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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Old 11-19-2019   #1
Bill Pierce
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Prints

Several times I’ve gotten the same question about printing, Since prints (most of them) are going to outlast unattended digital storage, not have a problem with compatibility and computer programs and have a viewing consitency that images are not going to have on a variety of computers (plus the fact that I’m a print nut), I thought it was important to answer it. The question was “Do I use computer monitor calibration tools like Color Munki and Spyder?” And the answer is “I used to.”

Without denigrating them, because they are very useful in providing an accurate preview of the color in prints, I find there is one problem that you can’t expect them to solve. There is a difference between a trans illuminated computer screen and a paper print that depends on the light falling on it and bouncing off on the way to our eyeballs. There are also other minor differences caused by differences in paper surface, tone, e.t.c.. Yes, I fine tune the brightness of my computer screen and use the brightness and contrast tools in the printing subsection of my image processing programs, but I don’t use a monitor calibration tool to predict what a print will look like.

Instead I make a little proof print and fine tune it until it looks the way I want it to look under a variety of lighting conditions and pray that no one will look at the print in an underlit room or in a patch of sunlight coming through a window. Then I make big prints (and send the small prints out as postcards).

Two questions… (1) Am I an elderly nut case in making prints - lots of them. (2) When you make prints, how do you deal with the difference between what you see on the computer screen and what comes out of the printer:
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Old 11-19-2019   #2
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Answers:

(1) If you are, I am too.

(2) I muddle through, fiddle around and take what fate deals me.
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Old 11-19-2019   #3
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I'm not alone! I never used, have calibration tools. I'm just not selling images or prints.

I also do control print and if I don't like it I adjust printing settings.
What I noticed recently, if I have correct gamma for prints (2.2 in my case) it is very close for colors and luminance to images on the screen. Check your gamma!

I'm not thrilled about giving images only as files. I like to print some of them. Or even make simple book. I use cheap craft papers and garden thread for binding.

I also like 4x6 glossy prints. Just to print and look. They tell me few anti gearhead things. It is next to irrelevant which camera is in use for the image on print. Even phone does well And it is also showing irrelevance of megapixels. I print from 861 pixels on long side files and 4x6 are still awesome!



I almost made family album from them and I'll try my street album as well. No, two. One BW, another in color.
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Old 11-19-2019   #4
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I work on a project by project basis. The currency is always the print.
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Old 11-19-2019   #5
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My 2 recent monitors were already fine out of factory in terms of color accuracy , screen calibrator still made 10% difference when printing. It is worth getting one of those.
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Old 11-19-2019   #6
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I only printed b&w and did only the file prep on my monitor. I use a NEC Multisync PA271W and calibrated it with a spyder 4Pro. A fellow told me about that you loose 10-20% (of "everything") when printing. Typically I am careful not to overporcess images for online viewing (my gallery here on RFF only) but with this expected loss, I overdid contrast, curve, clarity and edges of the histogram (deep blacks and bright highlights) on purpose and the prints turned out awesome.
Archival Piezography prints by Cone Studios on Hahnmuehle FA Baryta.
No experience printing color or printing on a printer at home. With low volume printing, having a printer yourself is just a maintance hassle, I'm not going there.
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Old 11-19-2019   #7
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I use one Bill. The biggest difference other than color was my screen, and from what I read all our screens by default are too bright. I still make "smaller" test prints to make sure its dialed in, which is is 9 out of 10 times. 8x8 or 8x10 are pretty inexpensive, when I'm done I give them away too.

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Old 11-19-2019   #8
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BTW of course it never looks "the same" as a screen since they're different mediums. Like looking at how a chrome would print in a brochure.
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Old 11-19-2019   #9
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I found monitor calibration a waste of time too. If everyone you corresponded with calibrated the same monitor the same way there might be some value to it. I have fiddled my Lightroom print dialogue to pretty closely match what I see on the screen and that's all I really want.
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Old 11-19-2019   #10
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@Bill
I agree that screens and prints are different things and it's not possible to calibrate them so a photograph looks the same.

HOWEVER, what about consistency and reproducibility? Without calibration, there's no way to know how your print will appear on another printer - for example if sending the image file to a gallery or agency to print? It could look terrible...! And even it looks OK, it will still be different from your print - perhaps radically.

