You go through your pictures and find an awesome one from a recent camping trip you went on. You do a little tweaking to get it looking just so, and you're ready to go.
You take your flier file to your nearest CosWalKo's, stick the CD/jumpdrive/flash card into the reader thingy, request 5,000 prints, and pay the nice person behind the counter who informs you your prints will be done in two hours.
Two hours later and all your prints look like this:
Not So Hot Dogs
The grill now looks teal instead of black, the dogs are more yellow than meat, and the whole thing is worthless now.
Lesson 1: Before any print job, do a single copy just to make sure. These proofs are essential. And it's a good idea to ask for one in the professional world too (even if the duplication house balks at the idea, make 'em give you a proof copy anyway).
Lesson 2: What you see, is rarely what you get. And there are sevearl reasons for this:
- Every screen is different. Even if it's made by the same company, one screen may be lighter or more blue. There are ways of calibrating monitors, but most of us can't do that and wouldn't know exactly what to do if it was "right" anyway. And if screens can be different, there can be huge variation between what you see on your monitor and what comes out on paper.
- The "color profile" is different. Your computer screen images are made up of Red, Green and Blue pixels (RGB), but printers use Cyan, Yellow, Magenta and "Key" [Black] ink (CYMK). While modern technology has made it relatively easy to switch between these two "color spaces," things can be lost in translation. And if you don't translate, the printer has to guess how much Cyan and some other color it needs to mix to make your Blue.
- Physics. What you see on your monitor is created by photons emitted from your Liquid Crystal Display (LCD). What you see on a piece of paper are photons bouncing off a specific ink that reflects only a certain part of the color spectrum of light. This huge variation makes it really hard to match darks and lights because one is active and the other passive.
I'm sure there are many other difficulties in all of this--ink and printer quality, software used to interpret the image, paper type--but suffice it to say: Getting a match is really, really hard.
So what can you do about it?
Lesson 3: Shop around. My best friend, when he was trying to find a printer for the photos he meticulously adjusted, sent the same six images to five different printers. Then he compared the prints to what he saw on his computer. By doing this simple experiment, he was able to disqualify three of the printers because the images weren't sharp enough. And after carefully looking at the colors, he decided that one of the printers more closely matched what he saw on his screen.
But even then, it wasn't perfect. He ended up having to always tone down the yellows in his "final" images so they'd look right in print.
Your Media Production Mentor