets of each of the papers. MIchel uses roughly 1 box of the satin paper every month for promos alone.

Do you do test prints?

Yes, for the large prints I'll take different pieces from the image and put them on a 7” to 12” wide strip and print in what I call a strip test. I'll use those to tweak the image and actually label my layers in Photoshop with details about what I did. In the end it usually takes 2 tp 4 test strips before I'm happy and do the final print.

What do you look for in a print before it's ready for your customer?

Color, contrast, saturation and details in the little things. It's a visceral experience where I adjust until it just feels right. Quality is a given so the image must sing to me before I feel it is done.

There should be no excuses – you should be proud of your prints, and if you are not then don’t blame the machine because you made a bad print. The print is a mirror of your work and you must ask yourself – are you happy with it?

Sometimes it is even more complex because you must know your client. Is it what your client expects or likes? What you like might not be what they want, so knowing how your client likes their prints is critical! Speak to the production department and ask “how do you like your prints and [data] files”.

Do you have any color management or paper profiling recommendations?

No, I just use whatever comes with the printer.I just usually print with the Perceptual [rendering intent] and if it doesn’t look good I’ll try Relative. I don’t do skin tones which is much harder, so calibrating is less important for the type of work that I print.

Any final tips?

The more you standardize your process, the more you will save in the long run. However, don't skimp because your work must reflect you.

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Michel Tcherevkoff’s Strip Test

As explained above Michel does test prints with a strip of paper using fragments of the actual image to see how the most critical parts will look printed before doing his final print. Michel doesn’t do this necessarily for cost-saving reasons, but rather to reduce the amount of wasted paper and ink for environmental reasons.

In this first example, he has an image of a shoe as shown below:

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Shoe Full Image
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Here’s what strip test one looked like for this print:

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Strip Test #1 (Click for a larger view)
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

After examining the print Michel felt like it needed some adjustments, so he did a second strip test but with two levels of color so he could see which direction he wanted to go with for the final print as shown below:

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Strip Test #2 (Click for a larger view)

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Using the final strip test above, Michel had the information he needed to make his final decision and print the final large print.

Example #2 – The Boot

Here’s another example of a more complicated photo to demonstrate how the strips are built:

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
Boot Full Image
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Despite the complexity of the image above, Michel broke it down to its most important parts as shown below:


Boot Strip Test #1 (Click for a larger view)

Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

With those parts printed to his intent, the entire image would look great when printed at full size.

Conclusion

It was an absolute honor to work with Michel as he was an original member of my Top Photographers list and will be there for many years to come. He is the one photographer who I wish could bottle a little of his mojo and sell it as I’d pay a fortunate to have a little of that rub off on me! Since that isn’t possible, I can only dream of spending the day with Michel at his studio at some point and seeing this master at work.

A special thanks goes out to Michel’s assistant, Samantha Kramer, who helped with providing the strip test images and reviewing this article!

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did! To see more of Michel’s work, visit all of the following:

 Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved
The creativity of this shot just makes me grin every time I see it!
Copyright (c) Michel Tcherevkoff - All Rights Reserved

Disclosure

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If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

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