I think not calibrating the screen and not using printer profiles are serious mistakes. Calibration isn't perfect, but it's better than guesswork and trial and error - and if the screen and printer are (a) good quality and (b) carefully calibrated, then the prints can be made to match the screen reasonably closely.

As well as a photographer, I'm a graphic designer, and I can guarantee that I'd lose clients fast if I didn't calibrate my monitor, printer, paper and ink!
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Old 11-19-2019   #11
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Profiles are like translators between the language of color your devices speak. Not using profiles is like going to a foreign country and asking for something blue. Do you want cerulean or ultramarine? You only know the word blue, so you get whatever the other person thinks is blue. You can arrive at an acceptable print without using them by going into a bizarro feedback loop, but life is so much easier if you know what you are doing.

That said I have a background as a consultant with this stuff so to me it is simple.

1) No you are not crazy. Make as many prints as you want. They will outlast anything digitally stored.

2) I don't have this problem because I understand what is happening. Plus the monitor and printer profiles I use are far beyond what you download off the internet. When I profile my monitors they take over an hour to do minimally. And don't get me started on how long it takes me to profile a paper...

If you don't even profile your monitor you are really just starting with various levels of garbage. You will be off from the getgo.
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Old 11-19-2019   #12
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Instead of prints I’m in the process of making some albums with lots of choices on the internet. I hardly make or have made prints anymore.
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Old 11-19-2019   #13
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I calibrate my screen and I do not have problems with color accuracy or brightness of the print when using multiple vendors. I make prints and I make books. Both are accurate enough for me. I recently sold three 40x60cm prints and they looked great...just as nice on screen as in print. Calibrating for color temp as well as lowering the brightness of my screen was the best thing I ever did to make things easier on myself.
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Old 11-19-2019   #14
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I do a lot of prints but from Costco. So I'm like you. I overtime have calibrated my screen to match my Costco prints. There really wasn't that much to do. I do struggle with paper types, and viewing conditions. But I think I'm the only one that notices.

BTW: enjoyed you on the Smith video.
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Old 11-19-2019   #15
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I print because that's a great way to share and discuss over a coffee... one individual in my world is 93 and certainly she has never used a computer... I normally print a little over saturated / over contrast as I believe it helps her enjoy the photos... she enjoys the colors and content... BTW b&w always makes her sad because it's a reminder of the past...

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Old 11-19-2019   #16
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Very new to home printing. I have already been absolutely disappointed and impressed by my lack of tech.

Still I have a few great prints that I like. That's something.

So

1) I see the point and the joy
2) I am new to this and the monitor seems fair enough with limited expectation
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Old 11-20-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
...

Two questions… (1) Am I an elderly nut case in making prints - lots of them.
Of course you aren't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
(2) When you make prints, how do you deal with the difference between what you see on the computer screen and what comes out of the printer:
There are too many variables that effect our perceptions of the screen and print renderings.There has to be a difference. One of many examples involves the print media. Fine art paper, high gloss paper and canvas prints will render differently.

I use commercial labs and always pay for test prints or test strips for large prints I plan to display.

A calibrated monitor minimizes the impact of one of the variables. I found a monitor calibration reduces the effort and cost required to optimize a print's rendering.
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Old 11-21-2019   #18
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Here is an intelligent conversation by someone who uses a calibrated monitor. (He begins his talk about calibration at 5 minutes and 18 seconds.) As you know, I don’t use auxiliary monitoring gear, but I think the value of this thread is looking at both sides of the issue.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5sqKaYAj5U
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Old 11-22-2019   #19
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I am with you Bill. And I agree that a back lit image on a computer screen is different from an actual print. I usually tweak once I start making prints. I consider the first print I make a test print, kinda like I would in hte darkroom and then go in a adjust the file as needed to get to a final desired look. I don't consider an image finished until it is printed.
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Old 11-22-2019   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by airfrogusmc View Post
I am with you Bill. And I agree that a back lit image on a computer screen is different from an actual print. I usually tweak once I start making prints. I consider the first print I make a test print, kinda like I would in hte darkroom and then go in a adjust the file as needed to get to a final desired look. I don't consider an image finished untip it is printed.
Similar here. And I find I print better (I mean inkjet) when I work on a consistent series of photo. After the first few ones I get use and manage to get the result I want. When I print a single photo it's more hit and miss.

Therefore like in the wet darkroom the best accessory becomes the waste bin!
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Old 11-22-2019   #21
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I make lots of 4x6 and 5x7 B&W only prints from the inkjet. They are all "snapshots" to save in my stash, and to give to family members who I've taken pictures of.
I want to have a pile of pictures, mostly of people, to look at now, and to pass on to whoever gets my box, just like our parents did for us.
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Old 11-22-2019   #22
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I've found that I tend to flip through photos on screen quickly, even the classic photos by great photographers. But I spend more time with a real print or a well printed book of photographs, looking closely and enjoying the process.
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Old 11-22-2019   #23
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I've found that I tend to flip through photos on screen quickly, even the classic photos by great photographers. But I spend more time with a real print or a well printed book of photographs, looking closely and enjoying the process.
Yes, and this is one oif the reasons for which I recently made a simple (but nice ) photo zine with the Polaroids from one of my trips, to give our friends worldwide the opportunity to have something tangible in their hands.
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Old 11-23-2019   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
Two questions… (1) Am I an elderly nut case in making prints - lots of them. (2) When you make prints, how do you deal with the difference between what you see on the computer screen and what comes out of the printer:
1. No. I am only slightly less elderly than you, and prints are way more valuable than images floating in the digital ether.
2. The monitor and the print will never "match" for the reasons you have stated. However, if the monitor is good, and stays good over time, the print result becomes more predictable because of your accumulated knowledge of the differences between the monitor and the prints produced.
The auto-calibrator thingy that came with my NEC monitor helps keep the monitor the same over time. If the rendition that the monitor displays was constantly changing over time, then printing would be much more difficult.

Note: I started making Epson inkjet pigment prints using a low-end Mac laptop in 2007. In 2012, the high-quality, calibratable monitor arrived.
My color inkjet prints from the pre-good quality/calibrated monitor years are nearly worthless---color-control-wise--- compared to the prints made after the calibrated monitor arrived.
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Old 11-24-2019   #25
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Guess there must be something wrong with the way I'm doing things, as my prints seem to match up pretty well against my monitor.

Now, I will say that I had to tweak things over the years in order to get here, but really it hasn't been all that painful. One thing that I recently did was to switch papers -- I had been using Epson Exhibition Fiber with my 3880 printer and OEM inks for the last couple of years, and the prints were pretty close to what was on the monitor, but I felt like I always had to make slight adjustments to get the print to where I wanted it. However, I just tried Epson Legacy Baryta last month on a whim and instantly the prints just fell into place. Only change I made besides the physical paper was the profile, and that simply involved choosing Epson Legacy Baryta instead of Epson Exhibition Fiber. The prints now are exact reproductions of what's on the screen, so I can't say that there's been a whole lot of hand-wringing to get here.

This is one recent example of an image of mine that prints beautifully on Legacy Baryta:


Raimundo
by Vince Lupo, on Flickr

I've also tried it on Legacy Platine, and it is even tweaked just a bit better (tiny bit sharper).

One thing I’ve noticed about inkjet /pigment printing -- in some circles it seems to be looked down upon because, at least from their perspective, it's somehow much 'easier' to get a good print than doing it through traditional (darkroom) means, and that if there is more perceived physical effort involved and pain required to accomplish your goal, that it's of a higher quality and has more worth than just simply (in their eyes, anyways) pushing a button. Well, let's just say I disagree with that sentiment and leave it at that.

I don't ever consider an image to be 'done', even after I've printed it. I'm always looking at images - even ones from a few years ago - and seeing if there are ways I can make them even better, or if there are new 'interpretations' I hadn't considered. I think the images are kept 'alive' by going back to them and making little tweaks here and there. I read that painters like Willem de Kooning would constantly be reworking their paintings, and that they were never really considered to be 'done'.

Guess like you I'm a bit old school - despite the prevalence of 'screens' in our daily lives, I still like to have matted and framed prints on my walls and, hopefully, on the walls of others.
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Old 11-24-2019   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vince Lupo View Post
...

One thing about inkjet /pigment printing -- in some circles it seems to be looked down upon because, at least from their perspective, it's somehow much 'easier' to get a good print than doing it through traditional (darkroom) means, and that if there is more perceived physical effort involved and pain required to accomplish your goal, that it's of a higher quality and has more worth than just simply (in their eyes, anyways) pushing a button. Well, let's just say I disagree with that sentiment and leave it at that.

I don't ever consider an image to be 'done', even after I've printed it. I'm always looking at images - even ones from a few years ago - and seeing if there are ways I can make them even better, or if there are new 'interpretations' I hadn't considered. I think the images are kept 'alive' by going back to them and making little tweaks here and there. I read that painters like Willem de Kooning would constantly be reworking their paintings, and that they were never really considered to be 'done'.

Guess like you I'm a bit old school - despite the prevalence of 'screens' in our daily lives, I still like to have matted and framed prints on the walls.
Vince I fully agree with what yuo say (excluding the fact I use a different paper, but that is just my personal preference).

Many photographers think that it's enough to connect a printer to the computer and hit the "print" key. It is not like that, that is tonly he last stage of a process.

And yes a photo starts to live when it is printed (or it is part of an audiovisual project as we have seen from our RFF member Bob Michaels).
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Old 11-24-2019   #27
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Quote:
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...
I don't ever consider an image to be 'done', even after I've printed it. I'm always looking at images - even ones from a few years ago - and seeing if there are ways I can make them even better, or if there are new 'interpretations' I hadn't considered. I think the images are kept 'alive' by going back to them and making little tweaks here and there. I read that painters like Willem de Kooning would constantly be reworking their paintings, and that they were never really considered to be 'done'....
Same here. Constantly rethinking older photos, constantly playing around with different settings.
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Old 11-24-2019   #28
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Excuse me, what's a 'print'? �� To my shame I haven't printed since getting negs and prints back from the chemist (you call them drug stores, I believe).
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Old 11-24-2019   #29
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(1) If I had the time I'd be making lots of prints also. Totally agree, prints will outlast the hard drive's 1's and 0's.

(2) Used to calibrate my monitor, but like you found, didn't make my prints come out like what I saw on the screen. So I do the "little prints" and hold them up to the lighting that I imagine the final print will be viewed in, then make adjustments till the small print is "right", then transfer that info over to the large print.
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Old 11-24-2019   #30
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2. The monitor and the print will never "match" for the reasons you have stated. However, if the monitor is good, and stays good over time, the print result becomes more predictable because of your accumulated knowledge of the differences between the monitor and the prints produced.
Important -- and valid -- point
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Old 11-24-2019   #31
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I don't ever consider an image to be 'done', even after I've printed it. I'm always looking at images - even ones from a few years ago - and seeing if there are ways I can make them even better, or if there are new 'interpretations' I hadn't considered. I think the images are kept 'alive' by going back to them and making little tweaks here and there. I read that painters like Willem de Kooning would constantly be reworking their paintings, and that they were never really considered to be 'done'.

Guess like you I'm a bit old school - despite the prevalence of 'screens' in our daily lives, I still like to have matted and framed prints on my walls and, hopefully, on the walls of others.
I agree with this Vince.

Being an old darkroom rat I also agree that working on a digital ink jet print is different from silver gelatin but can be just as still difficult in its own ways to get an acceptable print.
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Old 11-24-2019   #32
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I have calibrated my Eizo when it arrived, but when I print I make cycles of proof prints and tweaks of the image in PS and Capture One until I am satisfied of the result.
Exactly as Bill does.
Also I do what Vince says.
Times and again I get back to an image with new ideas and new skill that I have learned in using these programs and make an improved version
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Old 11-25-2019   #33
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1) I do print. I shoot mostly for my family record. I fully recognize that no one is going to "discover" my cache of photos. The computer or drives will be discarded haphazardly first. I indent to leave a cache of prints on the wall, print boxes, postcards and albums. Those are easier to discover and enjoy.
2)I like the process of editing, "processing" and printing on my epson inkjet. I do have challenges getting the output to match my screen. Its a work in progress, with next steps of profiling my paper/ink combinations. Surprisingly, I get excellent results from files i send to Costco or Samsclub for prints. I use them for critical color or final prints.
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Old 11-25-2019   #34
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(2) Used to calibrate my monitor, but like you found, didn't make my prints come out like what I saw on the screen. So I do the "little prints" and hold them up to the lighting that I imagine the final print will be viewed in, then make adjustments till the small print is "right", then transfer that info over to the large print.
Essentially, this is what all us print enthusiasts do.
But, to belabor my point just a bit, if your monitor changed it's rendering like the old CRT monitors did, or was just plain lousy like a cheapo LCD can be, our task of getting the print the way we want it would be made more difficult, laborious, and frustrating.
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Old 11-25-2019   #35
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Originally Posted by pluton View Post
Essentially, this is what all us print enthusiasts do. ..........
Not everybody. I have been using a carefully calibrated, and frequently recalibrated monitor, along with carefully selected printer profiles for about 16 years. Almost always, my first print is exactly what I want. I don't even tweak my final files for printing. I use the same file for JPG's as I do for printing.

Recently I printed 23 prints for an exhibition. I have printed only one before and was long ago. The photos are at http://bobmichaels.org/Gibara%20Film%20Festival%202017/ I used the same files these JPG's were made from with no modifications. As this was a new paper to me, I made one 8x10 print from one file to insure the printer profile yielded what I wanted. Then I used 23 sheets of 13x19 Red River Arctic Polar Satin to make the 23 first and final prints on my Epson P600. After I reviewed all the prints several times, I concluded each matched the others and all were exactly what I wanted so matted and framed them.

I should note that none of these files were as they came out of the camera. Each had previously been carefully tweaked in Lightroom to be exactly what I wanted. The calibrated monitor was essential there as the photos were shot over a four year period.

Needless to say, I am a true believer in a complete accurate color managed workflow from monitor to printer.
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Old 11-25-2019   #36
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I should mention that the 23 files yielding 23 first pass exhibition prints were individually adjusted in Lightroom over the four years they were shot. And I changed monitors in the midst of that. But each monitor was carefully calibrated to the same standard so the change was seamless. Each file looked the same on the new monitor as they did on the old monitor because of the calibration.
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Old 11-25-2019   #37
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As one might have expected two school of thought emerge.
I would clarify that, at least for me, usually, the goal is not that of obtaining the most faithful reproduction on paper of a photo, but, rather, an image that satisfies my aesthetic taste.
Thus I do not hesitate to alter the photo for example putting color accents wherever I like them, modify a background I don't like, correct defects etc, just like a painter would do, to improve and give the final touches to his work.
In the end I must admit this is not photography. The photo becomes a just starting point.
But this also contribute to explain why I am not a believer of color managed workflow
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Old 11-26-2019   #38
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Several years ago I started to buy one of those spider things that was highly recommended for monitor calibration. Then I read that the iMac monitor doesn't play well with such devices so I blew it off. I then changed my color management to allow Epson to take over the task and all my color photos have been fine ever since. However, my color vision is not sophisticated--my photography is about 90% B&W.
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Old 11-26-2019   #39
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulDalex View Post
As one might have expected two school of thought emerge.
I would clarify that, at least for me, usually, the goal is not that of obtaining the most faithful reproduction on paper of a photo, but, rather, an image that satisfies my aesthetic taste.
Thus I do not hesitate to alter the photo for example putting color accents wherever I like them, modify a background I don't like, correct defects etc, just like a painter would do, to improve and give the final touches to his work.
In the end I must admit this is not photography. The photo becomes a just starting point.
But this also contribute to explain why I am not a believer of color managed workflow
So what happens when you get a new monitor/computer/printer or get a photo printed by someone else? Without calibration, your carefully tweaked photo will look and print differently!

The point of colour calibration is to adjust your monitor and printer so they display and print colours "correctly", so a particular shade of red, say, always looks the same regardless of the monitor/computer/printer.

Calibration has nothing to do with faithful reproduction of "real-life" colours in a photo.

It has all to do with allowing you to satisfy your aesthetic taste more easily and consistently.
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Old 11-26-2019   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RichC View Post
The point of colour calibration is to adjust your monitor and printer so they display and print colours "correctly", so a particular shade of red, say, always looks the same regardless of the monitor/computer/printer.
Yes, this is why I do it. I print books and prints... separate vendors... and then have also printed at home. Calibration just makes it easier.
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